7 Tips on Winning Awards – #6

March 2nd, 2012

Be succinct.

It’s tempting to stop there. I shan’t.

Reasons to be concise:

  • Submissions are easier to read. Judges like that.
  • You’ll make your point faster. Judges REALLY like that.
  • Most award applications limit word counts. See above.

Ways to be concise:

  • Eliminate unnecessary words.
  • Eliminate unnecessary ideas and details.
  • Break up text into bullet points.
  • Be sneaky.

Eliminate unnecessary words.

Grammarians greater than I can guide you on avoiding sentence-stuffers like prepositions, helping verbs, passive constructions, expletives (that is, constructions beginning with there is/are or it is) and nominalizations (noun forms of verbs, e.g. “The focus of the program is management.” vs. “The program focuses on management.”).

This series from the excellent Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) can help:

Eliminate unnecessary ideas and details.

It’s critical to pare down information to the essentials, but it can be challenging to discern wheat from chaff, especially when you’re very familiar with a program/project/team.

Get focused by returning to award criteria, and these two litmus tests:

  1. Is this relevant to the question?
  2. Will the judges care?
If you’re not sure, leave it out.

Break up text into bullet points.

Highly skim-able, bullet points make information digestible:


To promote Initiative X, we screened a “teaser” video promo at our November 2009 Annual Partners Meeting, generating top-down awareness, intrigue and buzz. Then in April, Initiative X launched at our Senior Leadership Conference to rave reviews from managers through partners. Finally, the Senior Manager Development Program introduced Initiative X in August.


Promotion has been top-down:

-Screened “teaser” video at November 2009 Annual Partners Meeting
-Launched at April Tax Leadership Conference, to rave reviews
-Deployed at August Senior Manager Development Program

The only disadvantage: Word counts formatted bullets and numbers as words – see below.

Be sneaky.

Okay, these tips won’t make you more concise, but they will reduce word count in a pinch:

  • Instead of “and,” use a slash, e.g. design/development process
  • Instead of question 6, #6
  • As mentioned above, it sounds crazy, but Word counts formatted bullets and  numbers as words. Instead, use a hyphen or *, with no space after (-like this).
NB: Hyphenations count as one word, e.g. enterprise-wide.

Make no mistake.

Being succinct is hard. It takes work. But you’ll be amazed at how much you can say.

A closing quote:

“I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter.” – Blaise Pascal


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Learning Program and Team Awards 2009-2014


ASTD Excellence in Practice

Technical Training Award
Training Management Citation (for new programs)
Learning Technology Citation
Workplace Learning & Collaboration–Leadership Development (x2) Award, Citation
Workplace Learning & Collaboration–Onboarding Citation
Sales Enablement Citation

Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning

Best Custom Content Gold
Best in Learning Strategy and Governance Gold
Best Leadership Development Program Gold
Best Innovation in Learning Technology Silver
Best Leadership Sales Training Silver
Best Integration of Learning and Talent Management Bronze
Best Use of Games for Learning Bronze

Brandon Hall Technology Excellence

Best Advance in Social Learning Technology Gold

CLO Magazine Learning in Practice

Technology Innovation Gold, Division 1
Innovation Gold, Division 1
Business Impact Gold, Division 2
Business Impact Bronze, Division 2


Learning Organization Ranking Awards


American Society for Training & Development

ASTD BEST #1 (up from #32 in one year)
#2 (up from #37 in two years)

ELearning! Media Group

Learning! 100 #1 (first year on list)

Chief Learning Officer Magazine

LearningElite #1, #4

Training Magazine

 Training Top 125 #1, #2 (up from #41 in one year)