Awards – someone who rather impressed me said something quite early on about awards. It was 2015 and I was eager to learn and find ways of getting our message out. She said we should apply for everything going. That awards were great exposure. She went on to tell inspiring stories of deals she had struck with people through awards ceremonies.
Now having been momentously unlucky with awards it’s time to pause and reflect. It’s time to be honest about what I really feel about them and their role in our sector.
The Pros: Exposure. There’s little doubt that winning can give you some exposure. A bit like an MBE, some people clearly like having the letters after their name and in their LinkedIn title. Maybe these people are more strategic than me and thinking about their consultancy careers after they’re done with their business.
It’s quite fun. You don’t get many jollies in our industry. I don’t own a cocktail dress and don’t often get to really dress up. In my mind these events are fun and a welcome light relief from the day job. (That’s rarely the case by the way, they are exhausting to fit in and I still don’t/won’t own a cocktail dress).
Meeting inspiring people. You really do. Any opportunity to meet new people, people not like you, is to be relished. However, an awards ceremony is not generally conducive to meaningful conversations.
Network on the night. A bit. As above, sitting at large and noisy circular tables is actually a bit limiting and you often don’t know who else is in the room.
An opportunity to reflect. This is important and we can all be bad at it. It’s good to look at how far you’ve come and stop and consider momentarily what this looks like from the outside.
Cash. If it comes with a cash prize, then obviously that’s great. It’s quite rare though.
Credibility. Rightly or wrongly in some people’s eyes it gives you credibility. Personally I would question most people’s expertise on the shortlisting panel, in my sector. Nonetheless, there’s something about being an ‘award winner’ for many people that can’t be denied.
The Cons: Self-loathing, self-promotion and imposter syndrome. All wonderfully connected and what probably contribute to not having a great time on the night (that and the not winning). I was brought up to be modest and quiet about achievements. Good old English self deprecation was key. So naturally the braying that is inherent in posh frocks, social media images, glitzy events and people richer/more important than me is acutely uncomfortable.
They take time. The forms often flatter to deceive. There’s page after page, often lots of financial information that requires trawling through historical accounts and impact reports. To be honest, I don’t really have the time.
And time is money. The time to compete, to self-promote and then to attend is all time when I should be supporting the team. This must be balanced carefully.
And the organisers’ and sponsors’ money. No doubt someone can tell me what these events cost to put on. We work in an arena of often acute suffering and deprivation. One of our values is Equality. These events do nothing to address this and I can’t help but wonder what the pooled resources could achieve elsewhere. It makes be extremely uncomfortable (again!).
Networking. Networking is of course what you make it. As mentioned above it can be an opportunity, but rarely is in my experience.
Having recently been in the 100 Inspiring Women in Norfolk list I can testify that this meant something. It meant something because a colleague nominated me. And she did it with sincerity. My respect for her means something in this context. Equally, awards for the business are not about me. The team should be rewarded and I would love them to win an award – just for them. Quietly, cheaply and sincerely.