From Jury to Judge

Founder and MD, Lynn Chambers shares her six takeaways following her 2023 awards judging experience.

Founder and MD
10 Sep

Have you ever done jury duty? BBC sources say in England and Wales you’ve only got a 35% chance of being summoned, so odds are you haven’t but if you too have been plucked randomly from the electoral register you’ll know it’s a unique experience. I did it a few years ago and went off to court with my passport, birth certificate and three utility bills to prove my identity. Tick that box and you’re in. 

Unsurprisingly, there are strict rules. You can talk about what happened in the courtroom, but you must not talk about what is said between you and your fellow jurors, even to family members. The first rule of jury duty is you don’t talk about jury duty. It’s basically Fight Club.

I never expected to have an experience that was even remotely similar and then I was asked to take part in judging the 2023 ICE Awards for corporate event planners.

I’m a big fan of awards! They’re a great shop window for agencies and consultancies, good for brand recognition and a perfect opportunity to see who’s doing brilliantly well, so I jumped at the chance. 

All judges read and score applications separately before coming together to discuss and make final decisions. By nature I’m meticulous - okay, borderline OCD - and I have a strong sense of fairness so I tried to ask myself all the right questions. Certain entries pulled my heartstrings and I knew I had to be careful not to be overly influenced because an entry was for children, or a particular community that seemed incredibly deserving. I had to step back and say “How innovative is this?” “Is their approach different in some way?” “What makes them a winner?”

The second stage was meeting up with my fellow judges to share thoughts and come to a collective decision. That was when it reminded me of jury duty. Just like my time in the court deliberation room it was all very clear cut to me. I’d seen the evidence, understood the case and thought we’ll have this wrapped up in no time. Wrong! Turns out, everyone sees things from their own unique perspective so, just like my time at the court, I put the kettle on, made myself a cuppa and listened.  

Full disclosure, holding back with my opinion is something I’m still developing as a skill. I used to do stand-up and I can still take down a heckler if provoked. Also, I’m in the habit of making speedy decisions, mostly so that what I’ve promised will get done, is done, but there’s a downside. If you’re a senior leader in an organisation and your voice has a lot of sway there’s always a danger that it’ll stop someone else making their point. Letting others speak first can lead to a fresh perspective or even new information, so practising my newly acquired best behaviour, I sat on my hands and kept my mouth shut - at least until everyone else had had their say.

I’m not going to talk about what was said among my fellow judges. I told you, first rule of judging, don’t talk about judging, but I’ve got some takeaways for anyone thinking of applying for an award. 

1. Just do it

The payoff is huge. But make sure you consider the panel of judges because they are your jury.

2. Focus

Mostly, they’re going to be time poor so make sure you’re not shoehorning yourself into a category that really isn’t a good fit. 

3. Be concise

Less is definitely more on the word count. 

4. Check & re-check

Some judges are going to be sticklers about spelling and grammar. You could be lucky and get a reader who is happy with the gist of your entry and doesn’t notice the typo’s but for some that’s going to drive them nuts. For others they’ll feel let down when they spot the glaring cut and paste job you’ve done because you were in a rush. 

5. Help them out

Don’t force them into being detectives to discover exactly what you did. Be really clear, because if it takes the collective intelligence of the entire panel to assemble the supplementary documents to work out the scope of your project, you’re going to struggle to make the second round. I’m exaggerating but you get the point. 

6. Pay attention to your entry

Otherwise you could be wasting someone’s time. Yours. 

It’s obvious, but a lot is riding on winning. It has the power to raise your profile, put you on the map and be a mark of prestige and quality. One thing I am at liberty to say is that some decisions are incredibly close. If you’re in a category of excellent entries you could miss out by the smallest of margins and that’s tough. It’s like the drama of the World Cup final. Two teams battling it out. Both deserving of their place. Brilliance from both sides in different ways but something always tips the balance. One team will miss out on glory by a whisker, but that’s the game we’re in. The value is in having the courage to be in the arena and being prepared to be judged. In the meantime, keep doing great work, put in a well written, concise entry and next time, it could be your name on the trophy. 

If you are looking to make your next project an award winning one contact us ! You don’t need a brief to start a conversion. Contact us here

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