Standing up in front of a room of people is never an easy feat, particularly when you are representing your company in an awards entry process.
Despite many of the channel execs having extensive experience speaking at conferences and company events, presenting in front of the Channel Awards judges is a different experience. The pressure is really on, and you know your biggest rivals are also vying for the same award.
Since the judging process changed to a two-staged process a decade ago, the feedback has been largely positive, particularly for the ‘big three' - Vendor, Reseller and Distributor of the Year.
This year there is an extra category which requires a presentation - aimed at distributors with a turnover of under £100m. Again, this has been created based on extensive feedback from the industry.
With just over a week to go until the entry deadline, the main aim is to get on the shortlist (no mean feat itself), but those entering the 'big four' this year need to be thinking even further ahead.
So, what can channel execs do to ensure their presentation is a trophy grabber? Below, a selection of judges share their views.
Sara Yirrell, overall judging panel chair, said: "This is a human-to-human interaction, not just a set of robots. The judges have had a long day going through entries, and they are looking to be entertained by the presentations. Not in a showy way, but instead in a way that gets across the passion for the business, the camaraderie of the staff, why it should win this award, all backed up by hard facts.
"You don't need loads of gimmicks to win one of these awards, you just have to keep it simple, show some personality and demonstrate what makes the company you are representing such a fantastic place to work and do business with," she said.
Bob Tarzey, head of the vendor judging panel, said keeping it UK centric is key, and also allowing time for the judges to ask questions.
"UK-based execs with an understanding of the local channel will have the greatest impact," he said. "Also when considering entering this award be realistic. The vendors that succeed are usually well established and have the scale to be well-known in the channel."
Tarzey stressed timing is everything and urged the shortlisted vendors to be ‘short and concise' with their presentation.
Carl West, head of the distribution panel, said variety was important.
"At the very worst, I am looking for a summary of the written entry, but I look forward to seeing industry knowledge, number validation, innovation, passion, pride of workforce, success, competitive awareness and giving back to the community," he said.
Steve Cox, chief operating officer at Chess Telecom said being prepared was vital.
"It has been a long day and the judges are seeing four or five presentations. The key to me is to be energetic and highly prepared. An energetic, polished presentation really stands out.
"I have sat through some over the years that had really good stories that were just badly delivered."
Kevin Matthews, enterprise sales director at Exertis, said the presentation is a chance for those shortlisted to put a bit more colour into their proposal.
"It is really interesting to look back at the presentations I've sat through over the years. This is a chance for companies to provide more substance into their key initiatives, a chance to be creative and give us a feel for them as a company."
But he warned: "It is also a chance for the judges to probe more on some of their claims - so anything they submit or present needs to have fact and examples behind it."
Matthews added that those presentations that miss the mark are ones that spend the bulk of the allocated time talking at a very high level.
"It is great to understand overall strategy, but I'd like them to spend more time on executive - how they did things and what the results were. All presentations should be prepared and run through prior to the day. You always get a sense from who presents on how committed they are to winning."
Simon Meredith, head of the reseller judging panel, said it is all about the right messaging and echoed the comments about being well prepared.
"A presentation is all about who gives the judges the best feel for their business and gets across why it is special. It is important to show that you genuinely want to win," he said.
"Equally, it's important that you do not come across as being in any way assumptive or complacent. If the judges get the idea that you somehow feel you have the right to win, or it's your ‘turn', that is going to turn them off straight away. Basically you have to come across as being genuine, as well as passionate and proud of your business, but you have to demonstrate some humility."
Importantly he also said not sending in the big guns can be a costly mistake.
"Sending very junior staff into the Lion's Den is not advisable," Meredith said. "There have been occasions when this has happened and it is probably because that business feels it has little or no chance against the other shortlisted companies. But that is a terrible mistake. If you are on the shortlist, you DO have a chance, and while the quality of entry is taken into account, the decision really is made on that day.
"Make a great pitch on the day and you can win, even if you were slightly behind at the start," he said.
Sandrijn Stead, CEO at CView Technologies, warned that the judges would question things they were unsure about.
"We have all read the basic facts on the entry, so there is no need to go over that again in the presentation. It is great having a junior person along to answer questions, but we do want to speak to the boss. I know you are busy, but so am I.
"The presentations are about selling the real winning recipe of what you are doing and why it is different and better than the rest, so treat the process in the same positive and professional way that we do," he said. "And if you have stretched the truth on your application, expect to be grilled hard, the judges have a wide background of knowledge and experience and are not afraid to use it.
"But above all enjoy it, as it is much better for all of us if we can enjoy the exchange from both sides."
John Toal, sales and marketing director at Communicate Technology, stressed that size did not matter. "A good presentation from a smaller vendor, well thought through, would be viewed favourably against the big boys. Always take a step back and work out how you are going to win. Don't take in a company template presentation."
If you are currently writing your entry - check out the other article in this series about writing a winning entry.
By following the guidelines and heeding the advice of the judges, you could very well be one of the lucky few coming up to the stage to pick up an award this year. Start your entry here.
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