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Expert Tips for Judging at Awards

Recently we had a chance to talk to Faran Niaz, one of the most prominent members of our community, and discuss the ins and outs of judging at an awards programme. Read the interview in full to find out how Faran prepares for scoring an initiative and what advice he has for fellow judges.

1. How to prepare for the finals?

There are two parts of judging: the written part, and the physical presentation, either online or in person. And both of them need to be dealt with differently. This is how I do it; in any given situation, I used to have five to seven (maximum) entries that I would assess. So, before scoring, I read each entry twice to tell me which is a stronger story and which is a stronger case. If you go question by question, the story is breaking, so I read it as a story.

I make sure that the story is very clearly written and relevant to the subject; I make sure that all the answers are related to the topic. Secondly, every result should be backed and presented by facts. If someone says I’ve improved my NPS, I want to see the scores. I want to see the scores of at least the last couple of years just to see a trend. And then, they need to relate why the scores were improved. So, you need to be clear that if you’re scoring something, there has to be a fact behind it.

Also, do not judge the entries according to global standards; judge the entries according to each other. So, if I have five entries, my job as a judge is to judge these five and find the best out of them five. I’m not trying to find the best in the world, but the best of these five. The example that I always give: if you have a race of five runners, whoever wins the race, wins. Read all the entries first, two times, then score, and then evaluate, and you should be very clear about who the best is in your mind.

2. How to perform at your best during the presentations?

Join the presentation with zero preconceived notions. I have already judged the written and know who’s the best in my written. But, to my surprise and in my experience (over 30 years), I’ve seen some of the worst presentations with the best-written entries, and some of the best presentations with the worst-written entries. So both of them are different. If you’re judging physically or online, make sure you know about the companies but don’t have a preconceived notion. This is a new day, a new presentation, and you have to judge them according to what you will see now.

Also, listen to the presentation. What am I listening to? If somebody says I have done a great job, it needs to be backed by facts: there should be facts and pictures, videos, and passion. I’m looking for passion, presentation style, and who’s presenting. Look at the material, make sure that you know the company has achieved what they are talking about. And since you’ve already done the written, you will know if there is a match or a mismatch.

3. How to know what to ask in the Q&A session (after the presentation)?

You can only ask a question if you are attentive if you’re listening. So, if you’re sitting there and just watching, and you’re not taking your notes, you will not be able to ask a question. Also, if someone says We did an amazing job, I go back and ask – how? So, a question needs to be something that is now clear, that will make them think and give you more facts. An intelligent question can totally change your mind. If you’re unclear about something, you ask a question, and you get the clarity, and you say – okay, now I can score properly because now I have all the information I need.

Ask for things that are missing. So, your question needs to be something that is missing or something that can add value to the presentation that’s already been done. Don’t ask a question for the sake of it; judges know it, we all know it, and the people presenting will also know you are asking a question for the sake of asking.

4. How to summarise the initiative in the Feedback Report?

What is the importance of this summary? Let’s be clear: the summary is not going to win or lose the award; the award is won or lost on the score, not on the summary. But we, as judges, should add value in the report because it goes directly to the company. I try to put my comments of what was good and what was bad.

So, if the numbers are missing, if the facts are missing, I just write: the facts are missing, I have nothing additional to score or I wish they would have given me an analysis to see how the numbers improved; I could not see that. The improvement may be one per cent, which is nothing, and there comes another company with improvement of twenty percent. Or, if there was something good, I write that the facts are there, they did I did a great job. My suggestion is to write it with bullet points instead of writing it as a paragraph. Whatever you write in there, think from the perspective of the company or the organisation that can learn something from it and improve or keep doing the same.

Do you want to be featured in a TJC interview or submit a guest blog article about your area of expertise? Don’t hesitate – get in touch with Ana Veljkovic and she will provide you with all the details!


Business Communities: Connecting Professionals for Growth and Success

Business communities are individuals or businesses connected by a common industry, profession, or trade. They often come together to share knowledge and resources and support one another in their professional endeavours. Business communities can take many forms, including local chamber of commerce groups, online forums or discussion groups, and industry-specific associations.

The Benefits of Joining a Business Community

There are many benefits to joining a business community, whether it is a local group or an online forum. Some of the key benefits include:

Networking opportunities: Business communities provide a platform for individuals to connect with like-minded professionals and build relationships that can be valuable in their careers. These relationships can provide valuable mentorship, advice, and opportunities for collaboration.

Access to resources and information: Business communities often have access to a wealth of resources and knowledge to help individuals and businesses grow and succeed. This might include industry-specific data, research reports, or access to experts and thought leaders.

Professional development opportunities: Many business communities offer events and activities that provide opportunities for professional development. These can include workshops, seminars, and training programs that help members stay up-to-date on the latest trends and techniques in their fields.

Support and encouragement: Being a part of a business community can provide a sense of belonging and support as members encourage and motivate one another to achieve their goals. This sense of Community can be precious for those who are self-employed or working in a small business, where the lack of a traditional office environment can be isolating.

The Importance of Business Communities in the Global Business Landscape

Building connections and relationships within the business community are more important in today’s global business landscape. The international business community is a vast and diverse network of professionals. It allows you to tap into a wealth of knowledge and resources to help you achieve your goals.

In addition, being a part of the global business community can help you stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in your industry and give you a competitive edge in the marketplace. It can also open up opportunities for international collaboration and expansion.

Finding the Right Business Community for You

With so many business communities available, it can be overwhelming to try and find the right one for you. Here are a few tips to help you find the right business community:

Identify your goals and interests: Before looking for a business community, it is crucial to identify them. For example, what are you hoping to achieve by joining a business community? Are you looking for networking opportunities, access to resources and information, or professional development opportunities? Knowing your goals will help you narrow down your options and find a community that aligns with your needs.

Look for a community that fits your style: Not all business communities are the same, and it is essential to find one that fits your style and personality. For example, some communities may be more formal and structured, while others may be more laid back and casual. Consider what type of Community you feel most comfortable in and look for one that matches your preferences.

Consider the size of the Community: Business communities can range from small, local groups to large, international organizations. The size of the Community may influence the type and frequency of events and activities, as well as the diversity of the membership. Consider what size of Community would be most beneficial for you.

The Judge Club: A Global Community of Business Professionals

The Judge Club is a global community of business professionals committed to supporting one another in their professional endeavours. Founded by a group of experienced business leaders, The Judge Club aims to provide its members with the resources and support they need to succeed in their careers.

The Judge Club offers a variety of activities and events for its members, including networking events, workshops, and educational programs. These events allow members to connect and learn from experts in their fields. In addition, The Judge Club has a solid online presence, with a LinkedIn page and website that provide resources and information for its members.

Members of The Judge Club come from various industries and professions and represent diverse backgrounds and experiences. This diversity is one of the Community’s strengths, as it allows members to learn from one another and benefit from a wide range of perspectives.

In the words of one Judge Club member: “The Judge Club has been an invaluable resource for me in my career. The Community’s events and activities have helped me connect with other professionals and learn from experts in my field. I am grateful to be a part of such a supportive and dynamic community.”


Business communities are an essential resource for professionals looking to grow and succeed in their careers. Whether you are just starting your profession or an experienced business leader, a business community can provide you with the connections, resources, and support you need to achieve your goals. The Judge Club is a thriving global community of business professionals dedicated to supporting its members and helping them succeed. If you are interested in joining The Judge Club or learning more about the Community, visit our  LinkedIn page or website.

If you want to suggest a topic for a guest article on TJC blog, or would like to be featured in an interview, contact Ana Veljkovic for more details!


5 Things You Need To Achieve Your Goals and Make a Difference In a Changing World

Today as we look at the business world, we all have an opportunity to make a difference.
Whether you are a business owner of a small or medium size enterprise, or working for an employer, regardless of your title in your organisation – YOU make a difference.
Maybe you have a dream of something you want to achieve in the foreseeable future. It could be to launch your own business, scale your existing business to the next level. Whether you want to grow your team, develop a new product or offering, whatever it is……. We have good news for you.
As a business growth consultant, I have found that there are 5 things you need to achieve your goals and make a difference in your world.
These elements are as important now than ever — in our changing, uncertain world.

1. A strategy for success

According to research, no or poor strategic planning is one of the top 3 reasons why companies fail. Never underestimate the power of vision and strategy. Together they can be a powerful force.
A vision is just a dream without a plan. Strategic planning is a must when it comes to building a and scaling a business, an opportunity, a product, team.

2. Support and Encouragement

You cannot do it alone. We know that teamwork makes the dream work.
All the changes in our world over the last year has proven that collaboration is here to stay – working together makes us smarter together.

3. Accountability

Often in business we need a mentor, a trusted advisor to talk things through with — someone outside of the immediate setting, someone who can look at opportunities and challenges with a fresh pair of eyes, to not only bring strategic insight and support but also to keep us accountable to our goals and plans. As a business growth consultant, that is exactly what I do for my clients.

4. Flexibility

Innovation and agility are very important. For instance, Awards International and The Judge Club adjusted from a very much “live in the room” model to an online presence. This is innovation and agility at its best. It shows the great leadership of Neil Skehel and his team.
During these changing times, opportunities have increased for some. Geography is now history. You do not have to be in the same location or country to serve your client. Around 50% of my clients are now international. The world has changed. You need to change with it.

5. Action

Highly effective people don’t wait and see – rather they MAKE and SEE.
Many companies are now looking at scaling their business. Recent research also shows that more companies are now looking to increase their teams over the next 12 months. They are not waiting – they are making things happen.

We want to support your business growth and success.

At the Judges Club, we want to support every Judge to be as successful as they can be in their business.
Therefore, we are now launching The Judges Club – Business Growth Group that will help business owners and leaders like yourself develop the 5 elements above and achieve lasting business success.

Our Vision

Our main goal is to empower and equip The Judges Club Members with a strategy for business growth and success. We want to help you scale your business.

Our Purpose

We want to provide a rich resource of content, wisdom, insight, support, strategy, and experience for business owners to scale their business for growth and success. Also, those with a leadership and management role to develop their strengths and those of their teams, so that everyone has the support they need for career progression.

A Group You Can Count On

Our business growth group will be a community that provides interactive training, discussion, support, collaboration and sharing of resources for each other’s success.
This community will also be a safe environment to discuss personal business challenges and remedies.
We know that the more we engage, the more we can add and takeaway.

We will meet on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday each month from 12-1.15pm.


Our Culture

We know the importance of having a healthy culture if an organisation is to be successful. The culture we will look to build is:

  • Respect for each other.
  • A focus on completing and not competing against each other.
  • Encouragement for everyone to bring their very best to the table. We are stronger together.
  • Collaboration with our strengths for the benefit of each other. As I work with businesses, I have too often noted that with good leadership talent does not come and GO – Rather it comes and GROWS.
  • Fostering growth, a strong and positive mindset, developing the talents within each other.

I am honoured to have been asked to lead this – The Judges Club, Business Growth Group.
So if you are a small or medium size enterprise and would like to benefit from being part of this elite business group, which will provide a rich resource for growth and success, please do let me know at


How Networking Changed Business in 2020

It was a rough year; filled with the unknown, unexpected crises, uncontrollable circumstances and inevitable change.

Many felt the need for support in a way they never have before. I believe it made us find the inner strength we didn’t even know we had, and in many cases led us to become better people.

Many businesses needed to change the way they work. In fact, didn’t we all need to change? We needed to adapt to a situation we knew nothing about; we needed to lean on using technology to survive and were rushed into acquiring new knowledge and skills.

I am in constant communication with so many different professionals; people coming from different countries, cultures and industries. Suddenly we all shared the same agony. We were no longer just partners, clients, employees, employers – we were people first.

Through our conversations, I noticed something remarkable – the desire to help others has become a priority. I spoke to so many professionals who were eager to contribute with their experience and knowledge, hoping it will help other businesses during the crisis.

Business professionals grasped the need to learn something new and sharing knowledge has quickly become the perfect way to achieve that. This was the moment I realised that the direction of The Judge Club (TJC) should change course.

I knew people who wanted to help, and I knew those who needed the help; so I believed it was about time we got those people together.

We completely transformed our business with the use of technology that allows us to get people together. We even put some of our projects on hold in order to help others.

Since May 2020, The Judge Club has gathered business professionals from all over the world LIVE Online on SIX different occasions.


1. We had a dozen business experts who shared their valuable experiences, knowledge, and practical tools and tips with fellow professionals.

  • Paul Corke: Founder and Leadership Architect at Leadership Architecture

“How to build resilience and cope with stress during times of uncertainty and change”.

  • Haydn Bratt: Business Design Specialist at Mindset Leadership LLP

“The Link between Leadership and Customer Experience.”

  • Kim Adele: Executive Director at Kim Adele Ltd.

“Benefits of the Virtual Watercooler”.

  • Nicole Bachmann: Founding Partner at Haywood Mann

“Empowerment as a consequence of C-19 – how the necessities of virtual working have impacted practical leadership”.

  • Sarah Walker: Smith, Chief Executive at Shakespeare Martineau

“The New Abnormal”

  • Tony Lynch: Managing Director at Keep Thinking Big

“What’s the one thing that the last three UK recessions all had in common – that we should all be aware of?”.

  • Olga Potapsteva: Executive Director, Memberships, Customer Institute at European Customer Consultancy

“Building trust in CX tools: certification from the Customer Institute.”

“CX Inspired Report”.

  • Fleur Hicks: Managing Director at onefourzero

“Agility in the face of adversity”.

  • Fiona Cameron: Director at Sticky Change

“Turning healthy lockdown habits into BAU”.

  • Chloe Woolger, Commercial Director, CX and Tim Pritchard, Managing Director, Customer Experience at Kantar

“2020: a year in review for the CX industry”

  • What the ideal customer experience should look like
    • Predictions on the state of the marketplace in the year ahead
    • What brands must do to succeed in the face of the challenges we all still face.

2. We had more than 100 professionals joining live discussion rooms in which different relevant topics were covered:

  • Coping with Change and Self-isolation During Lock Down and its Effect on Future
  • How Can Managers Improve CX with their Leadership?
  • How to Engage Employees Online; Not only to Survive but Thrive
  • Engagement – helped or hindered by virtual working?
  • The new abnormal will need a shift from words to action and more collaboration across businesses – how can we achieve both?
  • Developing a business strategy – what are the key things we need to consider?
  • What Proves the Value Of Customer Experience?
  • Will the growth in decline change after COVID-19?​
  • How do we sustain healthy business practices after lockdown?
  • Customer Experience VS Human Experience
  • CX feedback survey response rate – increasing or decreasing?
  • CX improvement during the lockdown

3. We organised 10 Winsight webinars, disclosing remarkable innovations and achievements throughout the year:

The Judge Club has enabled professionals to be the very best they can be and reach goals by inspiring them to learn.

It’s not just about allowing people to connect ­– it’s about connecting the right people to make an impact. This is a true virtue of The Judge Club and is the main reason I’m proud to be ‘the face’ behind this organisation.

With 2020 out of the way, the time has come to continue with our planned projects.

The most important one was to create a place that would allow people from all over the world to connect, share knowledge, grow business, and shape futures from the comfort of their homes and offices, wherever they may be!

Human touch has become too important to be forgotten. We have all learned a lot in 2020 – we were forced to!

Now, if we combine what we have learned through our experiences before, during, and – hopefully soon – after Covid, and get together with other professionals regularly to exchange expertise, imagine the difference that will make. There’s nothing like working with professionals on problem-solving activities and getting unique perspectives from real experts.

Not being able to get together physically has its disadvantages, of course. However, it’s important to understand the benefits of using technology to connect. The people you can meet this way come from different cultures, industries, and backgrounds; the most diverse expertise you can imagine in one place!

If things didn’t go the way they did last year, we might have never had the opportunity to meet them and benefit from their insight.

I’m proud to be part of a group that has helped and supported so many during this time of crisis and I’m incredibly excited to be working closely with our valued members of The Judge Club.

If you would like to know more about The Judge Club or have any questions about how you can contribute or participate, feel free to contact me on:


Judging – why do it?

Picture Source: Thank you to Ken Huang for sharing his photo on Unsplash


According to the Cambridge dictionary, to “Judge” is to form, give, or have an opinion, or to decide about something or someone, especially after thinking carefully. I agree with this, as it is technically, what a “judge” must do. Be that for a court of law, at a sporting event, fashion show or for an awards programme as I am. It’s from this perspective that I share my views.


Judging companies, teams, personalities and entries can’t happen without context and deciding why you like something. This for many will sound rather obvious; even so, the fact is there is more to judging than what “meets the eye”. You yourself will feel and experience a gear change.


Taking on this responsibility and giving something back to industry and to the many professionals you meet on your metaphoric road to judging – has been the key driver for me. Therefore, I became a business awards judge.


Metrics are just as important as personal insights & experience and you will have a framework to guide you through this. Each time you take on such a responsibility, you will independently read and securely go through each entry…guaranteed you will learn something new.


If you have a Business-to-Business, Consumer-to-Consumer or a mixture of both – your experience will bring something new to the team. Ready to change gears? – find out how to get involved here.


Being ‘Judgey’ and it’s allowed!

As an entrant in a variety of awards the whole experience felt really daunting. I had this theory that those who judged the awards were somehow a different species to the rest of us humans. That was when I decided to take the leap and apply to be a judge myself and find out the truth. 


I have now been judging for the last few years and this year was lucky enough to be a Head Judge at the UKCXA. (I am not worthy) 


Like my fellow colleagues of The Judge Club this is a fantastic opportunity to network with a wide range of  people all passionate about customer experience who I wouldn’t normally meet in my day to day business life. It is a privilege to see and hear from the finalists and share the excitement and joy of the ceremony and I get to learn about new and innovative thinking.  


It is our collective ambition to dispel the myth about judging and the awards process being elitist and scary. Professional and progressive is the aim and I would urge anyone considering becoming a judge to just do it.  Get involved and find out just how rewarding it really is. As I say in the tile – where else can you be ‘Judgey’ and its allowed.


Making a Difference through Feedback

In 2018, I was invited to judge at the UK Employee Experience Awards (fits my interest & expertise).  As a rookie, I found the process to be rather daunting – I felt a great weight of responsibility to do the right thing by all those involved.


I must say that I didn’t fully appreciate what a logistical challenge it is to put on an annual event.  Whilst Awards International seemed to do it very well overall, I noted some areas for improvement. When I met with Awards International, to discuss my observations & concerns, I got to experience a genuine openness to feedback & a commitment to improving the quality of the awards process.  I am currently judging in my third awards & have already noticed some process refinements. 


Awards International is about to launch The Judge Club which enables their judges to further improve their quality of judging, support their development, grow their networks & experience innovation & best practice in winning organisations.


When I was invited to join the Judge Club Advisory Board, I didn’t hesitate. It is a great privilege to be part of a team of professionals committed to continuous improvement.  I would recommend anyone to join The Judge Club if you get the opportunity.


First Time Judge, Hints & Tips

Judging for the first time is daunting, here are my hints and tips based on my personal experience. I hope they help…


1. Give yourself plenty of time

Give yourself time to read through the information provided by Awards International before you start reading through the entries [each entry will take about 45 mins to score]. The instructions, the scoring guidelines & the great examples provided will give you everything you need to set you up for success & will save you time in the long run.


2. Don’t doubt yourself

If you find yourself reading & rereading a section, it generally isn’t because of your lack of knowledge/experience. If the entry doesn’t quite make sense, lacks detail/evidence or seems a little too good to be true, trust your judgement & score them in line with the marking scale. Jot down your queries so that you can pose those questions to the finalists in their presentation.


3. Prepare some questions

Prepare about 2-3 questions for each finalist after you have read their entry. The head judge will probably ask each of the Judges (normally 3 to 5) in turn to pose a question after each presentation has ended. You may find that another judge has asked your question or that the finalist has answered your question during their presentation. Having some prepared questions helps to take a little bit of pressure off you.


4. High marks or low marks?

When scoring the entries online be prepared for it to be an iterative process. The first entry you pick up & score may sound great, but then the next maybe even better. My advice is not to give the first entry high scores, as it is difficult to give an even better entry a higher score. Once you have scored all the entries, you may want to go back & rescore to make sure you have given everyone the right scores. If all the entries are excellent, don’t be worried about scoring everyone high.

When scoring during the presentation, please do not worry about whether you (or your fellow judges) are a high or low marker – the scoring will equal itself out if you are fair & consistent. Just rate the entry based on your knowledge & your experience.


5. On the presentation day, just be yourself

Giving a presentation is never easy. As judges, we don’t need to sit there being stoic, just be real & authentic & help put the finalists at ease so they can perform at their best. During the presentation some finalists bring in their entire team, music & film & some just bring themselves and their passion. Just be yourself & enjoy the experience!


Why become an Awards Judge?

So, what keeps me so enthusiastic and committed to judging – Is it the opportunity to network, identify prospective clients and contacts? No not really – we all know the facts & figures about referral. Is it the opportunity to catch up with like-minded friends & colleagues & meet new people? There are lots of other ways to do this. Is it “wanting to give something back”? (good old Maslow & his hierarchy of needs!) Lots of other ways to do this too!


While these are all real & tangible benefits to becoming a judge, my reasons are mostly emotional – just as well when we consider that 84% of buying decisions are emotionally based.


I feel proud to be part of an elite – but not elitist. A group of people who are supporting individuals & Companies, who are making an investment in their customers & employees experience. I feel challenged to keep up with innovations, trends & challenges that affect our businesses, so that I can continue to be an effective judge. I feel valued by Awards International & my fellow judges through initiatives such as The Judge Club Advisory Board, both central & local networking events, webinars & more! I feel proud to help & support current & potential future finalists with supportive feedback & insights into “what makes a winning entry”.
And … it’s fun!


Why become an Awards Judge?

As a keen networker I knew I could utilise my contacts, but that this would be time consuming & in fairness my day job kept me busy.
Having attended several awards events during my career & won a few of them, I often found myself chasing award winners down to better understand what made them a winner. Call it a ‘eureka’ moment but it suddenly hit me – If I was to become a judge it would give me exposure to some of the best practices out there & help me further build out my network!


That was nine years ago & I’ve not looked back. I’ve just signed up to judge at the Customer Experience Awards 2019 (my favourite) & can’t wait to see some of my fellow judges, many of which I now call friends.


So, does judging give me what I was looking for? Quite simply ‘yes’, being a judge gives me exposure, fresh ideas & networking opportunities that aren’t available every day. My organisation also benefits – they get a manager back more motivated, with new ideas, an enhanced network & quite simply a spring in his step.


If you’re reading this blog, then I’ll assume you are considering becoming a judge. My advice is don’t ‘consider’ it, just ‘do it’ – you won’t regret it & neither will the corporate you work for.