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awardprogram articles - ask the experts 15th Jun 02

How can I make people read the criteria for my awards?

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A question that has often been raised is "how can I make people read the criteria for my awards?" The short and simple answer to this question is "you can't!" At least, this award manager has not found any method that ensures the criteria is read by the award applicant.

Various techniques have been employed by award managers over the years to try to ensure that applicants read the criteria. The two most popular techniques seem to be:

1. The secretion of single or multiple passwords within the body of the criteria. The passwords must then be included on the application form as proof that the criteria has been read.

2.The embedding of the link to the application form within the criteria itself.

I would contend that these ploys do not in any way, shape or form "make" the applicant read the criteria. Inclusion of the correct password on the application form is often more a testament to the applicant's ability to visually scan text than a confirmation that he has read it.

An award manager could impose heavy sanctions against applicants who fail to complete an application form with the correct password. For example, the program might state that if the password is not included or is inaccurate, then the applicant can never apply again or will have to wait a year. This will tend to focus the mind of those applicants who are really serious about receiving the award, and it will encourage them to read the criteria in detail.

Even here, however, there is no guarantee the applicant will do more than scan the text for the all important password. So if the award manager cannot "make" the applicant read the criteria, what should be done? Simple! Make the criteria as simple and concise as possible. Do not be over-elaborate. Tell the applicants what you want from them in one page.

One technique which many successful programs employ is to provide a duel system: concise criteria for those in a hurry and more detailed criteria for people who feel they need more information. Clearly signposting your concise criteria also encourages people to read it.

In short, the more enticing the criteria, the more likely that applicants will read it. But, alas, there are no guarantees.

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