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Learning Series: Finding Appropriate Judges

Learning Series: Finding Appropriate Judges

How you select judges will have a lot to do with your program. What’s right for you is unlikely to be right for another program. However, most programs can follow the same method in judging selection to find experts who will establish prestige for the program and, subsequently, attract a greater number of entries.

In this article, we’ll discuss the two leading methods you should use to find appropriate judges:

  1. Recruit leading industry experts; and
  2. Open up the jury panel for registration

Method 1: Recruit Leading Industry Experts

An expert panel is the best choice for any awards program. Some of the advantages of this selection method include:

 

  • Fairness – Entrants will be more likely to trust in the fairness of your program’s outcomes (i.e. the judging process and winner selection generally) if your judges are highly regarded experts in the field.
  • Credibility – By having top industry experts as judges, entrants will believe your program is more credible and legitimate.
  • More Submissions – Industry experts are going to draw a crowd for your program. With more submissions comes growth, revenue, and notoriety. This is why it’s best to feature your judging panel on your website, publicize names in press releases, and otherwise “advertise” your panel.

 

Selecting these experts doesn’t have to be difficult either. Essentially, you want judges who would win their category were they to enter your program. And, if you’re struggling to find where you should look for judges, here are a few resources you can turn to:

  • Winners of similar awards programs;
  • Popular speakers in your industry who already have notoriety; and
  • Successful business or trade leaders  – like CEOs or Presidents – in related companies

Typically, you can find at least a handful of judges using this method. If you still need more, you may want to turn to peer judging or reciprocal judging to fill out your panel. Peer judging means you source judges from your entrant pool by inviting entrants to serve as judges in categories they aren’t participating in. Reciprocal judging is when judges from a similar program judge your entries and vice versa.

Judge Registration

If you can’t recruit judges or you don’t believe doing so is in the best interest of your program, you may consider an ‘open-call,’ which allows people to register to become a judge. This is particularly common for large programs that receive thousands of entries and need a lot of judges to allocate the work accordingly.

Most open call programs are designed to recruit 200 to 300 judges. However, it’s difficult to vet judges and their qualifications when you’re working on such a large scale. As such, it’s best that you always attempt to recruit experts before allowing judges to register for your program. If you’re still forced to use open-call methods, make sure each entry is scored by as many judges as possible. This average will make the outcome more fair and account for the potential biases or inexperience in your judging pool.

How Will You Select Judges?

While many awards programs recruit judges strictly on the merits and turn to industry experts, some can or must use open-call to fill their judging panel. By understanding the relative benefits and drawbacks of both, you can make a decision that makes sense for your organization.

So, which method will you use?

Ashley Surinak is the resident OpenWater expert on all things content. From the blog to guides and beyond, you'll find her at every turn in your OpenWater journey.

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