This is a guest post by Howard Givner, Executive Director, Event Leadership Institute.

Events are like children: everyone thinks theirs are gorgeous. But get your event to win an industry award, or even be nominated for one, and people will actually be impressed.

People’s perceptions are easily influenced by third party validations. Show someone a dress and they’ll have one impression if you tell them it’s from Costco, and a totally different one if you tell them the same dress was designed by Donna Karan.

And wouldn’t you rather have people think your event is Donna Karan caliber, as opposed to Costco?

Industry awards are the key.

Types of awards — which competitions are worth entering?

There are lots of awards out there for event planners, from national ones to local ones. Most local chapters of trade groups like ISES and MPI have their own annual awards, and it’s obviously a lot easier to earn a nomination or win on a local level.

Awards also break down into two types: juried awards and readers’ choice awards.

Juried Awards — Like the name implies, juried awards involve panels of judges evaluating event entries on the merits, and selecting nominees and winners.

Readers’ Choice Awards — These awards are more or less a popularity contest once you make the cut to be nominated.

To industry professionals, a juried award carries significantly more weight; however non-professionals (like your boss, or most clients) don’t really know the difference.

Three key steps to winning an award

So how do you make your event award-worthy?

As part of the Event Leadership Institute’s Maverick Series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Michaels, the founder and CEO of Extraordinary Events, which is easily one of the most awarded event companies in the country. I specifically asked her what the secret was to winning so many awards.

She offered three key steps:

1. Think about the awards during the proposal stage. When her staff brainstorms ideas to present to a client, or even to a potential client, she presses them to set a very high standard. It’s not enough to create something that will “WOW” the client; she pushes them to create something that will “WOW” the judges of national, juried awards competitions. That mindset may very well be the key to the whole thing.

2. Write up the award application immediately after the event is over. While the ideas are fresh in everyone’s mind, start working on your award application. By doing this, it also gives you ample time to corral all the requisite media and visual collateral, such as photos, videos, copies of invitations, etc.

3. Have a professional photographer shoot at your events. This is an investment most planners should make. It’s not always enough to have the existing event photographer get you the room shots you need; you may need to have a dedicated photographer focused on your own shot list.

For additional tips on this topic, watch the following clip of the Event Leadership Institute’s video interview with Andrea Michaels or visit our website to watch the complete video.