The awards management blueprint for virtual awards

by | May 28, 2021 | Articles

There are many benefits to running an awards program 100% online. There’s the significantly reduced costs, the paperless admin, the wider entrant net and a higher potential attendance at your awards ceremony. 

Sure, virtual programming has its challenges, too. Upfront planning becomes even more important and managing an online awards ceremony becomes an altogether different challenge. But, sometimes, a virtual awards program can’t be avoided (side-eying you, COVID-19). 

And an awards management software can help you take the entire program online. As an awards-focused organisation (and the world’s #1 awards management software), Award Force is used around the world for a wide range of virtual award programs. 

From business awards, design competitions, employee recognition to industry association awards and everything in-between—we’ve seen it all. And while these programs all have different goals and outcomes, there are several best practices used by many virtual awards programs.

So we’ve taken the best of the best and compiled a quick blueprint for virtual awards below, with ways Award Force can help you get it done. Whether you are an old hand at virtual awards or just starting to consider it—this article is for you.

Blueprint planning

It goes without saying, planning is critical in any project. It’s even more important when you need to run an awards program virtually. So before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s set up a framework for how our program will run. 

The best way to start planning your virtual awards program framework is to define your virtual awards lifecycle. Once you’ve done that, then decide when each stage is intended to happen, who is responsible for it and how it will work.

The virtual awards lifecycle

The lifecycle of a virtual awards program can differ. But typically the lifecycle for most programs includes these common stages: 

  •       Build
  •       Promote
  •       Manage
  •       Enter
  •       Judge
  •       Award
  •       Announce

The “how” of each lifecycle phase

Program managers should define how each stage of the program will be executed, upfront. It is likely the most important part of the planning stage and is not to be overlooked. Key questions to consider include:

  • What is the program budget?
  • Where will the awards be created? Will you use software, run it manually with paper submissions or via something else like email?
  • How will entrants enter?
  • Are there entry fees?
  • How many categories?
  • How will entrants know about your award?
  • Who will be the judges?
  • How will judges “judge”?
  • What are the prizes/awards and will there be a virtual awards gala?

There are hundreds of other questions to ask. Try to answer them all upfront and get detailed about it. If you plan on employing a sophisticated scoring rubric, define how that’ll be calculated. There is nothing worse than attempting to “figure it out” under time pressure. Allocate plenty of time for the how so when it comes to the next couple of points, you’ve got everything you need to make informed decisions.

The “when” of lifecycle planning

For each of the lifecycle stages, it’s ideal to define when each stage should start and end. For some stages, like promotion, it is on-going, but for others, like the “build” phase, there are clear timings that should be mapped out and planned.

The “who” of lifecycle planning 

Who will be responsible for each stage of the program lifecycle? It can be one or many people responsible for making it all happen but it’s important to allocate an “owner” for this stage to ensure there is one point of contact. 

This is particularly important if your program management team are all working virtually and/or geographically dispersed.

Document the process

Once you’ve finalised your lifecycle, how the program will work, when each stage will be executed and by who – document it. “How it works” is best documented in a story format and will set the expectations up front. This is a crucial bit of information to everyone on your program management team and should be considered a “living document” that is updated as you go. 

Create a timetable of events to include the responsible party, the start and end date and a short expectation of what needs to happen in that stage.

Tip! Colour coding your timetable can help!

Tip! Want to create this on a project management tool? Use Trello – there’s a free version.

Sample timetable

Build, manage, enter and judge – in one place

With so many pieces of the program to organise—one thing is essential: awards management software. And, obviously, we’re biased! Award Force is the #1 awards management for good reason. Ease of use, affordability, 5-star client support are just a few of the reasons. Read more here.

Managing your awards program online with cloud-based software not only saves time, it’s also less stressful. We promise—awards management software will make your life easier. And it is vital when moving your awards program to 100% virtual, where every participant in your program—whether program manager, judge, or entrant—can access the platform online, via the cloud. Not to mention, you can finally say goodbye to those pesky paper forms and PDFs


Easy access for program participants

Save time and stay organised

The Award Force platform offers a host of powerful online management tools, which you’ll have at your disposal, no matter the size of your program, number of entrants, or size and location of the management team. 

Program managers can easily track, manage, tag, filter, search and report on entries in real-time. You can keep your program clutter-free and in top shape with powerful admin features like duplicate management and plagiarism detection, which can be used on an individual entry or in bulk.

Manage your program information—all in one place

When your program is virtual, you need one central hub to keep it organised. With Award Force, you can accept and manage entries, communicate with entrants, and assign entries to your judges—all in one easy-to-use platform. 

Program managers get clear visibility and powerful control over the entire awards lifecycle, without sacrificing ease of use. You’ll have access to everything you need to create and manage an exceptional program and you’ll save time, energy and your sanity too.

Exceptional awards experience for all participants

Your entrants are the lifeblood of your awards program, so it’s important they have an unparalleled entry experience with your virtual awards.

Award Force provides that. It requires no training, is incredibly visual, offers multilingual capabilities and built-in entry form guidance and so much more! Award Force-supported awards programs achieve a 29.78% increase in entries season-on-season, in no small part due to the fantastic experience entrants enjoy through the platform. 

Your judges will have a great time too! Judges love Award Force for the ease of use, powerful judging modes and clear overview of entries and their progress. It makes it easy for them to access and judge each entry, no matter where they are.

Actionable data insights

When you take your program online, data soon follows. A great benefit! 

Award Force allows you to easily monitor data in real-time, such as entry submission status, judging assignments, results, and more. You’ll always have access to all your program data, and you can export and bulk download what you need, when you need it. By having all your data online, it’s easy to email and share with program managers and others in your organisation. No paper or in-person meetings needed.

Built-in security and integrity 

A SaaS platform like Award Force provides the advantage of top-notch security features to protect your program’s data. All of the software’s features are architected and implemented with best-practice security, privacy standards and protection of data integrity.

You’ll be able to rest easier knowing your program’s data is safe and secure, no matter where you and your community of participants are located.

A blueprint and awards software to take your program virtual

Taking your awards program online doesn’t have to be stressful. In fact, it can help you organise and streamline your awards lifecycle and processes into a blueprint for success.

You’ll find that having one central online hub for your program management, entry process and judging results will create a more successful awards management strategy. And whether or not you keep your awards virtual for the long-run, you’ll have a system that keeps you organised, saves you time and money, and keeps you sane.

Want to try out the Award Force platform for yourself? Take a tour or book a live demo with one of our friendly team members.

Search our blog


Follow our blog!

See Award Force in action

Get free access to our demo videos