How To Make Your Written Project SIZZLE!
I have judged chapter projects on the association and international levels the past several years and would like to pass on some suggestions to help you prepare your written entry to maximize your project’s score and success. While hearing advice from fellow competitors and different advisors is always helpful, I hope some tips from a judge’s perspective will give you some new information to consider.
First of all, the most important thing that you need to consider is that the judge has a limited amount of time to read, evaluate and then score your written entry. Therefore, to get the maximum number of points, having an organization system that makes it easy for the judge to find each and every judging criteria and score them quickly is critical to your success.
These are five ways to maximize your written project score.
Follow the guidelines of your project to the “t” as you work on your manual.
Read, re-read and read again the criteria and the order of your project. Put your writing in the correct order. It is critical that you number each judging criteria to make sure the judge can find each section. Most importantly, use the exact numbering sequence as shown in the guidelines, including roman numerals, letters and numbers as shown in the outline (specifically the “Rating Sheet.”). Special formatting (Bolding, Italics, ALL CAPS, larger fonts and/or any combination) helps us find what we are going to use to rate your written entry.
The most important section in your written project is the “EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.” It is a critical component to your manual!
Look at your rating rubric and make sure that you cover all criteria on this one page summary. This should be a complete recap of the project. With limited reading and rating time, the judge may have to refer back to this summary several times in order to score your project. Do not be afraid to have graphics, callouts or illustrations in this space. Do anything you can to tell a complete story of the project in this space. Be sure to state your goal(s), how you worked towards them and how you reached them.
Make it easy to read!
Reading through several 30-page manuals can be tiring on the judges’ eyes. Making your manual easy to read results in a successful scoring of your project. Do not use any font smaller than 10 point! Use regular fonts (not script or fancy, for example). By using all caps, bolding, italics, and intentional spacing, you can guide the judge through the project. Be sure to keep your formatting consistent throughout the whole project. In addition, make sure that you use the exact title of the section as written in the guidelines.
Know how to use charts, graphs and illustrations correctly!
Charts, graphs and illustrations are very useful to show your statistics and lists. Use nice colors and text box shading to show your story. But, do not fill your book with charts and tables and never include a chart or graph without a written explanation accompanying it. For nearly all events there is a section on “organization” of your project. An organizational chart is very useful for this, and in a way, called for to show how you structured your event. However, you also need to add an explanation to increase the understanding of the chart and the effects of your project’s organization. Do not just list names and duties—that really does not tell much. If you explain the responsibilities, it helps the judge understand much better what was going on with your event.
If you are doing a “chapter project,” it should be a project with many chapter members participating.
The chairpersons or one member should not be doing a pet project of their own and calling it a “chapter project.” The whole purpose of a “chapter project” is to organize and present a project in which many chapter members can get involved. Document your project to show involvement by chapter members in your organizational chart, pictures, quotes from members, newspaper clippings—be creative! When most judges are evaluating a project that shows just one or three (the presenters) people doing the entire project, it makes it difficult to judge against a project where 80-100 percent of the chapter members are involved in the event. When I judge a “chapter project” I want to be sure that it truly is a “CHAPTER project.” Remember you have space available to show pictures and documentation of chapter involvement in the appendix of the project. You have a maximum of 30 pages to document your project—use all 30 pages!
The guidelines for your written entry allow for lots of creativity. Use this creativity to present a professional-looking, business-type presentation. Use your word processing equipment and software to make it sizzle! Keep in mind though, to not make it too busy—make it “business” looking! Think of the judge as your business client and you are making a presentation in this type of setting—like real marketing personnel would be doing.
I can’t stress enough that planning ahead and making your written entry easy to read and score are the key components to a winning score. Make it easier for your judge to rate and give you the maximum number of points on your project. Just keep in mind, your project may be the 14th or 15th project the judge is scoring, and their eyes may be getting tired so give them something exciting, organized and appealing to spark their interest!
Best of luck with your chapter entries and we will see you in Anaheim!