There’s a growing band of proud professionals who have won the right to call themselves an Optician Award winner and it is a pantheon that is open to all. You will see the Optician Awards logo displayed proudly on websites, in windows and on stationery up and down the land. That art deco roundel signifies not only clinical excellence and customer care but more importantly the pride the recipient takes in being the best of the best.
But winning an Optician Award is not about boosting your ego; it is a sign that you care and excel at what you do. It is a sign that builds confidence in your clients, creates pride in your colleagues and puts you on the map. It is a tangible benefit to your business and now is the time to start planning an entry at opticianawards.co.uk.
When Optician interviews its Award winners each year, their overriding feelings are of elation and surprise. As our reporters delve deeper, what comes across is the delight among winners that the issues they care about are being highlighted to a wider audience and making an impact on the profession.
Our readers often ask for tips on entering the Awards and the clues you need to guide your entry can be found on the Awards website. The first thing to understand is that the road to Optician Awards glory is not achieved by networking, schmoozing or spending with the right companies.
Our winners are chosen by independent panels of experts who take each entry on its merits, deliberate, discuss and put forward their shortlist. In short, winners are people, practices and companies just like you, but if you do not come forward we cannot know you are there.
Making a successful entry
Each year, Optician receives hundreds of entries to the Awards. While some of the judges will have personal knowledge of the entrants, our panels cannot visit all the practices entering. They can only work off what you provide, so include it in your entry. Make sure your wording is succinct, accurate and relevant.
The Optician Awards are also about quality, not quantity. Before you think about starting your entry, take time to read through the categories on offer and look at the judging criteria. This will provide you with a clear idea of what the judges will be looking for and some specific pointers on the kind of information you should include.
You may also be surprised what categories are available. Each year, Optician creates new awards and tweaks some existing categories. Does your practice have a potential winner of the Clinical Leader of the Future Award?
It is important to bear in mind that some of our categories are more attractive than others and will garner a large number of entries. Make sure you direct your efforts to the right category for you. You may have your heart set on winning the Independent Practice of the Year, but it may well be that you excel in the domiciliary sector or have a healthy myopia management clinic running.
Lights under a bushel
Another theme from our winners’ interviews is that many have either been put forward by workmates or had colleagues suggest they enter. They often say: ‘I didn’t think people like me won Optician Awards,’ so do not assume it is not for you. Winners are also often more interested in their patients and the profession than acquiring accolades, so if you have an unsung hero in your midst, suggest they enter. While nominations are welcome the nominees will have to agree their entry. If you have a colleague who deserves recognition, it is best to suggest they enter rather than do it on their behalf.
Once you have decided which category is best for you, re-read the criteria and collect the information requested. Do not be tempted to describe those things you would typically expect to take place in an optical practice. Concentrate on the things that are over-and-above the norm. In recent years, guidance questions have been included on the entry forms. These provide a framework for your entry and allow for specific points to be covered. Make sure the special things you want to get across are in your entry, do not just answer the questions posed.
Less is more
Do not be tempted to overload your entry with reams of files, PowerPoint presentations, brochures and suchlike. By all means provide additional information but make sure it is relevant. You may want to provide testimonials or local newspaper cuttings, perhaps you have created a patient guide you want to include but do not provide downloads of everything you have in the hope that some of it may impress the judges. If there are pearls within a mass of information, they may be lost. Be selective about what, and how much, you provide.
Entering lots of awards in the hope of increasing your chances is also not a good policy. When deciding which categories to enter, think hard about where your strengths lie rather than which awards you would like to win.
Also, do not try a scattergun approach and think the more categories you enter the better. Some of our judging panels may preside over more than one category so do not be tempted to write a ‘core’ entry and then top and tail it with more specific information.
It is much more effective to concentrate on one, thought-through, comprehensive entry than rush submissions for three or four categories.
Once you have decided on the categories you want to enter, take a systematic approach to your submission. If it is an individual entry, Optometrist of the Year for example, that should come from the individual. Constantly refer to the judging criteria when making your entry, answer any questions relevantly and make sure to get your ethos across.
Give your entry personality and heart; it is going to be judged by real people working in the same profession, not by an artificial intelligence bot.
If it is a team or practice entry, think about who is best placed to put the entry together and be sure to get the full engagement of the team and ownership of the entry. Input from the whole team will show through in the entry and impress the judges.
For practicality’s sake, you may decide one team member should take a lead role in bringing the entry together. Think about who that person should be. It should be someone methodical with any eye for detail and someone who can get the best input from all members of the team.
More importantly, it should be someone who wants to do it, no arm-twisting. They need to be given the time, resources and the backing and support of the whole team so it can be done in an enjoyable and constructive manner.
Once the entry has been put together, other team members should see it and review it. If you have time, why not run it by someone independent of the entry to see what they think? Do not leave everything until the last minute. Give yourself time to make revisions or tidy things up.
At this stage, be careful not to take the personality and heart out of the entry. Often, first drafts have a character that can easily be lost.
Vernon Kay hosted the event in 2022
The Awards presentation is in the Hilton Hotel Park Lane, London, on December 6. If you are entering, make sure you can make that date. The Awards are presented alongside a stunning audio-visual show so make sure all of the photographs provided are of good quality.
Remember, they may be projected on a stage screen 20 feet long. If you are shortlisted for a team Award, think about how the event could be used as a team building exercise. An evening in a top London hotel for your team just before Christmas could be a great thank you for a year’s hard work.
The Awards entry deadline is September 1, so log onto opticianawards.co.uk and start planning your Awards journey. Good luck.