I’ve won my fair share of 25-words-or-less competitions.
I’ve won small things; I’ve won big things. The prizes that spring immediately to mind include a BOB Ironman stroller, a Robomaid, custom Uberkate jewellery, an iPad Mini, a year’s supply of Tim Tams, a trip for two to Adelaide including flights, accommodation and tickets to two events at the Word Adelaide festival, bed linen, wetsuits for my children, books, more books, DVDs, more DVDs, and… I’ll stop there.
So what makes a good competition entry? How do you win them?
If you find yourself entering these sorts of competitions and winning doughnuts (figuratively, not literally), here are my seven top tips.
Tip 1: Do NOT go over the word limit.
It is truly amazing how many people get this one wrong. Gone over the word limit? You’re done. Finished. Out. Automatically. No matter how good your answer is. Sorry, thanks for coming, see you later. Oh, the humanity!
(Related: I currently have a book giveaway on the blog, ending 28 February. I’ve asked people to enter using 15 words or less, and many of the entries are far longer. So if you feel like entering, and can keep to the word limit, pop on over – your chances are good!)
Tip 2: Answer the question.
Seem obvious? It should be. But just as with the word count, a lot of people get this wrong.
This can be broken into two parts. First of all, read the question. It might say, “Tell me why you want to win.” That’s straightforward, and difficult to get wrong (although I guarantee that many entries will still not answer the question).
But it might say something trickier. “What’s your child’s favourite game to play outdoors, and why?” There are lots of elements to this question. What is your child’s favourite game to play, not yours. What is their favourite game to play, not toy to play with. Outdoors, not indoors. And the most important part: WHY?
Second? Answer it, making sure you’ve incorporated all the elements noted above. “My daughter loves to play tiggy because she thinks she’s ‘the fasterest ever runner in the uniberse ever’.” Child’s favourite: tick. Game: tick. Outdoors: tick. WHY? Tick.
Tip 3: Think about the prize (specifically, the product or brand).
This is a tricky one to balance. You want to be aware of the prize, and the product or brand backing it, but you don’t want to fawn. You don’t want to look like a blatant suck-up. If, for example, a high-end shoe brand is asking you to describe your favourite pair of shoes, you don’t have to list one of theirs. “I ONLY ever buy XYZ shoes because you guys are the best!” Groan. But you also shouldn’t say something like, “I only ever buy shoes from Kmart. Seriously, who’d waste their money on expensive shoes?” Um, our target market would. Which is clearly not you.
Here’s an example from my own entries. In 2013, the wonderful Bianca from BigWords hosted a giveaway for the trip to Adelaide I mentioned above. The main focus of this trip was to attend Word Adelaide, a festival of all things wordy. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I’m a word nerd of the highest order, and I simply HAD to win this prize.
The question was simple enough: “In 25 words or less, please tell me why you’d love to come to Adelaide.” But I knew that one of the events was focusing on words in music and lyrics, and Bianca gave this extra bit of advice: “It’s all about the words and passion people.” So this was my entry:
Tip 4: Know who is judging the competition.
Is it the organisation providing the prize who will be judging your entry? Is it a third party? Is it the blogger or website hosting the competition? Your answer may vary depending on who it is, and what they’ve asked.
Time for another example. I entered a competition to win an iPad Mini provided by Origin Energy. The question was, “What is the strangest, left-of-centre out-of-the blue question your kid has ever asked you?”
My daughter is queen of the quotable quotes, so I could have approached this in a few different ways. But the giveaway was being hosted by the one and only Mrs Woog of Woogsworld, so I thought humour would be the best way to go. And I was pretty sure she wouldn’t mind a cheeky mention of alcohol either. So I went with a ripper my daughter had come out with a few weeks prior:
Tip 5: Be honest.
Don’t make up a sob story because you think it’ll hit people in the heart and win you the prize. (In fact, humour is generally more likely to win you the prize than blatant bids for sympathy.) Don’t say you love everything a brand produces if you’ve never tried it. Don’t talk about how much you love your kids if you don’t have any. (And yes, that happens.)
Late last year, I won two personalised Uberkate Love Band Rings (with Your Script) from the wonderful Sonia at Life, Love and Hiccups. To enter, you had to answer the question, “Who would you give the other love band to and what would you have engraved on them?” There was no word limit to this competition, and I instantly knew what I would do with the other ring, so I submitted the following:
I cried when I found out I’d won this prize. Last week (on the 20th anniversary of his death), I gave my mum her stunning ring with my father’s handwriting on it, and there were more tears.
But if it hadn’t been true? Two problems. One: I couldn’t (and wouldn’t!) have been able to fake that level of emotion with my entry, so probably wouldn’t have won anyway. But two: even if I had, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to fake the Valentine’s card when Sonia and Kate contacted me to arrange the prize!
Basically, be a good person. Don’t win by faking emotion, inventing scenarios or co-opting other people’s stories. People will see through it. And I’m sure you have moving/funny/engaging/hilarious/clever/witty stories of your own to share.
Tip 6: Provide a valid email address.
Another seemingly obvious one. Provide not only a valid email address, but one you check often. And spell it correctly.
I’m embarrassed to say that I have learnt this from bitter experience. This time last year, I won a year’s supply of Tim Tam Chocolicious Bites. But I entered through Facebook, for which I had a different email address. One that I didn’t check often. So I didn’t get the email within the claim period.
So I MISSED OUT on a year’s supply of Tim Tam Chocolicious Bites. Which sucked enough for me to write a post titled ‘Things that made me cry this month‘. Pathetic? Maybe. But true. Sob.
Tip 7: Don’t overthink your entry
I know this probably contradicts what you’ve read so far, but don’t overthink your entry. Nothing stands out more (in a bad way) than an overwrought entry. None of the examples I’ve given you took me more than three minutes to think of and submit.
If a question is asking for a personal experience, go with the first one you think of. Second or third if the first one is a story you don’t want to share, but don’t go digging back through your memory archives. The prizes on offer are rarely worth that sort of effort.
If it is a big prize, you might be tempted to work harder on your entry, and come back to enter later. Don’t. You’ll overthink it and your entry will sound too ‘done’. You’re meant to be excited about this prize! You want to enter straight away! And you’ll kick yourself if you forget to go back and submit an entry at all.
Write something, cross your fingers, hit submit, and be done with it.
And good luck!
Do you enter 25-words-or-less competitions? Do you have any tips to share?