How to win
This guide is intended to help applicants develop their submission for the RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence. It is based on the past experiences of the awards and aims to help you present your project in the best way for the judges. Watch our webinar on how to write a winning entry.
Before you start drafting your entry familiarise yourself with the entry process, the submission content requirements and any additional information you may need to source.
Check you are entering the most suitable category for your project, and that you meet the eligibility criteria. If you are entering the same project into multiple categories, do tailor each submission to the category at hand.
The criteria and guidance for each category can be found after creating an account and adding categories to your basket via our entry platform.
Our awards are all about celebrating planning excellence, so please make sure your entry focuses on just that. What were the examples of planning that exceeded the norm? Were there unusual challenges that were addressed by the project? Did you turn a difficult situation around by delivering good planning services? Was there a new novel solution or innovative way of handling a problem that you developed? Your submission should emphasise the valuable role that planning played in the successful realisation of the scheme and be supported by strong evidence.
Not everything can go right, and it is often how you overcome these challenges that is where the real problem solving and value that planners deliver comes to the fore. And these knottier aspects deserve to be recognised. So many things can change from the original brief from a project partner with very particular demands, having to deal with a sensitive issue that the local community wasn’t initially in favour of, or losing finances for a scheme that resulted in delivery problems, a change of personnel and/or even a snap election.
The thing to draw out is how you handled these challenges, what you learnt and how this influenced the outcome to your team, project, or community. This is how you demonstrate how you added value and is what the judges want to hear when assessing your entry.
The judging criteria is designed to help you, so make sure you address all the key points clearly when you structure your entry. Ask yourself two questions as you go through, ‘how’ and ‘so what’. Avoid vague statements such as "the project addressed climate change by reducing energy consumption". Instead, answer ‘how’ it is reducing energy consumption by focusing on the relevant planning issues and reference back to planning aspects (there is no need to go into the technical data of PV output etc.) and ‘so what’ does this mean in terms of the results and outcomes.
- So what does this mean for the planning profession?
- So what does this mean for the communities we serve?
- So what does this mean for the wider society at large?
How did planning facilitate this and make it happen?
In your entry you should aim to be concise but still provide enough evidence and detail to the judges to secure the marks set out in the criteria. Remember the judges will be assessing multiple entries so it’s about making every word count to be selected as a finalist and then on to be a winner. This written entry is your main opportunity to provide information to the judges. Make every word count and use your word limits wisely.
A small panel of judges will be shortlisting and evaluating your entry. And if you are shortlisted, your submission will be judged even further. The judges are professional planners, but not full-time judges so make it as easy as possible for them to give your entry those all-important marks.
Therefore, when it comes to the content of your submission ask yourself is it easy and straightforward to read, or is there too much jargon or have you made too many assumptions?
At the shortlisting stage, judges can have up to 40 submissions to assess and they do this in their own time; so, the simpler you can make judging for them, the better.
The judging panel is made up of a wide range of highly experienced planning professionals with a range of skills and experiences from across the UK and Ireland. However, as a small panel of judges reviews each category, they cannot be expected to know everything about the operating context within which every submission is made.
Make sure you highlight any special circumstances in which you operated. They may not seem 'special' or any different from the norm to you but might give valuable context to a judge. Issues such as topographical, historical, cultural, or political factors something related to the submissions national policy context; for example, projects in Wales may have dealt with challenges related to the Welsh language.
Give yourself plenty of time to prepare your submission. You have put a lot of time and effort into the project and your submission should reflect this. Our online entry platform means you can start your submission, save and come back to it as many times as you like before the deadline.
Before you submit your final entry make sure you read it through. Or even better ask someone you trust to read it for you to see whether they understand what you are saying and that there’s no important information missing. Why not create your own ‘mock’ judges scoring matrix and score your entry against the category criteria. Are you able to pick out the key points that you are trying to get across to the judges?
Whilst following these nine points won't guarantee that you will win, they will help give you the edge. Good luck!