How to start writing your CMI Awards entry – and make it shine

Written by CMI Insights Wednesday 19 June 2024
The nomination deadline for the CMI Awards is close at hand, and you might feel uncertain about how to begin writing. Here’s how to get started.
Bin full of paper

Is there anything more daunting than a blank page and a blinking cursor? With the deadline for the 2024 CMI Awards of Excellence fast approaching, you might be wondering how to put pen to paper. To help, below we share our top eight tips for crafting a compelling submission.

Before we dive in, remember you can download nomination forms and detailed submission criteria for each category here

1. Read the questions and hit the talking points

Our judges are looking to see whether you’ve read the questions thoroughly, addressed key information and answered appropriately. Pay close attention to how the questions are worded. If you focus on each distinct part, you will have a basic structure to follow. 

2. Brainstorm the golden nuggets

Don’t let the blinking cursor intimidate you. Freewriting, where you write quickly and continuously without worrying about form, style or grammar, is a useful trick. Also, discuss your ideas with colleagues. Two heads are better than one, and four heads are better still. Just remember, at this stage, there are no wrong answers.

“Don’t forget that CMI has four values: professional, progressive, passionate and practical,” says Ann Francke OBE, chief executive of CMI. “Look for ways to demonstrate these values in your submission.”

3. Gather supporting materials

Bring your story to life by quoting the people involved. Data is a great way to make the impact of your work tangible. Include anything that highlights the positive impact of your project beyond your own words. Try to make your submission feel real, and don’t hesitate to share the hurdles you’ve overcome. 

4. Think about a narrative

Consider the big picture and the message you’re trying to convey. Have you embodied CMI values? Demonstrated a lifelong approach to learning? Had a meaningful impact on those around you? If you can pinpoint that big picture message, it will serve as a touchpoint for the rest of the submission.

“It’s always good to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end,” says Ann. “Don’t assume that the judges will join the dots; spell out the benefits.”

5. Watch your language

Write in a conversational, professional tone, as if speaking to a colleague. Your goal is to inform. If you’re in doubt about your writing, read it out loud, then rewrite it until it sounds natural.

Many experiments have shown that readers understand and remember material far better when it is expressed in concrete language that allows them to form visual images

- Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style

6. Make the first and last sentences count

A captivating opening (or hook) grabs your reader’s attention and entices them to read on. Tell us the “who”, the “what” and, most importantly, why we should care.

Newspapers use the inverted pyramid technique, where you begin with your most interesting point and end with the least important. You could also try STAR, which follows the structure: Situation, Task, Action taken and Result achieved.

7. Submit your entry early

Allow time for last-minute adjustments. Submitting early ensures you don’t miss the deadline and provides an opportunity to remember additional details that could strengthen your entry. “Give our judges the chance to enjoy reading your submission,” says Ann.

8. Finalise and polish your entry

It might sound obvious, but have someone proofread your entry before submission. At least reread the submission with fresh eyes after a break. Edit rigorously, keeping an eye out for redundant words or phrases. Online resources like Grammarly and Hemingway Editor can help you identify clunky or long sentences.

Mostly, we want you to have fun with your submission – and remember, you don’t have to follow all the guidance in this article. What we really care about is your story, whether it’s a small triumph or a major milestone. So get creative and enjoy the process. We’re excited to celebrate your success.


Image: Shutterstock / Elnur

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