I attended my first-ever SITE event in 2005, the SITE Global Conference in Toronto (and haven’t missed a GC since). That was also where I first came across the glory and glamour of what we know as the SITE Crystal Awards.
As I sat watching the videos and the stories of the winners, I was in awe of all the wonderful work being done by my peers. I also said to myself, “Hey, even I can do this.” I applied for our first award in 2007, but never expected to win. When we did, I was stunned, humbled and excited all at the same time. I felt on top of the world.
The reason was very simple — of all the awards in the larger travel industry, this award is not based on sales levels or numbers. It is a peer-to-peer evaluation of us as professionals. We all know how discerning our fraternity can be, and to be told you are amongst the best of the best in your industry is an endorsement of the highest value.
We have since been honoured with seven SITE Crystal Awards for programs in Brazil, Mexico, the UK, Spain, and Pakistan. The award is very agnostic with regards to where the group comes from. It’s what you do in your destination that carries a lot of weight.
The Crystal Awards have also been an invaluable tool in how I position my team to incentive travel buyers. It screams professionalism and attention to detail. In a competitive world, it most certainly adds value to my efforts. Plus, it enhances my team’s morale and confidence.
Quick tips for Crystal Award success
I want to share a few of my learnings and tips on what it takes to apply and hopefully win. I have mentored a few friends who won, so I’ve gotten something right.
- Take the time to read the case studies and watch the videos of past winners. They will help to inspire and help ideation.
- Don’t feel apprehensive about applying — nothing ventured, nothing gained.
- Read the rules very carefully. A slip can get you disqualified, but the process is straightforward.
- The Crystals are unique in that you are not competing against others, only yourself. You need to prove that you made the cut of excellence. A category can have more than one winner, or even none.
- It’s good practice to ask for consent from your client before applying. You will benefit from their support and input in the process. I always applied with my agency client and the corporate, which makes your bonds stronger as well. It is possible to keep the end client’s name anonymous though, too. That will not affect your chances to win.
- Having great pictures and great videos really helps — visuals that tell your story help make your case.
A few final words of advice
The process is about telling a story. This is your time to be proud, to show off; to go to the rooftop and shout to the world what a great program you did and how happy the client was. This is not a time for you to be humble. There's a difference between showing off and exaggeration, so please be careful on dropping any BS spin. You need to tell it strong.
Take time to understand what the judges are looking for in the questions. They want to know what your challenges were. Did you have any limitations? Did you do something no one has ever done before? Did you use a venue very differently or deliver a service differently?
I always write my answers offline in a Word document first and then sleep on them. Then revisit it the next day and make changes, as you are bound to remember new things. Do this a few times. You will not get it right in one go. Don’t rush. Take a week or two, and also get input from your team and client.
Applying for the SITE Crystal Awards is not intimidating at all. Some entries will win, and some will not. That’s okay. In my last application, I didn’t make it and I was disappointed. But when you see your peers and friends win, you still feel a sense of achievement for the family that we are.
To summarise — read the questions properly. Take your time to write the answers. Take your client along with you. Look for the challenge, for the unique story and tell it strong. Reach out to past winners and ask for advice. Don't feel your group wasn't great. You'd be surprised how other people view your efforts of being something very special. Winning this recognition is an unforgettable moment. All the best!
Learn more and apply for this year's Crystal Awards program
Rajeev Kohli is the Joint Managing Director of Creative Travel and served as the 2016-2017 SITE President.