Preparing for ARDA Awards   

By Marge Lennon

ARDA Award deadlines are just around the corner, so now is the time to recognize your company’s best people, products, and promotions and select your favorite wordsmith to craft their nominations, due in Washington by December 14, 2018.

Now in its 32nd year, the awards program welcomes nearly a thousand nominations each year and operates like a well-oiled machine due to the dedication of Catherine Lacey, ARDA’s VP of Meetings & Conventions, the awards committee – which is comprised of professionals representing different facets of the industry ­– and scores of volunteer judges

Explained Catherine, “It is important to understand that Awards Committee members do not review or select winners for the Awards. We leave that process to the non-partisan judges, experts in the category they are judging. Instead, the awards committee is part of the planning process for everything related to the ARDA Awards submissions and ARDA Awards Gala. They review the Awards Guide to determine any need to add, delete or modify any categories according to the ever-changing landscape of our industry. They also review and make recommendations on the talent for the Awards Gala. Our true award is seeing the growth of this program over the years and the recognition of our industry’s best of the best”.

How it works. In selecting the winners, about two dozen ARDA members from around the globe serve as volunteer judges. A certain number points are awarded for each question. The narrative with the highest number of points is the winner. Period.  Since the judging is “blind” with the candidate’s name and company blanked out, everyone is on equal footing. This enables large companies to compete with the smaller ones.  Professionals in their fields conduct judging for advertising and design entries at ARDA’s offices. (See sidebar story on writing winning awards.)

We spoke to Grand Pacific Resorts, Welk Resorts, and Bluegreen Vacations, who explained why they participate in the awards program and what it means to their employees.

“The ARDA Awards program is a valuable recognition tool that increases morale and associate engagement, “said Nigel Lobo, RRP, Chief Operating Officer of Grand Pacific Resorts. During award season, there is a buzz of excitement starting with a personal call from our Co-President David Brown congratulating a nominee along with a grand announcement to all associates. Each finalist is recognized at a special dinner with the executive team where they receive a certificate and medal to instill elation just before the Gala. We also honor each finalist with a warm welcome home from ARDA World with recognition in their department, mention in the press release, and special recognition at the annual meetings, in associate communications and at our own awards gala. When you’re a mid-size company, standing alongside big brands at the ARDA Awards program, you send a message to your associates that you know they have excellence within them and that their heartfelt contributions are equally as impactful as name recognition and size,”

Alexandra Rosa, an associate at Grand Pacific Resorts, shared what the awards program meant to her, “It’s a great feeling working for a company that goes above and beyond to show its associates they’re appreciated. When I toasted a glass of champagne at the reception as Co-President David Brown approached me to ask how my evening was going, it was a surreal experience. I shook his hand and expressed my gratitude for being recognized. He laughed and said he should be thanking me. I beamed with pride that night and for days after.”

Welk Resorts is very active in the ARDA awards program. Explains Tracy F. Ward, Vice President of Corporate Culture for Welk Resorts, “We honor our award finalists with a special invitation to attend the awards Gala at our expense. They are touched that we feel this strongly about them since attendance at the ARDA convention is typically limited to key leaders within the organization. During the convention, finalists are invited to a company dinner along with executives, creating a memorable experience. There is a special bond that’s created when co-workers share in the winning moment at the Gala and an amazing level of pride, excitement and support is generated when we share our list of award finalists and recipients with the company.”

Shared Ada Soriano-Grzywna, Senior Vice-President of Resort Operations for Bluegreen Vacations, “We believe this recognition serves as a vehicle to reward our top performers and to propel their careers to the next level. We value this program, in part because having dedicated industry professionals serving as judges validates the contribution the nominees make to the mission and vision of the organization. Over the years, we have been strong supporters of the ARDA awards as they have provided an opportunity to feature our best talent and give our associates a sense of appreciation for their accomplishments.”

803 words



To give you a few tips on writing award narratives and help you walk away with an ARDY, we are sharing a few suggestions from veteran judges.


  • Make your nomination count by including examples. Give details, specific results and measurable outcomes. Entries with typographical and grammatical errors send a message that the submission was not important enough to have multiple people review it.
  • Focus on specific accomplishments and not general requirements of the job.

Be sure you are answering the questions being asked.

  • Present a narrative that helps the judge “meet” your nominee and appreciate their accomplishments.
  • Stick to the required page length.
  • Avoid using acronyms or initials that are only familiar to people in your company.
  • Try to make the person come alive on paper; a good writer can do this. Describe them in a manner that will make the judge want to meet them in person and exchange ideas. If you can’t hire a professional writer or publicist, use the best writer in your company. The quality of the writing is paramount to the success of the narrative and a huge factor in scoring high points. Thus a professionally aided nomination of less merit may overshadow a nomination written by someone with less writing skills.

For design categories With as many as 100 design awards and related materials to review in a single day, judges agree that brevity of the narrative is important. When the write-up and the visuals appear to tell different stories, or required elements are missing, this will hurt an entry. Without both “before” and “after” images taken from the same angle in the renovation competition, it is difficult to adequately judge such an entry. Quality photography is a key element to design award winners.

For advertising and promotion categories, Collateral materials are required for certain categories so judges can see how all the pieces worked together. Even for something as straightforward as a logo, knowing its intended use helps judges decide its effectiveness. Collateral is of utmost importance, since that’s the “deliverable” in advertising and promotional campaigns.

343 words – sidebar story