The CEDIA Awards: Writing the Essay

Ed Wenck | Feb 05, 2019
This post is part of a series on tips and advice to make your CEDIA Awards entry stand out.

Part of your entry into the annual CEDIA Awards is an essay – essentially, a description of the project that you’d like the judges to consider. Following the advice below can help your chances of making a great impression.
Geoff Meads of Presto Web Design, a former CEDIA Awards judge, sums things up thusly: “Be brief and be to the point and highlight the most important parts of this project that actually made it different.”
“What we do want to know is what was individual about the customer?” Meads continues. “You know, did they have any kind of special needs? Entertainment likes, aesthetic desires — or contradictory things, like they needed a massive screen for a small budget or a small budget in a big room for a theater, those kinds of things. How do you solve those issues? Did the client have particular interests or disabilities, or likes or dislikes of interfaces. Where the installer had really, really got to the bottom of understanding what this person or people had needed and answered those questions. So for me, the essay is about not what you did. It's what you did differently that makes it worthy of winning an award.”
Another regular volunteer on the judging panel, Joel Silver of the Imaging Science Foundation, agrees: “If it's flowery, it's not helping you any. It should be to the point. What's the customer's needs, what's the customer's desires, and how did you fill them?”
Thomas Marino, an integrator whose firm Advanced Technologies has notched two CEDIA Awards, isn’t afraid to admit he farms out this part of the job. “I contribute half of my award-winning to my precious wife who's got a major in English,” says Marino. “And she knows how to write and she's assisted me in writing for trade journals. And so because of the way she writes it up, I put all my stuff on paper and then she fixes it and that leads to a win. How you present your information, your scope, all of that is hugely important.”
Of course, a big part of solid writing is good editing. “I see on too many entries the phrase, ‘The customer said that he wanted the system to be easy to use,’” says Meads. “Well, duh. If they're not looking for a system that’s easy to use, they've come to the wrong people. Any of the systems put in by any of our integrators – particularly those at the awards level -- should be usable in this way, just the same as any restaurant food should be edible. We don't want to know the customer wanted that.”
There are online tools that can help you create clean copy, too. “There is a web copy editor called Hemingway. It's free to use online or you can download and buy an app for Mac or PC. It's a great way of streamlining text. It's designed for people that write web copy where attention span is minimal. It highlights reading age, and we should have a reading age, which is about 10th grade. It highlights sentences for overlong, over complicated, and it's a great way of thinning out text to just stick to the point, and that’s what we really need entrants to do.”