Winning Awards with Donna O'Toole

EPISODE 3: Why now is the time to reward your team with Pauline Saunders, Head of Events at The Learning & Performance Institute and The Learning Awards.

September 03, 2020 Donna O'Toole
Winning Awards with Donna O'Toole
EPISODE 3: Why now is the time to reward your team with Pauline Saunders, Head of Events at The Learning & Performance Institute and The Learning Awards.
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Winning Awards with Donna O'Toole
EPISODE 3: Why now is the time to reward your team with Pauline Saunders, Head of Events at The Learning & Performance Institute and The Learning Awards.
Sep 03, 2020
Donna O'Toole

Donna O'Toole is joined by Head of Events at The Learning & Performance Institute, Pauline Saunders. Pauline talks about their flagship awards programme The Learning Awards, including what they're expecting from the 2021 programme, how they've made the submission process simple and robust, and how they support the Learning and Development Industry and Professionals.

The Learning Awards, since its beginning in 1996, have continually adapted to align with significant trends in L&D, and to ensure that categories represent current technologies, innovations and people skills. And they are one of the highest accolades you can receive in workplace learning and development.

Donna O'Toole is CEO of August, she has had the pleasure of supporting entrepreneurs, business leaders and teams to win the most prestigious awards in the world. Seeing first-hand how receiving awards and recognition has motivated teams, solved problems, supercharged brands and raised their profiles, helping businesses to grow and do even more good things for their employees, their industry and their community.

Show Notes Transcript

Donna O'Toole is joined by Head of Events at The Learning & Performance Institute, Pauline Saunders. Pauline talks about their flagship awards programme The Learning Awards, including what they're expecting from the 2021 programme, how they've made the submission process simple and robust, and how they support the Learning and Development Industry and Professionals.

The Learning Awards, since its beginning in 1996, have continually adapted to align with significant trends in L&D, and to ensure that categories represent current technologies, innovations and people skills. And they are one of the highest accolades you can receive in workplace learning and development.

Donna O'Toole is CEO of August, she has had the pleasure of supporting entrepreneurs, business leaders and teams to win the most prestigious awards in the world. Seeing first-hand how receiving awards and recognition has motivated teams, solved problems, supercharged brands and raised their profiles, helping businesses to grow and do even more good things for their employees, their industry and their community.

Donna O'Toole :

Hi, I'm Donna O'Toole and you're listening to my exclusive winning awards podcast. Over the years, I've had the pleasure of supporting entrepreneurs, business leaders and teams to win the most prestigious awards in the world. I've seen firsthand how receiving awards and recognition has motivated teams, solved problems, supercharged brands and raised profiles, helping businesses to grow and do even more good things for their employees, their industry and their community. In this podcast, I'll be sharing valuable awards, insights, tips and inspirational stories to make sure that you get the recognition that you deserve, so that you can go on and achieve your dreams. So what are you waiting for? It's time to start winning. Hello, thanks for joining me today. So today we have Pauline Saunders, who is the head of events at LPI hi Pauline, how are you?

Pauline Saunders :

Hi, Donna. I'm good. Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Donna O'Toole :

You're very welcome. So Pauline, as I said, head of events at the LPI. Very well known by all the people in the Learning and Performance Institute and and the industry around it, particularly for your amazing prowess in running the learning awards, I have to say. I thought what would be great today Pauline is if you were able to tell us more about yourself more about the awards and more about really what the benefits everyone's going to get from getting involved. And anything that's changed this year. And what we've really got to look forward to as well by by being in involved with the awards. So, so do you want to start Pauline by talking to us a little bit about you and how you got into the events and the awards industry.

Pauline Saunders :

Yeah, so I've been working in the events industry for just over eight years now. In my current role of head of events, the LPI been here for the last five years. This role is really, it's my first role that sort of got me into the awards industry. And previous to this, I was working within events, but more sort of the conferences, exhibitions and sort of meetings so really, really corporate side of events. So, yeah, this is my sort of first experience in the awards industry being in the role I'm in now. So,

Donna O'Toole :

but really great, because you've got that events background and the corporate background. And and for those who don't know, the LPI, runs Learning Live every year. Yeah. And we'd be looking forward to that next year as well. So you've got all that experience to then bring into it and then deliver it into that whole awards experience for everyone. Which I'm very lucky to have been to the Learning Awards every year and and judge for the Learning Awards as well and I have to say the events are spectacular. So absolutely hats off to you for for doing that as your first Awards programme as well.

Pauline Saunders :

Thank you very much. It's always a fun one the awards

Donna O'Toole :

It is always really, really good fun also super glamorous as well, which is really nice. Yeah,

Pauline Saunders :

Yeah perfect excuse to pt on a dress and get dressed up for the night.

Donna O'Toole :

Exactly. So tell us a bit more about the LPI itself. So what is it that you do? How does it work? How do you sort of support members?

Pauline Saunders :

Yep, so the LPI is a leading global authority on Workplace Learning and Development. And our aim is to drive organisational and individual performance through effective learning. And we do that through offering a number of services aimed at learning professionals, learning departments and learning providers. So we offer membership certification, accreditation, events, you just mentioned Learning Live, Learning Awards, and we also have some other smaller events that learning live networks throughout the year.

Donna O'Toole :

Fantastic. So really, for you this year, I mean being being so fully integrated in the learning performance industry. This will have been a huge year for you guys. So, obviously, it's been a huge year for everybody. And we've all had our challenges to overcome. And we've all had really positive things that come out of them as well. So with the awards now, where we are right now, the Learning Awards are coming up. I know the deadline is at the end of September. So tell us then a bit more about the Learning Awards. Who are they recognising, who who would typically enter, what kind of companies and how it works, that type of thing?

Pauline Saunders :

Yep. So the Learning Awards is a global awards events. And we're open to anybody working within learning and development. So we have 18 Award categories, and they cover both organisational and individual categories. We open our entries in February, and you just mentioned our deadline is coming up. It's the end of September. So the first stage of the process is submitting your entry and we've worked really hard to try and make that process as simple and as straightforward as possible. So it's now all online, all you have to do is you go to the awards website and you enter through an online submission form. Once you've submitted your entry, and the submission deadline has passed, so at the end of September, I send all those submissions to a panel of independent shortlisters who all score the entries. We shortlist eight finalists per category. And those eight are then invited to the next stage of the process, which is the judging. And the judging is held over four days in November. And for the first time ever, we're actually doing all of our judging virtually. So because we attract entries from all over the world, previously we've done a mix of face to face and online judging so slightly different experience this year for some people in that it is going to be all done virtually. But I think it's really positive. You know, everyone's going to be in the same position and we're all now very used to being on Zoom's for the last few months. So everyone's sort of got yet as you know, even playing field when it comes to the judging process, and the finalists, they will have 15 minutes to present, followed by 30 minutes of q&a. And we've got a panel of four independent judges who judge each category. So after that process, the next stage is the awards event itself. And we don't reveal the winners until the awards ceremony which we hold at London Hilton on Park Lane. We've just sort of mentioned what a great night is a real celebration it's attended by hundreds of l&d professionals. So it's a real celebration. And throughout the process as well, you know, running up to the submission deadline we support anybody who is thinking of entering, Donna we run the webinars with you, offering hints and tips on writing awards. And then if you're successfully been shortlisted, we also run a free webinar on how to make an award winning presentation which which you run such really, really great sort of supporting webinars for anybody who is thinking of entering.

Donna O'Toole :

Yeah, I have to completely agree with you with the, with the process you have made that really easy and and take it from me because we get obviously involved in hundreds and thousands of different awards processes. And yours is really good and easy to complete, which is great. Yeah, definitely. I think the biggest one of the biggest challenges are is often for people I think in learning, certainly something we come across is for them to identify the impact that they've had. And I think what's really nice is with your entries, the way that you put your questions together and your criteria together, it really guides the entrant to understand and start thinking about actually what impact have we had and how they can articulate that in that entry and then again in their presentation, which is really, really nice. It's actually really good for them as well to understand that themselves because then they can use that in their own, you know, internal marketing or external marketing as well.

Pauline Saunders :

Exactly. Yeah, that's exactly what the one thing we tell everybody is impact. Think about the impact you've had. That's so important.

Donna O'Toole :

Yeah. And then that's something, obviously, we'll go through that again on our webinar when we do that. But I think and then, and then I should just say, as well here that because I've judged at the Learning Awards as well, and I've been through that experience as a judge of actually those live face to face presentation stages, which are now going to be online. That's such an exciting time. And I always say to the people who are actually standing up there pitching to us, like you're already getting benefits out of this because you're getting to pitch your service or your product or whatever it is that you're doing and your prowess to this panel of judges who are then going to take that away and think wow, you know, that's a really amazing company. So even if you've already, even if you've just got to the final you've already got lots of leverage that you can get and lots of positivity out the award so it is one of my favourite Awards. I'm not just saying that because you're here. So so we must say, though that last year, we were at the awards at the Hilton. And it was beautiful. It was really stunning. And I know it was your It was your biggest event ever, I think for the awards programme, wasn't it? And obviously, you were very lucky to have got in there in February, before everything happens. So tell us a little bit about, you know, how COVID impacted your events this year. And then what we've got to look forward to as well.

Pauline Saunders :

Yeah, so as you say, we were just before sort of we felt the full sort of impact of the pandemic and like, you know, for a lot of people working in events, it has bought a lot of uncertainty this year. You know, when we sort of fully went in into lockdown, it was a lot of uncertainty. What does this mean for events? What does this mean for the industry, as well as the Learning Awards, we also run Learning Live which is a conference exhibition we have 60 exhibitors and 600 people attend that event. which normally would happen in September. So we have pushed that back to March. So we can Fingers crossed, run that next year. And then also run a series of smaller events, which are Learning Live Networks, which would run both in the UK and Internationally. So we've moved our UK events online. And then for the events outside of the UK, we've had to push those back into next year because of the uncertainty around travel restrictions, etc. So it has been it's been a challenge, but it has made us look at things differently. We've had to adapt. So I think some positives have come out of it, at a challenging time.

Donna O'Toole :

Yeah. And I think that's been the same for everyone. You know, we have all learned and we've all had to go back to basics in some respects and drill back down into our businesses and think, right, how can we do this differently? I have to say as well hats off to you guys because I know quite quickly after lock down started, I can't remember quite when now, but you were doing some kind of digital transformation type webinars that were free to join. And I joined some of those myself to learn, you know, we actually took our training programme completely online that I use to deliver the Awards Accelerator training programme, face to face and go into teams and then all of a sudden, we have to take the whole thing online. And actually, your free events were so helpful with coming up with the design and ideas for that. So you know, hats off to you guys for actually getting out there and supporting everyone, not just the l&d community, but supporting everyone who wants to participate to actually learn something and progress. So have you done anything in particular to support the l&d community during this whole period of time?

Pauline Saunders :

Yeah, so thank you very much for joining those sessions. That is one thing that we have done we have increased the amount of free resources that are available to like you say not in the L&D community, but sort of anybody.We have, the major challenge facing the sector was moving traditionally face to face training online and doing that very quickly. So in response to that we have launched more free weekly webinars to support remote workers, they can get up to speed quickly. And also, I mentioned our decision to move learning live to next year has led us to launch learning live digital, and that is a series of weekly online events. Again, they are completely free for anybody to attend. They're events are made up of webinars, we've had panel discussions, workshop interviews, and they're addressing the challenges of the l&d sector. We've also set up a LinkedIn group which has just over 1000 members now where the community can share advice, articles, blogs, to sort of help and support each other and address sort of challenges that they are experiencing at the moment. And then one of the things that we did just after lockedown is we launched LPI learn, which is a digital Academy for learning professionals, and it's a platform, which is designed to help quickly gain knowledge on the essential skills that learning experts say are in demand right now. So it has been quite busy. A really busy time, but because you know that I think a lot of people like you say that you're facing these challenges. And you think, hang on I have to do things differently. And it's led us to, you know, launch some really exciting products do some new initiatives. So, while it has been a challenge, you know, we've been able to adapt and some good things I think, have come out of it.

Donna O'Toole :

Yeah, definitely. I think as well, what's been really lovely, and I'm a real positive optimist type person anyway, but what's been great is actually seeing how it's brought everyone together. And it's and it's empowered us and actually, we want to share our content. We want to help each other we want to do whatever we can to support each other, because I think it's maybe woken everyone up to the fact that we no one could operate alone. You know, we need our suppliers, we need our customers, we need venues we need, everyone needs to be in a good place. It's not just about getting your own business into good places. And so I think nowadays, I just think the whole kind of business attitude of supporting each other has massively grown out of this. And for us, it's it's been a real pleasure to work with lots of companies who have been doing really great things in their community, when they haven't been able to do their own work, they've actually been able to help other people perhaps or use their skills, and particularly digital skills. So it's great and as I said, hats off to you guys for sharing that knowledge and giving people a place to go to be able to soak up that knowledge and learn and benefit their own business and grow because that that's the kind of spirit we need to bring everyone together.

Pauline Saunders :

Yeah, absolutely.

Donna O'Toole :

So we've got the next Learning Awards coming up. And for us, I think one of our key messages this year has been, you know, for businesses to use this opportunity to actually strengthen their brands with recognition and actually see the positives of what they've achieved before. So for you Pauline, what would you say to businesses who are thinking about entering awards this year, but they're not maybe they're not quite sure they don't have the timings right. How do you feel ? What can they take from this?

Unknown Speaker :

Well, I completely would understand sort of having that mentality of, Oh, I'm not really sure you know, right now with everything going on, is it the right time, but I think what we have to remember is when you're entering an award, you are judged on something that you've achieved in the past, so while this year could have been a tough year for you, you really need to take advantage of what your organisation has previously achieved, and to raise your profile and strengthen your business going forward into the new year. I also think it's a really good time maybe this year more than ever to sort of reward teams and recognise those individuals who have made a difference and shown great leadership through an uncertain time. So I encourage people just to go for it. And and yeah, not be not be afraid that maybe now isn't the right time. So I think this is, this is exactly the right time to strengthen your brand and profile going forward.

Donna O'Toole :

Yeah, I completely agree with you. And I should say, actually, here that for anyone who doesn't know the Learning Awards are actually free to enter, as well. And you're one of the few awards that actually are free to enter. And so, literally, there is nothing to lose, you know, spend some time looking at your business go through impact, think about what you've achieved, as you said in the last in the year before, you know, the pandemic started, or perhaps you've made some differences this year, and actually that's changed and you've got a story to talk about or you've maybe even for like training providers have supported their clients in some way. I think this is the year to think well you know, let's go for it. Let's recognise everyone, let's get the motivation, the morale high again, ready to hit 2021 and really hit the ground running. So that's, you know, completely agree with you on that message Pauline. So thank you very much for joining me today and sharing your insights for anyone who's interested in the Learning Awards and looking at the recognition they could get for their teams, their leader, their projects, their clients, please do go and have a look at the learning awards website. Very, very straightforward to enter and a really, really genuinely positive experience. And hopefully, if you're entering then I may see you there at the judging and if not, then you know, you need to be thinking about what you'd be doing next year. But the main point is think about the recognition for strengthening your brand, think about how learning and development has supported your business this year and, and let's let's make 2021 a really positive one,

Pauline Saunders :

Thank you so much. Thank you,

Donna O'Toole :

Nice to talk to you. Bye bye. Thank you for listening to this episode of my winning awards podcast. If you enjoyed it and found it helpful, please share it on Twitter and LinkedIn. And if you have any questions please head over to crafted by Auguste com, where you can find out more about winning awards and contact me. On the website. You can also take our free awards test, which will identify your award strength and tell you how likely you are to win. I really hope you've been able to take away some ideas today so that you can go ahead and win awards have an even bigger impact on the world and achieve your dreams. Transcribed by https://otter.ai