Neil Skehel is the CEO of Awards International, an international awards organiser with 12 programmes around the world including in Europe, the Middle East and the UK.
I’ve asked Neil to join me on the podcast today to talk about the launch of a brilliant new award - the European Customer Experience Awards (European CXAs).
In this episode, you’ll discover how these awards will work, along with a preview of the inaugural UK Business & Innovation Awards - also operated by Awards International - which close in early December 2021.
Donna O'Toole is the Founder of August, and she has had the pleasure of supporting entrepreneurs, business leaders and teams to win the most prestigious awards in the world. She has seen, 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.
Hi, I'm Donna Rachel, 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, solve problems, supercharge brands and raise 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, and welcome to another episode of the winning awards podcast today. I have with me the lovely Neil Scahill. He is the CEO of awards International. I'm sure if you've listened to the podcast for you would have heard his lovely dulcet tones, talking to you about his brilliant awards coming up. So Neil is an international awards organiser, as many of you will know. And I happen to know that Neil has been busy working on lots of new awards programmes, and it's got lots of exciting things to talk about. So I thought I'd invite him here today to have a chat with me and share some secrets and insights so that you can all benefit from them, too. So hi, Neil. Welcome. Hello, Donna. Thank you for that lovely introduction. lovely to see you again. with you. And thanks for inviting me to do your podcast with you today. And really looking forward to it. always welcome, Neil. So tell us we've got we've got the UK customer experience with coming up next week. So first of all, why don't we start with that what we can look forward to the world the presentation sexy, and and then y'all let you take the lead? Yeah. So seventh of October, all day. 245 live presentations live online, in zoom with in live in front of the panels of judges, at least 70% of those presentations will be open for the finalists to go and watch each other, which I think is a lovely feature feature of the awards. That means that people are not just getting recognition, but they're also sharing and learning and growing. We have a new networking application so that people can match their profile and meet people who want similar things to them or that they can provide fulfil people's requirements. So we're going to have that we're also having what we're calling cx TV, we're developing the idea of sort of programme throughout the day, operating in parallel with the awards, and we'll be having a host in the US zoom on on on the seventh of October. We're actually live in a studio on cstd for the awards ceremony on the 14th of October. But the idea of 60 days, we have a host, it's not a present people doing presentations out. It's more like a television field. There'll be guests coming in chatting about how they've done when they're just presented. Throughout the day, we'll have Gavin Scott will be the host, very well known cx professional. And we'll have many other hosts. We'll have Maxie Schmidt from Forrester, we'll have lots of our Joe Boswell. We'll have lots of our regular customers who are cx experts, where are people from Ipsos Where are people from cantar, talking in a kind of relaxed, talkative kind of way, throughout the day. And we'll also have another thing called awards world which will be hosted by yours truly. And it was well they'll get to meet a couple of people who specialise in awards, whether it's listings or honours, and they'll be talking to me about the awards world for a little while, during the day. So I could go on, it's just going to be an absolute festival of cx and unbelievable quality of content and knowledge to be sucked up and, you know, drink like drinking from a fire hydrant. And then on the 14th of October is the finals cx TV. Our host is going to be Ian Golding, who votes got COVID but he'll be okay by then. Yeah, I know. He's just recovering. And he'll be our host to be live from a studio in London TV studio in London. And we'll have guests we'll have a build up to the awards we're doing the afternoon we started the build up to the awards. We'll have guests in the studio coming to the studio to meet him to talk about different things. We'll have extended the chogha from HSBC, Amanda riches from the Dahlia. And then we'll have a panel discussion about six trend talks like last year, which is just getting increasingly popular on the day. We won't stop from 130 in the afternoon till 11 o'clock at night. We'll have TV on our whole time. When we have the award ceremony. We'll have a keynote speaker we've got Oh, I can't tell you what the moment. I'm supposed to be a surprise. We've got we have an after party. There was about 7580 people joined us at the Art party last year, we've got a DJ, I think it's called Ella. So nice to have that afterwards. I mean, it's just going to be awesome. It's just gonna be awesome. And then we're going to do it all again, in November, we've got the international customer experience awards, the finals will be over two days with 380 presentations from finalists in front of panels of judges. Now the good thing about that is judges are going to judge on the first day or the second day, so they can go spend the whole day, the next day going and watching the open sessions, the live presentations, again, more of the international customers, when sessions are open to presentations than any of our other awards. So you'll be able to learn about initiatives from Russia, we have record numbers of entries from America, in the international customer experience awards, from Southeast Asia, from India, from Serbia, or, you know, from Greece, from Spain, from Africa, Uganda, we've got people coming, you know, from all over the world. So that's on the seventh and eighth of November. And then the following week, on the Thursday, we have got a five hour programme of sex trade talks, again, live from the studio in London, followed by a massive award ceremony and the award ceremony is in fact going to be so long that we're going to encourage people to come in for short periods of time or for periods of time when they when they can see a keynote speech, a few categories and then their category because it's just so long. Epic got it is good to be monstrous. 370 finalists 370 finalists motivation, isn't it? It's I tell you, it's a world record, I'm going to write to the Guinness Book of Records. And I have never heard anything like it. Have you ever been to a conference or an event where they have 370 quality presentations? A lot, you know, and it's just going to be amazing. So yeah, God, I couldn't be more excited. Oh, brilliant. So that in that life studio format, something that we're really excited about developing for all our international awards, UK cx award to be back in Wembley, next October, please God, and but for our international events, we're always we're going to be planning on having a live format. So you can go to Amsterdam, or you can go to New York, or you can go to Dubai, but you can also join if you're not from the region, if you're not from the locale you can join from around the world. So we're working on a format that works like that. And yes, you mentioned we just launched the UK DNI, a translate that common UK DNI. Well, the UK business and Innovation Awards, isn't it? Yes. So we had to go we had a session me and Natalia is the award. We have a session where we will go UK business and innovation is too long. So we train people to say UK DNI. So I think it's a tongue twister, it's good idea. So we thought that and of course, these are serious times, you know, we do face economic challenges. Anybody trying to get to a petrol pump will know that right now, you know, we're facing a lot of change. And for me, the first half of the year, we have the UK Business Awards. And it was a real revelation to do free entries for micro business and startups. We got a huge amount of interest, we still got a lot of the regulars coming in for the UK Business Awards. But I really wanted to emphasise innovation. So we launched the UK be an ita and innovation and enterprise are the foundation of any economy and the future of the economy. And I think it's a topic that is actually dear to my heart. Some people think I'm a bit of an innovator you are I do have the odd creative idea. And is to work in product development, actually. So you have to be creative to do that, then. So yeah, so anyway, we've launched the UK Business Innovation Awards with our partners, a few shapers media company as well. So really, I think the innovation space is so sexy as well, you know, you get so you can do so much chess, and it's really good content, you know, everybody loves to see, to hear about people talking about the loop, you know, that the building between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, you know, this virgin loop thing would be the future of travel, you know, high speed, you know, 1000s of miles an hour or something in a vacuum. You know, those are the sorts of things you can talk about as well, which are really exciting, too. I think the thing with innovation now, and particularly with awards, I think there's been a slight shift in attitudes to actually sharing that knowledge and like with your awards with the presentation, so open, people are sharing what they're doing. And there's so much learning that's going across sectors now. And that innovation being taken from one sector to another sector, yes, different ways and it's just a massive benefit to everybody. Yeah, the the idea that, you know, technology is developed for a specific industry, and only applicable in that context is being is being debunked. The same technologies are being used in clinical healthcare, you know, as in sales, b2c sales, you know, same same processes, some similar processes. And it's better for, you know, I mean, the NHS app, the COVID app, you know, all these things which have kind of been forced upon us by circumstance, just make the whole hospital experience just make the whole doctor's experience so much better. Even online appointments, even online appointments, you know, for trivial for smite minor things. Yeah, it's definitely changed. And it's nice to see the awards, evolving with the changes that we're all going through as well. Well, yeah, I mean, innovation is just so important to the economy. And we, I mean, we're not hearing much about growth, we're not hearing about the increase or decrease in the in the economy, those figures are not being bandied about because Boris has put his mate in charge the BBC, and so he's told him not to tell everybody, but they're not being bandied about. But the economy is, it cannot be as big as it was pre COVID. It can't be. there's not as much inbound industry, there's not as much outbound industry, you know, the cheese industry, the fish industry, or that are small industries, they've been, you know, really set back by, you know, COVID or Brexit, you know, you know, waitress aren't doing any business in either john lewis is aren't aren't doing any business, or they're not exporting any customers to Ireland. So we need innovation, to get our economy pumped up and working again, and people will solve the problems and we want to shine a light on those businesses who are, you know, solving problems, but also big businesses interested in innovation, big business finds it difficult to innovate. So when they look, when they come to the awards, they'll also be able to see what the small people and small businesses are doing? Yeah. And they'll be able to share ideas or, you know, buy them, you know, that's what some some people do. And that's what happened to you. The networking that goes on itself is so valuable, isn't it even like you say, with the even with the online, because to be able to see someone's idea, and then go and have a chat with them about it? In that way, it's just fantastic. Well, you can rely on me to be diplomatic. So we've got the UK customers, what's coming up, then you've got the international customers for exports. So what can we expect? What awards have we got that you're launching for the new year to look forward to because I know a lot of companies that are planning, we just launched the European customer experience awards. And that's going to be in June, with the entry deadline, March the fourth, that's going to be live online using the studio format. And then we are going to, we've got our turkey customer experience awards. Anyway, that's coming back again. For that will be in June as well. 2022. But we've also got the Asia customers men's awards, which is being launched in January. And the finals of that will be in September 2022. And then we're also launching the US customer experience awards, which will be live online in June 23. And 20 and 30th, two separate days one finals, one award ceremony. And we should be doing that in a Stevie studio in New York. And we'll be holding the live event in New York in 2023. Is that enough? Wow. Fantastic. I mean, that's, it's interesting that you've got so much growth in the customer experience awards. So obviously, what that's telling us is that people want to be recognised for the customer experience that they're giving and perhaps is a big shift in the focus of businesses being on that customer experience. Absolutely. I mean, I keep saying to everyone, you know, customer experience is just such a amazing way to explain how we want to relate to our customers. I mean, historically, the way businesses have organised themselves has been very much in a silo. But businesses are realising that they that they don't have to be customer LED, you can't be siloed, because what that does is it pulls the customer in different directions. Whereas if you are customer LED, you know, you need to operate as a team. And customer experience is about being customer LED. It's not a departments not a function. And so organisations are seeing that is a much better way to run the business, so that they're joining up their experience. So the experience is what you think about before you start the purchasing, and the journey right through until after you've made the purchase and the lifetime, your lifetime value with a company. So people are really tuning into that. And that customer experience is actually getting better and better and better. I mean, you know, there's some blips around because of COVID. But, you know, these other things, but actually, that and the whole market change, the speed of change is phenomenal. But what's happening is you get more new businesses coming in. They're the ones that are improving the customer experience. It's not the tech is it's not the taxi industry that improve the customer experience. It's an invader. It's a disrupter. It was Uber, that transformed the customer segments. Now taxis are going to be expensive again because Ubers got to, you know, pay people properly and so But, you know, they've disrupted it's disruptors, it's new entrants that are improving the customer experience. So that completely changes the business landscape as well. So we're excited, so excited to be part of this movement, this global movement. For the last 10 years, when we will launch the customer, the first customer has been towards was in 2010. But so many people keep saying to me, you know, when are you going to come to here, when you're going to come there, when you come Come here, you can see, yeah, the growth of that competition. But not only that, now, the growth of the for each region is growing so much that it's become a hugely competitive event. Yes. And actually, something I was talking to someone about the other day, was the quality of the entries now and the quality and the standards of the projects that are coming in phenomenal. I think there's a misconception that when you enter an awards programme, and you get to the final that some projects are amazing, and some projects have not great, but actually, what we find is judges is they're all really good. And so you've got like 80% of really good entries, 10% of excellent entries. And then to get to the top, you've got to be at the top of the next 10% of really outstanding entries. And actually, the the difference in the scoring between winning an award and not winning an award could be as little as less than a point it can be yes, it can be and I have seen examples of where it is. Yeah, me, me, it's interesting what you said about the quality. That's nice to hear. That's nice to hear. I share that point of view, I share that point of view. But I think one of the important things, though, is to make the is to ensure the awards are inclusive. And I remember once someone turned around to me and said, Oh, have you seen the something journal awards? They've got 3000 entries? And I'm like, Yeah, really? Okay, they got 3000 entries? And how many of those people get through to the finals? They're like, Oh, you know, 70 80,000? Well, what a waste of learning opportunity for 2003 33 700 people, you know, I think that, you know, it's a journey, you know, people need to participate, and we need to encourage people to participate. So I'm proud, I'm so proud that we've got 370 finalists, presenting, learning, learning, you know, from each other. You know, and learning learning so much about, for me, I learned so much. When I come out of the awards judging, I'm like, wow, I know about things I never knew about it. I think everyone believes that people win awards only for marketing, when people enter awards only for marketing. And I completely disagree with that. I think that is a small part of it. Can you can you use an award to get a lot of PR and marketing for yourself? Yes, you definitely. And you should definitely do that you should definitely try it. But there's so much more to it. The personal development of the team participates presenting in front of a panel of judges, you know, the networking opportunity, the learning than the belonging to a community, which involves, you know, year long engagement and networking meetings or being a member of the judge Club, which does special interest groups, which developing your personal, professional, you know, growth, it means there's just so it's just, it's not just an award. And actually, when we did research for our customers in the past, one of the things that they found most valuable about entering awards was the reassurance that it gave them that they were on the right track. You know, which I thought was a really nice way of thinking about it. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And we were doing some research recently, actually, around the impact of awards on on individuals and on business. I've got a book coming out racing, so you might be in it No way. I suspect I suspect I should be. And that was a great stat actually about in our research about how nowadays individuals are more motivated by external regulation than they are by a payroll. Yeah. because money is easy to give. And yes, we, you know, everyone loves a pay rise. I'm not saying they don't. But the actual motivation that it gives them to drive them forward and to feel recognised for what they've been doing is actually a hire has more motivational factors to it than amazing fact, because I've always felt that if you don't feel you're being appreciated enough at work, and you've got Look, you've got the discretionary power, enter a Business Award. And when you win it, you take it back to the office. Yeah, people take you more seriously. They go, Oh, yes, he got. Oh, that's interesting. Why did I do that then? Maybe I've missed something there. You know, and I've seen it in practice. I've seen it in practice. So I mean, there's so many positive things about Yeah, I remember once I read a thing from a guy federation of small businesses 57 reasons to enter business support. Fantastic. And now, between the three could think of Oh, but it's really nice to hear that there's so much positive news and excitement coming up and, and opportunities for businesses to work together as a team and to get that kind of recognition. Because at the end of the day, we all know, in a tough journey, it's been a tough couple of years. And I think a few years ago won't even even probably at the beginning of this year, people were sort of saying to me, or Do people really want awards right now then I say you've been busier than we've ever been in the last two years, because now more than ever, people need to be recognised. Yes. Now more than ever, I agree. And I'm astonished at the way people are being so resilient in the face of adversity businesses, and it's been tough. I walked down great Portland Street, I think my day yesterday, and I swear, half of the shops, half the businesses are closed, I was thinking, Oh, my goodness, what's happened here, but that, you know, of course, they've got online businesses now. They've got, you know, certainly a web developer this morning. He runs business near me. And he was just telling me, he's got a fantastic business model trilled up to marketing. co. uk, he makes websites for 129 pound a month to do your whole website. But anyway, is he has been absolutely inundated his growth, these businesses that businesses that either have moved, you know, to online only, or you know, can't expect footfall just from the street. They're located in shops in high streets, but they're now posting all over the country, you know, they just the growth in that has been phenomenal. And again, you know, perfect opportunities for the UK business and Innovation Awards, or the UK BMI. thing I've noticed as well now is the change in tone, and the additions of different new categories in your awards and in lots of different awards that recognise now healthcare industries, and all those great things coming out where I'd say a couple of years ago, or a few years ago, you didn't really see them coming into the awards. much did you? Well, health care, yes. customer experience in health. I mean, you know, we did we did the post experience network awards in 13 1420 1314. It was a great event. However, you know, how, if you if you mean health and well being concern for employees and for customers, if you mean, vulnerability and diversity, both in customers and employee markets, then I know exactly what you mean. You know, it's been tough on me mentally. COVID been tough. I've seen grown men crying, I've seen, you know, people being very surprised at their own, you know, that, how much just sitting at home all day, every day, has worn them down. So, and companies have done amazing things, companies, some companies have done some amazing things. You know, we've seen that the the awards, if that's what you're referring to Donna? Well, I've noticed some in some new categories in the European customer experience awards, you've even got some some maternity planning for telehealth, for industries around the kind of health sector, which I thought was quite interesting. I mean, that's thanks to binker we got a market researcher who specialised who does research for putting processes in place for every single time we relaunch an awards, updating it? And also, should we spend a few weeks doing research into into the categories and into competitive analysis and into customer research. So that's something that's, you know, really changing our business. And in fact, our business is changing quite quickly. I mean, we've been we're still hiring. We've hired a lot of new people this year. I think we've got 50 employees now. We have less before COVID, but they'll fit we're preparing up for for growth, we're going to be increasing scale. And if you got it, you got to have the resources and you got to have the processes. It's really exciting. I was setting pointed a clo, even a Kaczynski less than a month ago, I think, and she's already made a fantastic start. Some people know I'm a bit sort of all over the show, changed my mind on things from one day to the next. But even though or can't remember what I said, that's the age, even though is going to bring focus and to our business. And we've got an exciting management team. So we've got great plans through the end of 2022. But we're going to we're going to be setting up for rapid growth very shortly in a completely different Yeah, yeah. And we've got some exciting, we've got some exciting new products. I'm desperate to hear about how your business is going though, Donna, I mean if you're allowed to consume any part of this with me On your business. Now, try now. Okay. Well, we've know we've been making some developments as well. So we've just released a new tool called there will generate. So that's actually really took us quite a lot of time from an insights perspective, because we've built into that. So essentially, you can imagine, one of the, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is, if you've got an awards list now, what we do is we specialise in strategizing for our clients on which awards, they're going to be the best place to win or are going to help them achieve their business goals. There's no point entering, not really knowing why you're doing it, you need to have an aim in mind. So we we strategize in that way. But for those who are just starting out on their journey, and exploring the awards horizon, and wanting to know what's out there that they could genuinely match and not be overwhelmed with tranches of awards that they actually don't know which to pick from. And it's just far too overwhelming. For me. I think it's a great idea as long as my income top every time they did the first time I did a search, the way that it works is that there's been divided up by characteristics. And so it depends on what you put in essentially, what you put in will determine what you get out. So I can't predict to you what you could get out. It would depend what you put in. And actually for companies and individuals using it, particularly for entrepreneurs who are running their own businesses, if they go in and use it, then actually, as they grow the the awards list that they are generating will change because they'll adapt to the input that's going in. So yeah, so that's what we've been doing busy doing that group. But what about I mean, the broader business, I'm interested in the broader business as well how that was going, because you were? I mean, is it public knowledge that we joined the dent global group, which I mean, it's just a fantastic achievement on your part, by the way, in such a short time. I mean, I remember when you were setting up, so I know so we joined the Gen. dent, global group in Oh gosh, sometime earlier this year. So what that means now is that we're part of a bigger organisation and as well as our corporate organisations that we work with to support them to recognise their teams and win awards, we now have a direct route to supporting entrepreneurs as well, very fast growth scale ups and disruptors, who are coming in and changing the world and will love the bigger group. And as part of that, we have a business accelerator programme entrepreneur accelerator programme called the key person of influence programme, which is headed up by Daniel Priestley, who some people may know he's, he's incredible. And we have offices over in Canada and in Australia. So we have, we're able to serve the markets across the world, essentially now. No timezone is out of touch for us. So um, yeah, so we support businesses great. And and it's a global world now, isn't it? I mean, you know, you don't need to be, it doesn't matter where you are. To service anyone now? Yes. So yeah, so we're very much No, that's exactly the journey. So it's so it's phenomenal. It's phenomenal, isn't it? Think about it, you just timezone time? Yeah, that's the thing. That's the key thing. So. But geography? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So we have plans for different time zones, and it just works great. We have some lovely customers in Australia, who frequently join us in the middle of their night for meetings. Which is amazing. Yeah. I mean, yeah, yeah. So exciting times ahead. What you will know, though, is that culturally awards are approached slightly differently in different regions as well. So what you know sometimes works well for one doesn't necessarily work for well for another or different categories will suit and things like that. So it's quite a journey, actually, to understand those cultural differences. And right you tonight? Yeah. And, you know, I mean, I think the there's a danger in, in in, you know, many too many stereotypes that people like to, you know, the Olympics, the Olympics 181 out of the 280 countries in the world participate in the Olympics, I think. And people like to win, they like to show the country up, you know, they shine it up, shine out. Yeah. Yeah. And, yeah, but cultures are different. I mean, I could compare some risk of stereotyping. I mean, that that's the you know, the international customers move towards historic has always been an Amsterdam. They have a they have a much bigger gear company than us in the professional professional services as well. It's quite different. So some of its cold, some of these. Yeah, having judged at both and attended both and had a lovely time so I can't wait for you to get back to some of my will. is actually you see the differences in the ceremony preparations even and things like that because you know, there are different things quotations from international communities in different events. So you know, you've got a great view on on that across your different awards now in all those different regions, haven't you? I think I'm going to make myself a little lump target to, to attend every one of them in every country. I'm not going to though I'm not going to them, I want my dream. I want my dream team to do that. I want that dream Dream Team to that in 2019. I spent probably 40 to 3030 weeks away from home. And I've My wife has vowed that I'm never doing that again. She got off the idea. She said I'm not doing it again. You know, she said, I wanted to stick around. It's funny, isn't it? But no, no, but you're right, because actually now having hybrid events, giving people the option. And actually being able to choose whether you can't, can can't when you might be able to physically or maybe financially afford to attend something live or you know, for whatever your own reasons, I think it's you know, it's moving with the times. Yeah, but also I mean, my motive is that, I want my I want to, I want promote my team, I want my team to take on responsibility. I want them to grow. I want them to, I'm sponsoring someone's going to an NBA next year. I want you know, most of the management team we're doing either so I'm diplomate of the DMA, DMA or something. So I want them to grow. I want them to own the organisation. I don't, I'm 57. Although I behave like a 16 year old, I am 57. And I want my team to be the ones who make awards International, an amazing success story. for that. We love the Dream Team. We love them. Well, thanks. No, it's been really lovely. It's been a long time since we chatted really. And good to hear all the news programmes can't wait to be there and see all the great presentations coming up next week. And we're looking forward to that as well. And having your support and having you with us along the journey and you know, a time someone to talk to at the beginning of COVID last year, you know, oh, it's just so cool. So cool. Well, we're all here together, aren't we? We're all in it together. Nice to see you now we'll take care. Thank you for listening to this episode of my winning awards podcast. If you enjoyed it or 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 strengths 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.