“The Surest Way To Lose Is To Play Loose With The Truth”: Top Tips From B&T Awards Live Judge Jeff Estok

“The Surest Way To Lose Is To Play Loose With The Truth”: Top Tips From B&T Awards Live Judge Jeff Estok

The judging process for this year’s B&T Awards (presented by YouTube) isn’t quite over yet, with the first lot of shortlisted entrants getting ready to prove their worth once again.

Yes, that’s right – all the finalists who were named in part one of the B&T Awards 2021 shortlist (not part two) will participate in a (virtual) live judging day, sponsored by Twitch, on Monday 11 October, which is now less than a week away.

To help all the companies with their preso, B&T has been catching up with some of the judges to get their hot tips on how to impress and what not to do.

If you haven’t already, it’d be well worth checking out our interviews with The Leach Partnership’s William Leach and Twitch’s Ricky Chanana.

Here, we chat to Jeff Estok, managing partner at Navigare…

Why did you decide to come on board as a judge again for the B&T Awards?

It’s great to see who the real thought leaders are, year on year, and how entrants have adapted to the challenges presented over the previous year’s judging period.

What should the winners of this year’s B&T Awards represent?

That category’s ‘best’ performers over the judging period. For agencies, it is how they have applied innovation and creativity to deliver results for their clients; and for their own organisations. For marketers, it is much the same – it’s how they have turned insights into actions that have driven results for their organisation, and created a growth platform for continued success.

Is there some sort of formula or strategy you’ll be implementing during the live round of judging to uncover the cream of the crop?

It will largely be a focus on hard, rather than soft, metrics that support the results claims. There is a huge difference between claiming ‘we have had our best financial results ever’ and ‘revenues were up 34 per cent YOY, and we grew margins from 20 per cent to 23 per cent during this judging period’.

What’s going to really grab your attention and keep it? Are you a fan of theatrics when it comes to live pitches?

Theatrics are much harder, and much riskier, in a virtual environment. So, what will grab my attention is a well-constructed story that convinces me that they deserve to win. The best pitches (and yes, this is a pitch at this stage) are those that demonstrate why they are the best of their category, as opposed to merely convincing us that they’ve had their best year ever. The great presenters recognise the difference between a ‘pitch’ strategy and a ‘win’ strategy.

With this year’s live judging day being held virtually, does that make your job any harder?

Marginally harder for the judges, maybe, but it definitely makes the presenters’ jobs harder. Presenting virtually makes it more difficult for the teams to create room energy without the judges present, which puts more onus on the story itself to be persuasive.

What are some absolute no-nos when it comes to live pitching, particularly in a virtual setting?

The no-nos are the same, whether pitching in-person or in a virtual setting:

  • The surest way to lose is to play loose with the truth. When you get caught out, and you will, it makes the judges question the credibility of every claim made in your presentation. And surprisingly, this happens at least once just about every year (including this year, by the way!).
  • Send the B team. Nothing screams you don’t think you are going to win like not having your senior leadership present.
  • Don’t leave time for questions. We’ve read the documents, and we want time to interrogate your claims further.
  • Over-answer a judge’s question. Decide who the most qualified person is to answer the question, then let them. It’s not important for all team members to add their two cents worth on top, as that reduces the other judges’ chances of getting their questions in.

Will you show sympathy for any tech glitches that finalists might suffer during their live pitch?

Yes and no. If it is a failure of the virtual meeting technology being used by the organisers, then obviously the answer is yes. If it is a technical glitch by the presenters that could have been avoided, then no. Everyone knows this is a virtual event and should be crafting their presentations around that limitation.

Is there a preparation checklist finalists should be following prior to live judging day?


  • Is your story compelling? Remember that every opportunity to tell is an opportunity to sell.
  • Is it supported by hard metrics?
  • Does it overly rely on technology that might fail, virtually, and what is your plan B if it does fail?
  • Do your rehearsals run to, or ideally just under, the time allowed?
  • Have you anticipated the questions you are likely to receive and decided who will respond, and what that response will be?
  • Ask yourself one simple question, knowing who you are competing against: ‘After viewing our presentation, if I was a judge, would I think our story is convincing enough to win?’ If you don’t, it’s unlikely we will either.

This year’s B&T Awards will take place on Friday 12 November at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney. You can secure your spot now HERE and then get your glad rags ready to celebrate what has been another year of brilliant work by adland!

B&T can’t wait to welcome guests to the Hordern Pavilion for a COVID-safe event! Adhering to the current NSW Public Health Order, all guests are to provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or NSW Health-approved vaccination exemption upon entry to the venue.

Kudos to all of our sponsors for this year’s B&T Awards. We wouldn’t be able to put on the industry’s favourite event without your support!

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