I had a very interesting and encouraging conversation yesterday with Kevin Eyres, the European MD for LinkedIn. Kevin had read my previous post on the subject and wanted to make a few points to put the record straight.
Contrary to what I previously thought the selection process did involve a panel of experts who selected the top ten nominess in each category. This selection was based on a 500 word essay detailing why each nominee felt they were worthy winners - Kevin was very clear that several individuals who had amassed many votes did not qualify for the top ten because they had not submitted a sufficiently compelling entry (despite getting more votes then those selected). This does, to some extent ensure a degree of quality.
I also had some feedback from one of the nominees Steve Smithson (Rising Star category) who wanted to make the point that he had no intention of entering but 'out of the blue' a satisfied customer nominated him. Having been nominated he felt there was nothing wrong with asking his connections to vote for him - this is fair comment.
Despite all this I still think the process could well lead to the wrong people winning because, whilst the panel of judges will make the final decision, they will be mostly influenced by how many votes each nominee has and that means that it is still favouring those who canvass the most votes!
I personally feel it is OK for a nominee to ask their connections to vote for them even though not everyone is connected to people they know and trust but I draw the line at getting their connections to further spread the message via updates and emails etc. I also think it is shameless canvassing to directly post vote begging messages in groups.
Having thought more about this subject it struck me that the really guilty parties here are those who vote for people they don't know or even if they do know them they would need to be in a position to have worked with them to know that they are deserving of an award.
Nominees are guilty of blatant electioneering but I can understand that once one person does it, the rest feel they have to follow - I believe the voting process has still allowed this situation to occur so the organisers are still to balme to an extent but undoubtedly the main culprits here are those who have shown very little respect for the awards by voting for anyone that asks them - whether they know them or not!
There is still more voting to go and my advice is that if someone (who you don't know) asks you to vote you should reply by asking them to send you their 500 word essay - then perhaps you can make some kind of judgment before voting. If everyone did this, the LinkedIn European Awards really would be a prize worth winning.