In the quest for positive media coverage and word-of-mouth buzz, few tactics match the return on investment of design competitions. Every year, remodelers around the country enter dozens of local, regional, and national competitions, including this magazine's own REMODELING Design Awards (RDA).

But it takes more than good work to be “award-winning.” How you present your entry counts as well. Be artful. Many competitions receive hundreds of entries, so judges flip through them quickly and set aside only those that make a strong first impression. Remodelers who have won as well as judged design competitions, including the RDA, share these tips:

Follow the directions. Be sure your project meets the competition's eligibility guidelines and that your entry follows the specified format. “There's a format for a reason,” says Ben White, vice president of Benvenuti and Stein, Chicago. “You might think you're being clever if you vary from the prescription, but it's just one more thing for the judges to have to wade through.”

Keep it simple. “It really boils down to the initial gestalt of opening that first page,” says Jonas Carnemark, president of Carnemark Systems + Design, Bethesda, Md. Submit only “really good” professional photos, present them in a logical sequence, and explain them concisely. “Make it easy to understand,” White adds.

Provide context. Exterior photos should reveal compatibility with surrounding homes. In interior photos, furnishings should be appropriate for the style.

Be honest. Don't fudge project costs to be eligible for potentially less-competitive categories. Entries that claim suspiciously low cost ranges are often disqualified, even if the work is beautiful.

Regardless of whether you win, competitions can be rewarding. “The process of entering requires discipline, and that's usually good for business,” White says. Staffs discuss which projects to enter and why, engendering valuable communication. Plus, those professionally shot photos “have a life after the contest” in your marketing materials.