The comping advice on this page will show you how to win competitions.

Be A Winner
Winning advice leads to this - an LWE

One of my car prizes

Learn the Jargon:
 OOM

A contest in which you place the features of a product or prize in Order Of Merit, the ‘correct’ order being decided by a panel of judges who turn out to have wildly eccentric tastes.

LEARN THE JARGON: LWE

A Long White Envelope 

This is what all compers dream of - the Long White Envelope that brings news of a big prize win.

How To Win Prizes Galore

by Michael Shenton

My introduction to the exotic world of UK competitions came in the early 80s when I tripped over a man in a Bournemouth car park.  He was crawling around a bottle bank at the time, and I naturally assumed him to be a victim of the local strong ale. But I was wrong.  He was, he explained, a comper looking for P.O.P.s to use in an OOM.  This threw about as much light on the subject as a spent match, so I questioned him further and found that he was a competitions enthusiast trying to win a Jaguar XJ6 in a contest on whisky.  He was currently searching for some of the special bottle tops needed as ‘proofs of purchase’.

   The man went on to describe all the fabulous prizes on offer in competitions - cars, electrical items, cash - and he made it sound as if these things were a doddle to win. Some people, he declared, won enough to fill a warehouse.  He began telling me about a woman in Yorkshire who’d won a dozen holidays but his words were drowned out by the sonic boom of my departure in search of entry forms.

   It took me many months to scoop my first prize, an electronic calculator, but that win had a huge effect on me.  Never mind that I’d spent more than its value on postage - for the first time in my life I was a winner!  Nothing could stop me now.

   From then on I didn’t just do competitions, I lived competitions, travelling hundreds of miles in search of entry forms and spending every remaining moment of the day filling them in.  There were no lengths to which I wouldn’t go to win a prize.  If you had to estimate how many tins of peas would fit into a certain car, I’d find a way of testing it out, borrowing or hiring the right sort of vehicle, then buying, borrowing or improvising the required number of tins.

   ‘You must be crazy!’ everyone said.  Then when the prizes began to arrive, they said, ‘Aren’t you lucky!’  After I’d won seven cars, they said, ‘Got any spare entry forms?’  And now, of course, they mob me in the street and beg me to sign copies of my comping novel, Stiff Competition.*   How times change.

 (*All right, I haven’t been mobbed yet, but I live in hope.)

Learn the Jargon:
 Comper

Someone who can spot the word ‘Win’ on a tin of beans at 300 yards in a crowded supermarket. 

LEARN THE JARGON: CHESTNUT

A  much plagiarised tiebreaker sentence that makes seasoned compers pound the walls with their fists when it wins yet another competition prize.   A classic example is ‘Experts perfect them, connoisseurs select them.’  Why do judges reward plagiarism?  Because many of them are amateurs who know zip about the competitions game.

Top

 Slogan: The generally accepted term for a tiebreaker sentence

Measuring choc bars for an estimate competition

Here I am using my ‘True Comper’s Precision Caliper’ to measure a few choc bars prior to working out how many will fit into the boot of a car (one more than I thought, as it turned out!).  Note the True Comper’s Slightly Deranged Expression.

Slogan Tip

If you can’t be brilliant when writing  competition slogans, be brief.  Shorter is more memorable for judges who are going through tons of entries.  Most of the chestnuts that have won prizes repeatedly are concise: ‘It makes life richer for the pourer,’ etc.

Prizewinning comping novel Stiff Competition

Tiebreaker Tip

Tiebreaker judges like puns.  Look for a well known phrase that can be turned into an apt play on words, and you could be on your way to a prize.

Cartoon: Ad in petshop for competition.
Me with car surrounded by Fairy Liquid bottles for an estimate comp.

Let me see ... a few up this way, a few like that ...   But the judges worked out the ‘correct’ solution on paper for this estimate competition and my entry was miles out.  Ah well, the prize was only a Seat Ibiza, and I wasn’t thrilled with the one I hired for the tests.  (This was in 1990 - I’ve just used the last bottle of Fairy liquid!).

Three car prizes and a lot of champagne!

Two car wins in the same week!  I already had the Astra GTE, this being the first car I ever won, so now I was a 3-car family.  Alas, I had to sell the two new ones due to lack of storage space (storage space for the bubbly wasn’t a problem: I poured it down my throat via a funnel and put the empties, after several unsuccessful attempts, in the bin).

Winning Advice - Tiebreakers

Unless you come up with a truly great idea that’s sure to wow any judge, make your slogan rhyme.  Make sure it has rhythm too.  Read verse to get your mind in the correct groove.  See my Verse page, and take particular note of Halloween Dream which makes use of alliteration (sound repetition in strings of words) - another useful ingredient for slogans.

Fascinating Fact

There are 30,943 feathers in a feather pillow. Or is it 30,942?  I sneezed and created a blizzard while counting, but I think I got it right ... unlike the competition judges.

Tiebreaker Advice

Try to make your tiebreaker slogans appropriate to the competition theme or the prize - as well as to the product.  This will help to give them the extra spark that ignites a judge’s interest.

Top

Tiebreaker Advice

Add a dash of humour when humour is not asked for.  It could lift your entry above the rest or make you look a nana.  If the latter, no one’s going to come round to your place to jeer at you, so why worry?  Who dares wins!

                                                     Prize Size Doesn’t Always Count

One of my most satisfying wins was something considerably smaller than a car.  It came from a competition that was thrust upon me while I was being interviewed on BBC Radio Shropshire recently. The presenter, Chris Ashley, after questioning me about my comping prowess, revealed that he was running a phone-in contest called Take the Biscuit.  Would I like to take part?   ‘All you have to do to win the biscuits is answer two simple questions,’ he said, with what might have been a mischievous twinkle in his voice.

Panic!  I just knew that even if he didn’t intend it, Chris would come up with the one question I couldn’t answer to save my life.  What a great opportunity to look stupid and trash my reputation!  And not just in Shropshire: Susan Sandall, editor of Competitors World, was on the show.  What if she wrote about this in the mag?  I’d just been telling everyone how to be a winner.  If I blew this, the whole country could be scoffing at me.

‘What sort of biscuits are they?’ I asked, cool as you please.

‘Hobnobs.’

Strewth, not even chocolate-coated.  My reputation on the line for a packet of plain biscuits!  This was crazy.  But how would it look if I refused?  I’d just spent the last ten minutes extolling the virtues of skill competitions, so I could hardly claim this wasn’t my sort of thing.  I was trapped. ‘Okay,’ I croaked.

The first question (In music, what does ‘presto’ mean?) was no problem.  Then came the second: In which country is Gdansk?

Gdansk?  Gdeavens - I didn’t know!  My mind had gone numb.  ‘It sounds as if it might be Russian,’ I murmured, playing for time.  This provoked cries of dismay from Chris - and at that point something stirred in the dusty recesses of my memory.  ‘But it’s probably more Poland,’ I added hastily.

And it was!  I’d not only won a packet of Hobnobs, I’d salvaged my pride and preserved my reputation.  Phew!

In the right circumstances, small prizes can be every bit as satisfying as big ones.  I’ll cherish that Hobnob win for a long time, and no doubt it’ll one day find a place in my memoirs in the ‘By God I Needed That!’ section.

WARNING

If you get a letter saying you’ve won a prize but you must ring a premium rate line to claim it, introduce the letter to the nearest bin. Your prize (for being a Grade A chump) will be worth less than the call charge. Any request for a ‘claim fee’ is another con.

 

       Another of my Cherished Wins!

 

Stiff Competition - the novel
‘Compellingly funny’ - Competitors World

Stiff Competition by Michael Shenton, winner of the Peter Pook Humorous Novel Contest, takes a walk on the wilder side of consumer competitions. It will tell you all you need to know about what it takes to become a persistent winner - and a lot you might wish you hadn’t known.
     Published by Emissary Publishing. 
Availability

For Competitions Links and some of my prize-presentation photos, click HERE

For comping magic,
 click on the
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Witch on Broomstick

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