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10 Steps to organizing a successful contest on PMC!

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avatar DinowCookie
Level 30 : Artisan Pixel Painter
Planet Minecraft is great place for members of the community to host their own Minecraft-related contests and events. Hosting a contest can be great fun! Contests are a way for members of the community to interact, to try their very best and to be inspired to create something new. Some contests are more popular than others, which is mostly due to how well they are organized. In this blog post I will share the steps to hosting a successful contest!

1. Choose your category

Contests can be hosted for any category. Skin and building contests are the most common, as well as writing contests. You could also choose to hold a mod contest, texture contest or drawing contest. As long as it's Minecraft related, it can be done! Pick the thing you are personally most interested in. Just make sure to explain to your participants which category your contest is for. Also keep in mind that one category has more creators and thus potential participants than the other. There are more skin creators than mod creators and more builders than people who write poetry.

2. Give your theme some thought

Picking a theme can be tricky. You have to decide whether you want your participants to have a lot of freedom in what they make, or if you want them to make something very specific. An example of a very broad theme for a skin contest is "Historical figures" while an example of a very specific theme is "Queen Elizabeth I of England".

When people are free to interpret a broad theme, they can put a lot of creativity into their work. This freedom can result in more entries compared to specific themes. Though, beware of themes that are so vague and so broad that people have no clue what is really expected of them to the point where they don't want to take part. Having a broad theme also means that you will get a broad variety of entries to judge, which can be a bit like comparing apples and oranges. Personally I really enjoy seeing a broad variety in entries, I find it great fun to think of a theme and then see people do something completely different with it from what I had expected.

Choosing a very specific theme can also result in a lot of entries. It can attract participants who find it hard to come up with ideas of their own and it can also challenge people who normally do one and the same thing to try something new for a change. For example, by hosting a contest themed "a modern house", you could inspire people who normally only build medieval themed houses to try something different for once. A specific theme can also help if you really want to see more of a certain thing. For example, if you are looking for a cool cyborg skin to use you could host a contest with cyborg skins as a theme. Just like choosing a theme that is too broad, you can also choose a theme that is too specific. Hosting a contest for people to build a house or create a skin from a specific movie that is not too well-known would probably not interest people who haven't seen the movie, which will result in not many participants if any at all. Choosing a specific theme makes judging easier because you're comparing apples to apples.

3. Set boundaries: rules!

A clear set of rules is key to hosting a successful contest. It is important that you don't over-regulate. Too many specific rules might scare people away. But you do need a few rules to avoid confusion. Here are some common questions which you will want to answer with your rules:
  • Can participants submit more than one entry and if so, how many?
  • Can multiple people work on the same entry or must it be made by one person?
  • Can participants submit previously made work, or must each entry be newly made?
  • Where must people upload their submission and where/to who must they submit it?
  • Are participants allowed to update their entry after they submitted it?
  • Can entries be disqualified and if so, when and why?
  • How many winners will there be?
Of course, all the rules of Planet Minecraft also apply to any entries. It is nice to point this out in your contest rules as well, but there is no need to re-write all the rules that PMC already has. Also please keep in mind that you may not require participants to subscribe to you, to follow you on social media or to do any similar action as a rule in your contest.

4. Choose a good deadline

There's more to choosing a deadline than just arbitrarily picking a date. The most important thing to keep in mind, is how much time some people might need to finish their submission. Making a skin may not take as much time as building an entire town or programming a mod. Make sure to give people enough time to finish the thing you ask of them. But also make sure that your contest does not run for too long, because participants are often eager to know if they won soon after they finish their entry, so if the contest runs for too long, people may lose interest in entering. Personally for skin contests I always try to run a contest for at least two and at most four weeks.

Another thing to keep in mind for deadlines is which day the contest ends. During the weekend a lot of people don't work or go to school, so it might be wise to have a deadline on a Sunday so that people can make last-minute entries. Also keep holidays in mind; it's not wise to have a deadline during the middle of Christmas for example, because during those days many people are busy with other things than Minecraft.

Try to be rather strict about your deadline. Once you've set it, don't change it unless you have good reason to. Reasons to extend a deadline might be something that has come up in your personal life, or if you truly do not have enough entries yet. In any other case it is wise to stick to your deadline as much as possible, because current participants are eager to learn the results. This is also why you need to keep in mind the availability of the judges when choosing your deadline. Don't have a deadline the day before one of the judges goes on vacation!

5. Think of some prizes (or not!)

Prizes are not the most important thing in community contests. Of course they can be fun, and it's a nice way to give back to the community. It's better not to ask people to share personal information like addresses, so using physical items as prizes to send to the winners is not a good idea. You could however offer a steam gift card or similar digital prizes for your contest. But there are plenty of free things you can give away as a prize.

You can create a nice participation badges and trophies that your contest participants and winners can feature on their PMC profile. If you're a creator yourself, you can offer one of your custom creations as a prize to winners; this could be a skin, a drawing, a build or anything else you're good at making. You can ask other creators to donate their work as a prize in your contest as well. Another thing you can do as a prize is promise winners to feature their creations someplace, like on a widget on your profile or your personal website. This is a nice prize when you have a lot of followers/subscribers. Keep in mind that you may not offer diamonds, likes, favorites, notification spams and similar actions as prizes in your contest.

In my personal experience, people don't mind taking part just for the fun of it and for the honor and bragging rights of winning. So don't hesitate to organize a contest if you don't have much to offer in terms of prizes. It can still work out just fine! :D
Also keep in mind that a bad prize is worse than no prize at all. Nobody wants a terrible looking trophy or badly made skin as a prize, so if you know your creations aren't so great then you might not want to offer them as a prize. Personally I've sometimes chosen not to enter in a contest because I really did not want to be ungrateful about a prize that I didn't really want to win.

Like I mentioned earlier it is important to make clear how many winners there will be. You can choose to have just one, you can have a top-3 or you can let the amount of winners depend on the amount of entries.

6. Determine your judging method

  Selecting judges
You don't have to host a contest entirely on your own. It's nice to have at least one or two people to help you out with managing and judging. It is nice to decide who the judges of a contest will be in advance, so that participants will know who will be judging them. It can play a part in whether people choose to enter or not. Looking for judges while the contest is already running can come off as messy and incomplete.

Try to invite people as a judge who are great with the category in which the contest is held. Holding a blog contest? Ask a professional writer. Holding a skin contest? Ask a winner from the official contests. Holding a build contest? Ask the leader of a successful build team. It's better to ask someone who knows their trade, than to ask someone because you like them. Having good judges will give participants a feeling that their entries are judged by someone worthy. You can even choose to not be a judge in your own contest and ask other people to judge for it instead.

For fair judgement, it is nice to have at least two judges. Don't have too many judges either though, because this will likely slow down the judging process at the end of the contest. Also make sure you or the judges don't compete in the contest themselves, and don't allow them to give feedback to participants on their entries before the deadline. This would be unfair.

Choosing criteria
It is always good to be open and clear about the judging process. This means it is good to let people know who the judges are, but also to let participants know which points will be taken into account in the judging process. This can have effect on whether people want to enter or not. The four most commonly used points are:
  • Originality: has it been done before?
  • Technique: is the entry well-made?
  • Readability: can you see/understand what it is?
  • Compliance: does the entry follow the theme well?
Of course you are free to choose which of these points you want to take into account. Some examples: With a skin contest, you could choose to only judge based on originality. For a writing contest, you can choose whether spelling errors will count in judging or not. In the end the most important part remains that your participants know which points their entries will be judged by.

7. Post and promote your contest

Contests on PMC should be posted in the events section on the forums. This is where you can create a new thread for your contest. It's also where people look for new contests. Keep the description of your contest brief and to-the point, people don't want to read through a wall of text in order to participate. Use colors to highlight the most important things and use bullet points for your rules. Make sure to clearly describe the theme, the rules, the deadline, the judging process and the prizes to your participants. Format your forum post in a clear, easy to read manner and make good use of paragraphs. Avoid spelling errors as much as you can too, because it can come off as messy. Posting a contest in just a few sentences will come off as effortless so don't make your description too short either.

It is nice to have some visuals with your contest too. Make a banner, logo or any other kind of image to go with your contest. Personally I like to use a website called Textcraft which lets you generate nice looking Minecraft fonts. It's a nice and easy way to create an image but you can do it in whichever way you like, as long as you don't plagiarize images. PMC member Chiaroscuro has a free Feature Image Shop on the forums, and a great tutorial on how to create your own. Nice visuals make a forum post attractive looking and will give potential participants the feeling that a lot of care and effort has been put into the organization of the contest. This can result in more entries.

How to add an image to a forum post
1. Upload your image to a website (image-host) like imgur if it is not on any website yet. You need an image url (link), which you can get for almost any image on websites by right-clicking it and choose "copy image location". Find a more detailed tutorial for getting an image url at this link.

2. Click the "Insert/edit image" button on your forum post editor and paste the url (link) in there in the "Url" field under Insert link.

Done! :D

To promote your contest, you can share your contest as a wall post on your PMC profile. You are also allowed to post an advertisement in the PMC chat every 15 minutes so you can choose to share your contest there as well. Another thing you can do to promote your contest is to create a submission that follows the theme of your contest (not an entry, just a promotional creation). Then you can link to your contest in the description of your creation. You can ask your judges to do the same thing. There is also the Community Event Calendar, which lists all currently ongoing PMC community events. You can leave a comment on that forum topic for your contest to be listed (if it isn't listed already!).

8. Collect the entries

It can be tricky to keep track of entries for your contest, especially if there are a lot of them. The best way to make sure you don't miss a single one, is to appoint one place in your rules where people are allowed to turn in their entry. Personally I always want people to PM me or respond in the comments on my forum thread. You can also ask people to use a specific tag in their submission so that you can easily find them through the PMC search function. Beware that some people might forget to do this, though.

To keep all the entries in one place, you can create a collection on PMC which you can add them to. What I personally like to do is also add all the current entries to my forum post with their image so that future participants can see what others have made. Seeing other entries can also inspire new participants to create an entry, so it's certainly worth your effort. Before you start judging, make sure to check if you didn't miss any entries.

9. Judge the entries

The judging process can be done in whichever way you like, as long as you stay true to the points you promised to judge by. You can choose to have each judge score every entry with points, to have each judge pick their top 3 and compare those, or to pick winners in a discussion with all the judges. Make sure that your choice of winner is not biased in any way by whether you personally like a participant. Judge solely based on the entry they submitted!

Speaking of bias, judging entries is not always easy. Sometimes it's comparing apples to oranges and subjectivity also plays a big role, especially with more artsy and creative themes and categories. When judging, try to remain as objective as possible and don't let your personal tastes influence your judgement too much. Always justify certain choices; "because I like it better" is not a valid reason to prefer one entry over another. (Unless you promised to judge by your personal taste of course.)

The faster the judging process, the better, because participants don't want to wait forever to know if they won. That's also why I mentioned earlier that you need to keep the judges availability in mind when setting a deadline. You could even choose to set a deadline for when the judging process has to be finished so that your participants know what to expect.

10. Announce the winners

You can choose to announce the winners in contest's forum post itself, or to create a dedicated forum post for this. When announcing your winners, it is nice to include some images of their work in your announcement. You can choose to just list the winners but what would be even nicer is if you can say something about why these entries were chosen as the winners in your contest. You can write what you found great about the entries and why (according to your judgement) they were the better ones. This is both nice for the winners to read, as interesting for people who didn't win because they might learn something from it. As soon as the winners are announced, you should make sure that each winner will get their prize(s) as promised.

Additional tips
  • Be polite as a contest host. Thank people for their entries, answer questions in a polite manner and don't be rude about lesser quality entries. Keep in mind that a lot of users on PMC are children, and they may need a bit of extra explanation or help. Be patient and remain calm at all times.
  • Check your contest regularly to see if there are any questions asked, entries finished or other things to be dealt with.
  • If you don't know how to deal with a certain participant, entry or any problem you run into, contact a moderator on PMC or another, more experienced member to ask for advice.
  • Don't organize a contest if you are looking for a certain creation to be made. If you have a request, ask for it in the workshop on the forums instead, or PM a creator who is open for requests.
  • These 10 steps aren't the only way to organize a contest. You can have a different concept for a contest and do things completely differently if you wish. This is just the way I like to organize them, and a way I experienced to work well. Use my tips in any way you find useful, but don't let them limit your choices and ideas.

Thank you everyone who has made it to the end of this rather lengthy tutorial. I hope it will be of use to you, and I hope to see more community contests in the future. Please do feel free to link any contest you organized in the comments below because I would love to have a look at them and maybe even take part!

If you have any questions about this blog post or about organizing contests and events in general, feel free to send me a PM and I will see how I can help you. :)

1 Update Logs

Additional info : 08/12/2018 5:26:03 amAug 12

Added the following:
  • You may not require participants to subscribe to you, to follow you on social media or to do any similar action.
  • You may not offer diamonds, likes, favorites, notification spams and similar actions as prizes in your contest.
  • Chiaroscuro's Feature Image Shop and Tutorial.
  • The Community Event Calendar.

Comments : 34

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  • mouse36
  • Level 14
  • Journeyman Toast
  • July 25, 2018, 8:29 am
You said to use a theme with a lot of people that do it. But I want to try something weird. I'm making a mob contest (with command blocks) and I love creating mobs, but I don't think many will enter. How should I do that?
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 25, 2018, 8:54 am
I think making mobs is not something many people know how to do. Maybe it would be good if you wrote a somewhat thorough tutorial for beginners on how to create a mob using command blocks. I saw earlier that you had a bit of information posted already, maybe it would be good if you made it a bit more detailed and easier to understand for beginners. :)

This way you can appeal to people who haven't made a mob using command blocks before. Also it would be good if you let people know that you can help and answer questions. You could judge based on the originality of their mob idea rather than people's skill in making them, and then it's no problem to help people make their mob, as long as they came up with the idea by themselves. ^_^

And of course all the tips in my blog-post apply. Making your contest easy to read and understand will help to reach more people. :)
  • mouse36
  • Level 14
  • Journeyman Toast
  • July 25, 2018, 9:16 am
Thanks! I'll edit my mob tutorial post. I followed the stuff above to improve the contest. Also, I can't really upload anything from imgur... \_(z)-(z)_/
This REALLY helped!
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 25, 2018, 9:22 am
What do you mean by can't upload anything to imgur? Did you create an account yet? :)

Either way I am glad I was able to help. Good luck hosting your contest :D I hope it'll be a success!
  • mouse36
  • Level 14
  • Journeyman Toast
  • July 25, 2018, 9:26 am
Not really a success yet... zwz

I didn't create an Imgur account. Oops! Well, I can do with what I have now. And, I haven't even started editing the blog yet!
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 25, 2018, 9:42 am
Well, images do really help your contests and tutorials, so it would be nice if you could learn how to use them. :)

You may feel like you don't need them per say, and while in theory that is true, many people will look the other way if there's nothing that catches their eye. Images can do magic for contests. :D
One question, I'm going to make my own contest and i cannot quite find out how you do the + bar that pops open like a spoiller bar. How do you do this?
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 15, 2018, 2:23 pm
I can't insert images in comments but in this image you can see which button adds a spoiler. :D
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 15, 2018, 2:29 pm
No problem! ^_^
  • KawaiiCornz
  • Level 21
  • Expert Unicorn
  • July 8, 2018, 12:45 am
Also, how do you create badges for them to have? I want to know but I don’t know where to get them? Could you try to tell me, or someone else teach me simply?
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 8, 2018, 5:08 am
I use a program named Paint.net and draw them in there. An easy way to make a pixel art is to find a picture of something, make it really small and then make the pixel version of it on another layer. :) You need to know how to use an image editing program to make pixel icons. As far as I know, there aren't any generators.
  • KawaiiCornz
  • Level 21
  • Expert Unicorn
  • July 8, 2018, 12:36 am
Thank you SO MUCH DinowCookie! I will totally use these tips and give credit to you for the help. This must of taken lots of time to write. But, I bet it will help many people. Great job! My first comp was a fail but now with this, I know I won’t :) TYSM :D
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 8, 2018, 5:06 am
Thank you ^_^ I hope your next competition will be very successful and I'll see if I can join in as well :D
  • Cib
  • Forum Moderator
  • Level 28
  • Expert Pixel Painter
  • July 7, 2018, 11:08 pm
Very thoroughly written. I'm sure many will find this helpful. Great blog!
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 8, 2018, 5:05 am
Thankyou ^_^ I tried to include most of the basic important points. Hoping to see some more contests on the forums in the near future.
  • Aspirin60
  • Level 50
  • Grandmaster Demolitionist
  • July 7, 2018, 4:58 am
Good job DinowCookie! This is a real help for many contest organizer!
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 8, 2018, 5:01 am
Thanks ^_^ I surely hope many people will make use of this blog
  • Peri
  • Level 26
  • Expert Princess
  • July 5, 2018, 2:53 pm
Nice tips! I'll be sure to keep them for future reference! :)
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 8, 2018, 5:01 am
Thank you :D
I am going to make a special contest soon... Thansk to you, it might be successful!
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 5, 2018, 9:58 am
I wish you good luck :D let me know when you launch it ^_^ would love to see!
Thank sooo much! Your my mentor...

how do you make pixel art trophies ???
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 5, 2018, 9:57 am
You can make pixel trophies in Paint.net :) it's a free image editing program which is very good for making pixel art. But you don't need to make any, it's optional. If you don't know how to do it, you could also ask someone who does to help you :)
Could you also use GIMP or just paint.net?
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 11, 2018, 8:45 am
Yeah you could also use GIMP, or Photoshop :) they're great for graphics. Though for pixel art I personally prefer Paint.net. Either is fine ^_^
  • Outflow
  • Level 15
  • Journeyman Button Pusher
  • July 5, 2018, 5:52 am
Thanks so much for this!
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 5, 2018, 6:12 am
My pleasure :D I really enjoyed writing this
  • yelloe
  • Level 41
  • Master Grump
  • July 4, 2018, 6:45 pm
This is very useful! Thank you so much for this post!
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 5, 2018, 3:08 am
Glad you found it useful ^_^ thanks!
  • Chiaroscuro
  • Contest Judge
  • Level 46
  • Master Ladybug
  • July 4, 2018, 4:37 pm
Very nice! One thing I might add (if I may) is that you could also put out a recruitment post beforehand to confirm a certain number of participants for your contest. That method tends to work better with low-turnout contests so that you aren't left entry-less by the time the deadline rolls around.
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 4, 2018, 4:50 pm
Right, good addition :) I am not very familiar with low-turnout contests since the ones I've hosted in the past and recently are skin and skin-related contest and that community has always been very lively. I'll ponder it a bit and may add something about this to the post. Thank you for thinking along :D
  • _Phrozenbit_
  • Level 12
  • Journeyman Engineer
  • July 4, 2018, 2:55 pm
Well done ^^ Useful. Didn't read every word since I know how you go about organizing contests but I may refer back to it one day ^^
  • DinowCookie
  • Level 31
  • Artisan Pixel Painter
  • July 5, 2018, 3:09 am
Looking forward to seeing a contest from you sometime :D

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