I’m ready to see the Competition BBQ Judge Sign Up Process go paperless. As in no more paper applications – emailed, posted, or otherwise involved. Call it an urge to save as many trees for “smoking wood” as possible, call it an aversion to mailing in judging applications via “snail mail” (US Post) — we love you Doug Francis — but mostly, call it time for a paperless BBQ Competition Judges Sign Up Process to come into the norm.
If The Current System Ain’t Broken… It Might Need “Modernizing” Anyway
I know change is a big fat bad word to many steadfast BBQ Association BODs, who ardently exclaim “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” when alternatives to doing things the “tried and true” way are presented. That said, there are also some who say that traditions are only worth maintaining if they are truly good and useful in nature.
Companies,business organizations, and our own Military all “retool” and modernize all the time! Isn’t this a practice that BBQ associations still using paper or emailed/faxed judges applications might learn from?
To this end, the post I’ve put together here dealing with taking the BBQ Competition Judges Sign Up Process online in a comprehensive sense is one that I feel is timely, and one I hope brings about healthy discussion and some level of consensus. To begin, let’s take a look at how the BBQ Competition Judges Sign Up Process takes place in many instances.
The Current BBQ Competition Judges Sign Up Process
For the most part, finding, communicating, and managing judges for a professional BBQ competition involves a lot of paper, emails, some faxing, and at times – phone calls. As just about any BBQ Competition organizer out there who still uses paper judges applications or accepts faxed or email apps, and they’ll tell you that though a labor of love… there’s a lot of BC Headache Powder to be had.
At present, nearly all of the KCBS or FBA competition BBQ events happening here in the state of Florida require judges to send in applications via US Post or email. The event organizers work extremely hard to manage the process of getting back with judges to confirm spots, update about team sign ups, location information, etc. That said, there are many times where “final confirmation” of a judging spot at any given event comes in as close to a week or less prior to the day of judging. Sometimes this is due to teams signing up at the last minute – which we know happens – and in other cases, various other forces affecting timeliness come into play.
Though I have not organized a competition BBQ event myself, I have been instrumental in setting up, planning, and organizing events through my prior jobs in marketing as well as in my career as an educator. Often, it’s a thankless task – filled with frustrations and obstacles that must be overcome. In many cases event organizers work nearly full time bringing together competitive barbecue contests while they are also working full time jobs.. not to mention family time!
Sorting, Sifting, Confirming, and Stressing
As applications come in, the sorting, sifting, and confirming process begins. The stress or degree of challenge organizers face in syncing up the number of teams signing up with the number of judges required varies, I’m sure. Some veteran organizers have systems and helpers in place to make the process run smoothly. Others, especially those new to an event that’s been held or who may be hosting an inaugural BBQ competition sometimes feel overwhelmed by the challenges they face.
I have to believe that an automated system that allows judges to register once and then sign up for events laid out in calendar or list form by date, and lock in as openings are confirmed would be a welcome addition in such cases.
Getting Into Events as A Judge – A Challenging Issue
Sometimes getting into an event that’s been held for a while and has become popular can a real challenge. In many cases, event coordinators maintain a list of judges who have judged their contest in previous years and simply plugs them in as judges for subsequent years. Obviously, if this situation is happening then it’s working for the coordinator. And, for the most part – I say good for them and good for those who are “in the club” as far as having the privilege of judging said event. However, it really is a bummer for those who would like to experience judging the “cool” event but are virtually locked out.
An online judge application management system can level the entry playing field here, providing wider spread interest in events and giving judges a chance to enjoy taking part of events they might feel boxed out from. This democratization of the judge application process would happen via a first come first served sign up process that opens at the same time each year. A waiting list could be instituted as well – as is currently the practice for most comps, so that spots are filled in case there are cancellations.
All these frustrations and any others that are involved with setting up events and managing the Judges sign up process can be automated with one system: the JudgeBBQ.com online judges liaison system developed by Kevin Keeling.
The JudgeBBQ.com System: Manage Your Judging Experience
JudgeBBQ is an online application that allows judges to sign up to judge BBQ events. JudgeBBQ (or some variation of it) is used by the Rocky Mountain BBQ Association, the Minnesota Barbeque Society, Arlieque Event Management, and various events in California and Colorado.
Arlieque Event Management Runs On JudgeBBQ.com
To give you an idea of how solid the JudgeBBQ.com platform is, here’s a bit about Arlieque and the type of organization it is. If they trust it… shouldn’t you?
Arlieque Event Management is America’s Premiere Food Competition Promoter specializing in BBQ Competitions.
Arlie Bragg has been tagged the “Don King of BBQ” for having promoted so many BBQ competitions, more than any other person in the world!
He has worked with Mandalay Bay, Casablanca Resort and Casino, Cumulus Radio, Dana Point Parks Department, Pro Bull Riders, Ski Resorts for summer events, The Queen Mary Ship, and multiple Chambers of Commerce Departments all over the United States.
Arlie Bragg has run over 100 food competitions; including BBQ, chili, burger bashes, bacon, side dish, potato salad, steaks, sandwich, and dessert categories. Most events are KCBS sanctioned cook-offs.
Arlieque Event Management competitions have given away well over One Million Dollars!
Arlie says, “If you want a World Class food competition call Arlieque Event Management. We can make it happen.”
Here’s what Arlie had to say about the JudgeBBQ.com system when I asked him to relay his experiences with it…
I have used the JLP for the last two years per Kevin. I have 14 events this year and still working on more. The way this system works is great in the fact that a contest judge can go sign up, get a pass code and check back anytime to see if they are locked in. Once locked the system will tell them the times, map, discounts on hotels etc.
Now the best part of course is when I walk out the door, I just print the spreadsheet and away I go to the contest!
With that many events you spend more time on judges than teams and judges were starting to complain if I didn’t pick them to judge. This system has a way of choosing the judges based on the time they signed up, if they will table captain, if they are a master judge and if they are a CBJ.
Don’t know if I could do without it now. The FBA should start using it!
So What Is JudgeBBQ.com?
JudgeBBQ is an intermediary between event organizers and competition barbecue judges to ensure unity of purpose. That purpose is three-fold: to relieve event organizers of the burden of tracking and communicating with judges for their event, to allow judges as much advance notice as possible, and to satisfy competition teams demand for certified judges.
All told, the JudgeBBQ.com system provides an amazing list of benefits to both judges and organizers. Since it virtually eliminates confusion as to whether judges are confirmed or locked in for events, thus allowing for advance notice of being guaranteed a spot, BBQ cook teams have greater assurance that events will be 100% CBJ compliant.
Specific Benefits for Judges
For judges JudgeBBQ is a one-stop-shop. Rather than completing a separate application for each event they want to judge, they simply create an account in JudgeBBQ and sign up for one or all events. When judges sign up for an event they are placed on a first-come-first-served weighted list. Judges have 24/7 access to add, edit, delete events, and download needed information about an event. They always know exactly where they stand on an event’s list thus allowing them to make travel plans in a timely manner.
A Little About the Lock In Process
- 60 days out – 60% allowed to Lock In
- 45 days out – 75% allowed to Lock In
- 30 days out – 100% allowed to Lock In
By locking in a judge is committing to being at the event, on time, and ready to judge. Judges receive emails upon account creation, when they add, edit, or delete events. They also receive email updates including as many as five Lock In reminders, Lock In confirmation (Judging Ticket), and a week away reminder. Once judges get their “Judging Ticket,” they’re free to plan their trip to judge knowing that they have a confirmed and guaranteed spot on the list.
Benefits for Event Coordinators
For an organizer JudgeBBQ means less headache tracking and communicating with judges. It’s like having a full-time employee on their staff. An Event’s Profile includes event information (name, date), EO and JC contact information, Judging Ticket phone number, some JudgeBBQ usage options, and most important the number of teams they need judges for.
Event organizers have 24/7 access to see how many judges have signed up, how many have locked in, print reports, and to adjust the team count number in their Event Profile.
Event coordinators can create Information Kiosk documents, which hold all of the documents, direction information, hotel/area attraction information, meeting information, etc that judges might require or want to have access to prior to and during the event.
These downloadable documents contain the information judges need to know about the event. Where, when, etc.
Communicating with judges is also very easy with the JudgeBBQ.com system. The Event Organizer and Judge Coordinator receive email updates and confirmation that their event profiles are ready and that they are ready to start signing up judges. Reminders can also be set to help coordinators stay on top of the timeline so they can keep their team count updated. Finally, there is a reminder as to when they can print reports for judges’ check-in.
Judge Seating Maps By Experience Level
One very cool tool that is in Beta now but has been used successfully by event coordinators is a pre-sorted and arranged seating map of tables sorted and arranged by each judge’s competition experience level. More and more, sanctioning bodies are asking for this information, and having this feature automate the process is pretty sweet. Judges enter their experience levels in their profiles, and the system sets it up from there. From this point, when you – the table assignment is done for you!
A Win Win Win for All Parties Involved
Event organizers love JudgeBBQ because it’s like having a full-time employee on their staff. Judges love JudgeBBQ because it allows them to manage their judging experience. Cooks love JudgeBBQ because they know the contest is being judged by qualified judges. Event organizers love it, judges love it, cooks love it; it’s a win, win, win situation!
First Hand Experience With JudgeBBQ.com
In researching how JudgeBBQ.com can help organizers and judging coordinators, I thought it prudent to relay the user experience from a judge’s standpoint. To this end, I recruited by brother Steve to offer up his take on how JudgeBBQ.com has worked for him.
Here’s what he had to say:
In 2013, I judged 31 KCBS events in 9 states, and I’ve seen the future and its name is JLP!
Out here in the Rockies, the Rocky Mountain BBQ Association (www.rmbbqa.org) has over 300 members and some of the best cook teams and bbq events in the country – almost 30 events this year from Montana to Texas! And when it comes to signing up and managing judges, nothing could be easier (for judges and event organizers alike) than the Judge’s Liaison Program, or JLP for short.
This web-based system has gained popularity in recent years and is now also used by Arlie Bragg events (CA, CO, AZ), the Minnesota BBQ Society, and some California events as well. This is without a doubt one of the best things to happen to the sport of bbq!
Great for Judges . . . . Judges can create free accounts on this system to sign-up far in advance and the system keeps track of your volunteer preference (Judge, TC or Either) and position on the waiting list. Judges can drop out of events as their plans change and the system also forecasts when you can lock-in (confirm) your spot-and sends reminders-then sends you an event “ticket” via email for each confirmed event. Judges can also access each event’s weblink along with directions to the judging hall-all on the same JLP site. If you keep your JLP “profile” current, the system knows you’re a current KCBS member, whether you’re a certified TC or Master CBJ, how many events you’ve judged this year and last year, even your preferred T-Shirt size! No faxes, no emails, no fuss, no muss!
And Organizers too! . . . . Most judges and organizers agree that it can be a real hassle applying to judge events-and that goes double for many event organizers! The JLP is an organizer’s dream-come-true! With JLP, the organizer specifies how many judges they think they’ll need and determines when judges can confirm (instantly, 30-days out, etc.).
They can also reserve room for DV/sponsor judges. No more tracking requests for applications, managing cancellations or trying to maintain a list of judge’s contact info-it’s all in JLP. As an added bonus, organizers can use a special JLP feature to check-In judges the morning of the event-either manually (printed list) or using a feature that seats judges and assigns table number by spreading experience across all the tables automatically as each judge checks-in at the event.
For more detailed information on JLP, visit http://rmbbqa.org/jlp/ or contact the JLP staff at JLP@rmbbqa.org.
Steve Sandridge is a Master CBJ in Colorado Springs, CO and is the proud owner of Raven the Wonder Dog and a Weber Smokey Mountain smoker that lives in a homemade cedar shed (smokes great, even in the snow!)
Paperless Competition BBQ Judges Sign Up System – Final Thoughts
If it’s not obvious enough by now, I’m entirely for implementing the JudgeBBQ.com system here for FBA and KCBS events. The cool thing is that it’s entirely up to each event coordinator as to whether she or he wants to give it a shot. Kevin – the system designer – is an amazingly cooperative guy, who spent a long time with me on the phone stepping me through the system.
If you’d like to give JudgeBBQ.com a try for your next BBQ competition – give him a call. I am absolutely sure he’ll work out a way for you to see and test the system. He’ll also be there with you every step of the way as you learn how to put the system to use.
I’ve also spoken to John Scharffbillig up at the Minnesota Barbeque Society – who uses introduced the system to his organization up there and loves the way it’s working. They just held their annual Minnesota in May BBQ event, the biggest one in Minnesota – for which this system is used.
One thing Kevin Keeling pointed out to me that really took hold is this. We all know Competition BBQ Events bring excitement, great food, entertainment, and some degree of economic value to the cities and towns in which they are held. More judges means more activity, and more out of town judges means more overnight hotel stays, restaurant meals, etc for your community.
Giving judges a sense of security and more to the point, predictability in terms of whether they’re going to be able to “make the cut” on the judges list for your event will surely increase the sign ups. It will also increase the speed at which judges sign up. We know it’s common for families to judge together. Normally, it’s a husband and wife who judge together. In my family, there are as many as five of us between me, my brother Steve and his wife, and my Dad and his wife. Whatever the case, families are much more apt to plan trips centered around your event – and maybe a couple others when you use the JudgeBBQ.com platform. It’s a proven fact.
The question is… do you want to keep collecting paper judging apps and hoping you have enough judges? Or, are you ready for a little peace of mind, ease, and an increased sense of security and professional confidence?
clifford burke says
I know you won’t believe this but not all people have access to the internet.
Kevin Sandridge says
Hey Clifford, at home or via their phone? I can see how this might be the case. However, public libraries and other locations provide ready access to the internet. Progress means some folks may have to saddle up and join the modern era…
clifford burke says
Kevin, I understand your point and it is valid. Consider this, I live 12 miles from the closest public library and they are only open two days a week. How am I suppose to be notified, by email? I agree with you and it would not affect me personally, but someone without internet connection would be at a severe disadvantage, and remember not all people can afford it. I have ask around at different contest and was surprised by the number of people who do not have internet. Just sayin’
Kevin Sandridge says
I do hear what you’re saying Clifford. Would imagine that the few folks without Internet would have to make some other arrangements.
Ronald Brush says
Cliff Brockman says
Yes. Perfect system.
Jeff Baxley says
I believe more BBQ Judge Sign Ups Should Be Done Online
Phil Hutchens says
Yes, I use it as part of MN BBQ Society and love it! But not a perfect system.
One local contest uses a web based sign up and is full in a very short time. Sam’s Club was like that too depending on the contest where minutes even seconds can count. I happen to have regular and frequent internet access, so I win on timeline.
and no… Many contests brag about the reputation of their judging pool and I’ve heard enough teams whining when not winning about Judges. Completely blind pools might raise the volume.
Also there are judges that are redlined at some contests based on past behavior etc. An organizer should be able to cull the list. I’m not sure that is possible from what I’ve heard. (not an organizer)
Kevin Sandridge says
Phil, I hear you on the set it and forget it aspect of some contests. Here in the Florida Bar-B-Que Association circuit, there are a few events that new judges simply never seem to get on board for as judges. Spots just keep getting filled from previous judges. I know the JudgeBBQ.com system allows for a set number of VIP judges to be added (will make the cut no matter what) and then set / adjust the number of additional judges needed based on team sign up. Then… at a date determined by the organizer, a “lock in” period is opened up where those who signed up can “race to the finish” to lock in their spot. Those not able to lock in are placed on a waiting list in the event locked in folks have to bail out. Those who don’t bail out via the system, thus leaving a spot unfilled and unable to be filled w/ a wait listed person are ‘banned’ from judging in that association for 1 year! BOOM! Seems to work very well. I like the wait list, lock in part as a way to democratize the process for new folks who want to judge a cool contest.
Steve Shortridge says
I absolutely agree with online judge applications. The event we worked to put together left me eyeball deep in paperwork. It would have been nice to have had the judge and cook team info all completed online
Kevin Sandridge says
Steve, yeah… the system these guys have developed is pretty solid in that respect. They’re not doing team sign ups on it too much as of yet… but for sure it makes the judge sign up process go real smooth.
Neil Buchwalter says
YES, let’s move out the stone age and modernize the judge’s and cook team’s sign-up function by going online.