How to win
the top prizes
in all sorts of
Adapted by Brian Morris
from books by Shaw Finn, Al Benge and Bill Fitzgerald.
Proudly brought to you by
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The winners’ cheque
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How to win the top prizes
in all sorts of competitions
Please Read This First
About The Big Winners Who Inspired This Book
Why NOT You?
Why They Don’t Win and YOU Can
The Only Competitions You Can't Win
What's In It For YOU?
What's In It For THEM?
Prepare Yourself Mentally
Success Is Possible and Almost Inevitable
Organize Your Campaign
Your Tools of Trade
Having A Filing System Is essential
My Success File
Other Files and Useful Books
Select Your Targets
Proof of Purchase
Pack Your Entry Carefully
The Coding Secret
Second Chance – Best Chance
Drop Your Entry In The Box
Email Contests – NO Thanks!
Mark The Spot
Spot The Difference?
Putting Items In Order Of Importance
Calculate The Numbers
Complete This Sentence
Write Creative Captions
Produce Better Answers Faster!
How to win the top prizes
in all sorts of competitions
Keep A Notebook Handy
How To Be Creative And Original
Practise Playing With Words
Read The Rules
Check The Innuendo Potential
Rules Give You Official Protection
What You Can Expect The Rules Will Cover
Points About Some Common Rules
Always Read The Fine Print And Conditions
Check Your Tax Liability
Wow, You WON!
OK, So You Didn’t Win
Better Luck This Time
How I Won The Australian Mastermind Quiz
How To Get The ‘Mind-Set’ of a Quiz Show Winner
How To Soak Up The Information You Need In A Day ...........
Where Do You Get FACTS From?
We’re Individuals, But Good Technique Is Universal ..........
My First Lecture Had A Big Purpose
Why Did They Learn The Stuff I Taught So Easily? ...........
The Price We Pay For Speed Reading Is Too High!
Stories Lock Facts Into People’s Brains
Special Bonus Report, Section 2.
By Bill Fitzgerald
About this book and the authors who inspired it
This book is an arranged blend, a creative combination, based on
the knowledge and personal experiences of Shaw Finn, author of
Competition Commando; Al Benge, author of Winning Ways; and Bill
Fitzgerald, author of How To Win Big Prizes At Pub Quizzes And
Shaw Finn says “I prepare carefully, I
never give up. The prizes and the mental
entering a variety of competitions makes
worthwhile – and profitable. It’s a nice
my day business.”
attack strongly and I
exercise I get from
my time and effort very
change from working at
Al Benge says “Unlike gambling or betting on horses, you don’t
stand to lose money by entering competitions. For such a minimum
of effort the results can be excellent. Over the years I’ve won
two cars, more than a dozen holidays with spending money, assorted
household appliances, clothing, sports equipment and cash.”
Bill Fitzgerald says “I had a slight advantage over the other
competitors when I won the Mastermind Australia competition on TV
in 1980. I used to be a teacher and university lecturer, so I knew
how to organise information. This is precisely the skill I’m happy
to pass on to anyone who reads my book. Believe me, it’s not
rocket science. But it is something which will give your whole
life a boost when you master the technique.”
Brian Morris says “My function has been to bring together the
amazing knowledge, experiences and special skills these three
people have gathered and mastered. Whether you win lots of
valuable prizes or not, what you learn from this book will change
your life. If you’ve been pottering around wondering why you’re
still in Struggle Street, soon you’ll have a new focus to your
life, an exciting new hobby. It will make you a more interesting
and knowledgeable person. That has to be a winning combination.
The prizes you win are merely the icing on the cake of life.”
We all dream of having more money, a nicer car, maybe an ocean
cruise – all expenses paid - and an improved lifestyle without too
much extra effort.
Some people say “That’s being greedy” but competition winners
don’t say that. They use the contests to sharpen their mental
skills and have some fun. The prizes they win are a bonus!
This book can be your guide to winning competitions consistently.
In this book we don’t cover every type of competition. We’ve
concentrated on the main types which you’ll find in stores,
magazines and newspapers because they’re the ones which almost
everybody can enter and have great success – yes, almost
If you have particular skills, or you enthusiastically pursue a
hobby, you’ll probably find magazines, specialty shops and groups
related to your hobby have competitions too.
Of course, most of those will probably invite you to demonstrate
your expertise and knowledge in that area, whether it’s beermaking, doll-making, cooking or landscape painting.
Tips in this book will also help you prepare, present and keep
track of your entries in all the competitions you enter.
Why NOT You?
I don’t know you, I’ve probably never met you - but I can tell
you a simple truth. You can be a competition winner even if you
don’t believe it yourself right now!
Consider: the egg you came from won The Great Sperm Challenge
against very high odds. So you were bred from winning stock!
I’m sure you have had many other victories since then.
Like most of us - including me – you have had more small
victories in the years since. Maybe not so many large ones.
Hey, no-one wins every test in life every time. Even if it seems
you’re destined to be the exception who loses every time, I’ll
prove that really is not so.
Next time you find yourself walking past a stack of brightly
coloured entry forms offering a chance for you to win something,
give yourself a chance! Enter.
If you don’t enter, you know precisely what the outcome of that
competition will be. Someone else will be the winner.
We’ve put enough tips in this little book to get you really close
to the winner’s podium. It’s all based on our combined experience,
research, combined with the advice of many other winners.
Fact: We are basically no different or luckier than you but:
• We enter more competitions than you.
• We enter those competitions more often.
• We’re probably a lot more methodical in how we do it.
• We’re selective about which competitions we put our effort into.
• We put more effort into every competition we enter.
• We keep records of every competition we enter.
• We learn something new from every competition we enter.
• We have fun with every competition we enter.
Why They Don’t Win And YOU Can!
The main reason why most people don’t appear in the lists of
winners is really simple:
1 They don’t enter enough competitions
2 They don’t take enough care with their entries.
Ask your friends about their experiences with competitions and
you’ll probably hear the same unhappy responses I have:
A) “I entered a competition once but I never won anything.”
That’s like asking someone for a date and if that first person
said “No” you declare to never ask anyone else ever again.
You’ve got to keep trying, whether you’re after romance or a
new car. You must keep in the chase or you will never win!
That’s logical, isn’t it?
B) “No-one ever wins – it’s mostly a trick!”
Competition sponsors and promoters invest substantial sums of
money and effort in competitions to promote their products and
services. That’s their prime goal, but they also do everything
they can to give their customers a great experience so that,
whether or not they win this time, they will be left with a
positive impression of the sponsor’s product and their way of
Sponsors love winners because the publicity they get in giving
out the prizes will often appear in the editorial section of the
media for free as well as in their paid advertising. This helps
boost the public image of the company and their products.
The only thing these people have in common is: they’re all smiling.
State and federal regulators take a keen interest in ensuring
that consumers are not misled, that all prizes offered are awarded
and distributed, and that everything is conducted in a
transparently fair way. Surely you’ve seen this line on tickets:
“Drawn under Police supervision.” Someone official watches how the
winners are selected.
Part of the rules in most jurisdictions is that lists of winners
must be made available to entrants and anyone else who wants to
get them in a reasonable time. Usually, the lists will be
published in the major newspapers of each state where the
competition ran. The lists usually may also be obtained by sending
a stamped, self-addressed envelope to an address which is provided
by the promoter, or the list can be viewed on the sponsor’s
C) “They only want to make you buy their product.”
Of course. That’s a prime motivation for any company, but the
promotional competitions only succeed if many of those who buy the
products for the first time when they enter the competition
continue to buy and use the products, even if they don’t win.
Consider the extra costs for the sponsor in staging the
* Special packaging with the entry forms and tokens
* Legal services to ensure compliance with all those regulations
* Hiring extra staff or consultants and training them to
handle the entries and distribution of prizes
* Promotional services
* Extra advertising
Unless the competition was well executed this investment would be
wasted. Also, the regulators limit whether entrants must buy
something to enter the competition and, mostly, require that you can
obtain one free entry form for most competitions if you want to.
D) “The odds against winning are too great!”
The odds against winning are high but, generally, nowhere as
stacked against you as, say, Lotto. The people who use this excuse
for not entering are probably buying a stack of $10 lottery
tickets every week.
You could reduce the odds of winning any competition you enter by
following the tips in this book:
Prepare your entries carefully
Maintain a positive, cheerful attitude
Remember, there are more and more competitions every week which
you can enter to increase your chances of winning. Many will only
cost you the price of a stamp and, maybe, buying something which
you buy some brand of anyway.
The Only Competitions You Can't Win
Here are the only competitions you can’t win:
× Crooked competitions.
That includes ALL those competitions with which spammers fill
your email box, especially those where they say you may already
have won a major prize in a foreign lottery and they’ll follow it
up for you if you just send a small authorization fee to them.
Avoid them. They have S-C-A-M written all over them.
× Competitions where you are unable to meet the entry criteria.
× Competitions where you try to get around the rules.
× Competitions where your entry breaches the rules.
× Competitions you don’t enter.
The odds of your carefully-prepared entry pulling in a prize in a
properly run contest are much better than the chance you will win
a prize of equal value in a properly run lottery.
The trade-off is that, most of the time, you will have to invest
more effort in your competition-conquering campaigns.
With the lotteries, most of the work is done for you by the
ticket sellers and employees of the lottery organisers. They have
to work very hard but don’t feel sorry for them - they are paid
well from the proceeds of all your losing tickets!
We’re giving you all the help we can from our experience and
research, so you can be confident you’re not wasting your time and
any money you invest in your competition campaigns.
With this ebook, you’re giving yourself a greater chance of
winning more competitions or, at least, pulling in some nice
consolation prizes while you’re having some fun!
Here’s the first of our questions:
Q1 Decide up front, early in your research about any particular
competition, whether you are comfortable with the effort needed to
prepare your entry or entries.
It may be just too time-consuming.
It may occur when your time is needed for other important things
like getting married; the arrival of a new baby; stock-taking at
work; a major pitch you must prepare at work, etc.
However, at this early
in-training, enter every
practise. Think of it as
training jog. He does it
stage of your career as a contest-winnercompetition you can find, just for the
the equivalent of the athlete’s ten mile
to GET fit, then to STAY fit.
Q2 Would you even want the prize if you won? Most competitions
have a rule that prizes cannot be exchanged for other goods or
cash. So, if it requires you to do things you don’t enjoy doing,
like bungee-jumping, or collecting empty beer cans, think first
whether your possible prize is worth the trade-off in your time
Q3 Should you enter just for the fun and practise? There’s
considerable benefit at this early stage in trying different types
of competitions just for the practise.
Some competitions may not greatly appeal to you because of the
task involved. Eg: maybe you dislike trying to rhyme words.
Remember the Nike slogan: “Just Do It.”
Check this website for help with word rhyming: www.rhymer.com
But, if the effort is not likely to be great, we suggest you give
it a go. If you don’t want the prize, you could quietly donate it
to a worthy charity after any promotional commitments to the
sponsor are dispensed with. Of course, at that time, you could
just as quietly sell it on Ebay and use the money for something
you really want. www.ebay.com
The rule about not exchanging the prize for cash means the
competition organisers won’t give you cash instead of the prize.
That normal rule has no bearing on what you decide to do after the
prize is delivered and any publicity about the competition which
you are committed to is out of the way. One exception is some
specific types of prizes such as travel. The travel companies may
require that the winner named on their records is one of the
people taking the trip for both promotion, contractual and
Otherwise, the prize is your property and you can sell it
privately or give it away if you wish.
What's In It For YOU?
The obvious answer is to obtain products, prizes and even piles
of cash with little effort. (Note – we never say “NO effort”.)
And in less time than just about any other legal method we’re
If you win a major prize such as a car, it’s likely to be the top
of the line model with all the extras you might want but maybe
couldn’t afford if you bought the vehicle for yourself. You might
also get the various on-the-road and dealer preparation charges
paid for your first year. You might even find your prize comes
with gift certificates for enough gas/petrol to make the first few
journeys entirely cost-free! That’s a nice prize.
But, there are other rewards for the time and effort you put into
chasing those prizes.
Most of us are not using our brains to anything like their
potential, especially in our spare time. Albert Einstein said
“Most people use only about 10% of our brainpower.” He knew how to
use all of his brain power.
Look what you can improve:
• Your organisational skills. You’ll learn how to keep track of
competition dates, entry forms, second-chance draws and
announcements of results.
• You’ll always file copies of both your winning entries (for
claiming prizes) and losing entries (because they contain your
original work. Sometimes you can recycle parts of your previous
work in future competitions.
Note: You can’t do that if you submitted the earlier entry to a
competition where the rules state: “All entries become the
property of the sponsor”. Check the rules because it might say:
“All winning entries become the property of the sponsor”.
• Your general knowledge and ability to locate information by
searching for answers to questions in the competitions.
• You’ll learn how to check the accuracy of your answers.
• You’ll learn how to improve your mental agility and ability to
express your thoughts in brief, interesting ways.
That will all help you have a happier and more successful life
Reading your mail, and probably your email as well, will be more
interesting. When the announcements of your successful entries
start to arrive, that will help to compensate for the spam and
junk mail which blight all our lives today.
What's In It For THEM?
The sponsors want the competition to help sell more of their
products and to encourage people who currently use their
competitors’ products to try theirs.
If the product is at least as good as what the customer has been
using previously, the sponsor knows, from market research, that a
significant percentage of these new users will keep buying their
product until lured away by the competitor’s contests or other
course, if the users believe the sponsor’s product is better
their previous choice, then the percentage of new customers
rise sharply. The word of mouth from those happy, new users
generate many more long-term customers.
With all their advertising costs increasing rapidly and their
battle for space on shop shelves growing more intense and
expensive, contests and prize draws give sponsors a chance to get
their promotional message into the editorial sections of the media
among the articles and stories which generally have a higher
credibility with readers.
Stories about winners, especially if they live in that newspaper
or magazine’s circulation area, are usually popular with editors
because it’s good news which helps to balance the dramas which
fill so much of the media today.
Prepare Yourself Mentally
We think you will greatly improve your chances of success by
preparing yourself mentally for the competitions. We’ve all
noticed our mental attitude and focus has had a great bearing on
the successes we’ve had.
Many former losers say much the same thing: “The negative focus
I used to have was probably a factor in my earlier lack of success
with competitions.” A revised focus will influence the outcomes
Most importantly, you should decide that you’re doing all this
for FUN and mental stimulation.
That’s particularly important when you start, because you may
have to put in a fair bit of effort without seeing any quick
return. Like any other activity which you take up, it’s easy to
get tired and discouraged at the start especially if you have to
do it as a solo effort.
Success IS Possible And Almost Inevitable If . . .
Many competition entrants find their results improve after they
read self-help articles or books. Click here for recent titles:
Click here for 5 Tips to Overcome a Lack of Motivation
One author posed a significant question, “Can you accept
success?” The normal reply is “Just give me some success and
you’ll see!” You would probably say much the same if you were
asked that question.
Here’s the point: Many people are conditioned to believe they are
doing as well as they will ever be able to.
Their parents, teachers and other family members, often their
close friends and work colleagues too, pigeon-holed them as being
unable to achieve more than anyone else in the group. That made
everyone else feel comfortable and un-threatened.
They don’t want you breaking out of the mould or straight-jacket.
This situation is expressed in statements which they repeat
several times every day. Often they form their view of their own
reduced abilities by blocking others from progressing above the
normal expectations of their peer group.
Frankly, your friends might say empty words like “Yeah, go for
it.” But in reality they don’t want you to win big because it
will show them up as do-nothing, go-nowhere losers.
Test this theory in this way. When Your friends are gathered
around chatting, say “I’m planning on going to Cairo to see the
pyramids for my birthday. Who wants to come? You’ll need about
$5000 and we’ll have a marvellous time.”
Dead silence. Betcha.
When Shaw Finn told a few people he was starting his own business
(a dream he’d had for a long time but always put off to
concentrate on making a living in his regular job), he got another
example of the obstacles friends put up. Their views expressed, or
perhaps subtly implied, that:
It was too big an undertaking.
Maybe he wasn’t up to it. After all, why leave a well-paid job
for the unknown?
“You might stress out and get too ill to continue!”
(Stress is normal but he got through it with proper medical help.
And by focusing on the benefits rather than all the new problems a
new business brings.) Etc etc!
Much of this negative commentary is well-meant because your
friends and family are genuinely concerned that you’ll be overwhelmed by the extra work you’ll take on. Or that you’ll really
suffer if the project doesn’t become as successful as you hope.
But some other people believe you’re just getting ‘slightly above
yourself’ or ‘greedy’ or ‘losing touch with your old friends’.
This is typical of the ‘tall poppy’ syndrome. Stick your head
above the stockade and someone will shoot it off.
These people are easy to deal with. Remember: what other people
think about you is really not your concern. So long as you’re not
breaking any laws or commitments to other people, press on.
So when you hear your friends’ views about entering contests
being a waste of effort, don’t waste your time trying to put a
more positive view to them. Certainly not in the early stages of
your contest campaigning. They’re at liberty to think what they
want to think.
Let your prizes do your talking for you.
If you can get the cooperation, not necessarily the active
support, of your immediate family, that‘s great. But, in the short
term, the only person you need to have in a positive, active mood
Discussing this subject with your friends, and even your family,
can wait until you’ve won so many cars you can’t fit them all in
your driveway! You’ll probably find they’ll be a lot more prepared
to listen to you then!
Seriously, our joint experience has proved to us that consciously
focusing on positive outcomes and getting rid of negativity,
whenever your mind gets infected by a negative or doubting
thought, has real benefits.
Write in your diary to re-read this book every month. Make it on
the same date as your birthday day, so you will remember it easily.
This positivity definitely helps us to prepare better entries, so
our chances of success are improved. It also helps us to accept
the inevitable disappointments when some of our best entries don’t
get any sort of result.
Think of Tiger Woods. Even though he’s the world’s best golfer.
he doesn’t win every tournament.
Thinking positively seems to have improved how we cope with other
physical and emotional upsets. We all get them as we go through
You’ll realise that maintaining a positive outlook and enthusiasm
is a lot easier to say than do but the effort is really
worthwhile. Winning competitions is a long term strategy, not a
short term fix.
There are many ways different people use a positive mental
outlook to strengthen themselves. The most famous people who wrote
books about doing this are: Norman Vincent Peale, W.Clement Stone,
Earl Nightingale, Dale Carnegie, Robert H.Schuller, Rhonda Byrne.
Look for their books here:
Many people post small inspirational messages, or even pictures
of the sort of prizes they want to win, on their bathroom mirror,
in their diary, or on their computer monitor, or the door of their
refrigerator - or even in all these places.
If this field of positive input is new to you, click for free fuel:
Here’s a ‘jolt-me’ technique which might help you. Shaw Finn uses
it. “I’ve worn a rubber band on my non-watch wrist. Any time I
notice some incoming negative emotions, I flick the rubber band to
jolt my thoughts back on to a more positive track.
“It may seem weird, but those rubber bands, which cost almost
nothing, have probably been worth more than packets of pick-me-up
pills or energy drinks - and without the side-effects!
Because of the positive results I’ve got, I don’t mind the small
red marks on my wrist! They’re my badge of courage.
Organize Your Campaign
You won’t need to research the history of competitions or the
fine details of all the relevant legislation but you will need to
make an investment of TIME in setting up the area where you’ll
research and prepare your entries, gather the books and other
reference material and launch your attacks on the prize lists.
Your investment will pay off.
Warning: if you fail to plan you’re just planning to fail.
Your Tools Of Trade
One charm of entering competitions is that your costs are low and
you are pretty much in control of your expenditure. But you do
need to assemble some tools and resources so you can conduct your
Start a new habit of carrying a small notepad (3B1) and a pen.
You’ll find some competitions where all you have to do is put your
name on the form and put it in the box. You can do all that before
you leave the store if you came prepared.
Tip: Don’t expect the store to provide a pen. Carry your own.
The notebook will be handy for ideas which pop into your head at
Keep one by your bedside for night time ideas.
Keep one in your pocket or handbag.
Keep one by the TV or radio.
Keep a fourth in the glovebox of your car.
Keep a fifth on your desk.
Put a big number on each notebook cover as ID:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Having A Filing System Is Essential!
You need to set up a record system for the written details of the
contests you enter.
Have a box, briefcase, suitcase, filing cabinet or some sort of
strong, sealable container where you keep these easy-to-lose items
and, most importantly, where you can also find the right ones
quickly when you need to.
You may decide to use different procedures and devices for your
personal system. That will depend on what equipment you have, what
you can afford to add and what you are competent and comfortable
using. Make the whole process is as easy as possible for yourself.
Use an Excel Spreadsheet if your computer has this program.
Click this website:
for free database or spreadsheet files.
You may want to keep all your records on your computer. That’s
fine and should save you a lot of time and effort, especially when
you are fully into the swing of competing and have several
campaigns afoot at the same time. But, be sure you make regular
back-ups and regularly print out and file a fairly comprehensive
record which you can refer to if you are not near your computer
and for the times when your computer is being serviced or
upgraded. Or if it should crash.
If you should ever have a serious hardware crash, you should find
someone like computer forensics. These people can recover data
from frozen or seriously damaged hard drives. However, it is wiser
to save, save, save to disk, stick, another computer etc.
Personally, I keep a ledger-sized book with each page ruled into
columns. It’s OK to say this is very old-fashioned but it’s also
simple and foolproof. This is something I started doing when a
friend lost the most recent month of her business records after
her computer hard drive crashed suddenly, never to be recovered.
Whether you keep your records in a computer file or a paper
ledger, you need to have the following sections;
21 Apr 08
30 Apr 08
22 Apr 08
Pick the poet
Here’s the code shorthand:
Date: when I discovered the contest or got the entry form/s.
Sponsor/Product: The sponsoring company or product.
Closes: Last date when entries must be in by for the main contest.
Entries: I check the rules for how many entries are permitted.
1P means 1 per person. 1H means 1 per household.
My default situation is there’s no limit.
(Yes, they do check and disqualify otherwise worthy entries which
break these stated conditions.)
In this example, I sent in 20 entries.
Sent: The date when I sent my entries. I send all my entries for
this particular competition in the same envelope. Some people like to
send batches of entries on different dates. I reckon the entries all
go into a big revolving drum anyway.
Sent 2nd: There was a second draw so I sent another 12 entries.
Sent 2nd: Date I sent my 2nd Draw entries. I don’t send them in
until after the announcement of the main prize winners. If I won a
major prize, I would not feel right trying to get a 2nd draw prize as
well, so I even try. I don’t want to look greedy.
Others may feel differently but that’s part of my mind-set for all
the competitions I enter. Leave something for others.
Result: Whether I won anything and, if so, the details of what I
won. I leave 3 lines blank below each entry line, so I can write
details in small printing.
Contest ID: This is the shorthand title I give the contest.
Sometimes it has a proper name anyway. I put this column on the
outside edge so I can quickly scan down the pages.
My Success File
I’ve got another Ledger book and computer file which lists the
successes I’ve had. The ledger is on paper, with pictures of the
prizes. But there’s another copy on my computer too. I can do a name
or date search faster using the computer, then I go to the paper page
to see what else I’ve written.
I flick to my winnings page when I want to refresh myself after I’m
finished wading through a load of spam or hassles on a forum, or if
I’m feeling dejected after a non-win. Reading it cheers me up.
10 June 08
Entries put in
22 Apr 08
23 Apr 08
Here’s the code shorthand:
Date: When results were officially announced.
Sponsor/Product: Who provided the prize. Full address details.
I won an iPod, value = $200.
Entries put in: I entered 100 times.
Prize received: “Thank you Mr Postman!” on that date.
Thank you: I sent a nice letter to the sponsor.
Contest ID: Same name as I used on my other ledger. I also record
their current slogan, properly spelled.
Note: I always send a hand-written
thank you letter. Firstly, it makes me
seem more human than a printed letter
A hand-written letter doesn’t mean
you’ll do as well in their future
competitions but I think it’s important
to show politeness. Besides, hand-written
doesn’t make me look like the cottageindustry I really am. I think it
minimises their worry that I might be a robot who keeps winning
Tip: I don’t decorate my entries or my letters.
However, I include a picture of the happy prize winner with the
new prize and I send it in with my letter. Make the (head and
shoulders) photo you send crisp and clear, size 6”x4” is adequate
so it can be reproduced in their retail trade magazines or other
media. It might even go on the sponsor’s website.
This is the system I use now, but I’ve changed it around quite a
bit over the years. It could be changed again by the time you read
My ledger has empty columns on the right side of the page for
extra data or comments. I buy a 10 column ledger book from school
I’ll change the purpose of columns or even remove some if I get
what I think is a better idea. Doing that with a computer
spreadsheet is much easier, of course.
Note: If something I do isn’t working for you or it starts to
cause you any hassle, give it some thought and then change it,
scrap it, or just put up with it. Winning prizes is my objective.
Keeping records is how I keep score.
I’d rather win a prize and have untidy records than the other way
round. Don’t let the tail wag the dog.
Other Files And Useful Books
You will also need the box I mentioned before to securely hold
your entry forms, proof of purchases and other miscellaneous but
Get yourself a few cardboard files (maybe use different-colour
folders or, at least, tabs to clip to the files) to hold copies of
your entries and all your entry forms (used and for future use),
prize announcement lists and copies of any published winning
entries (yours and other people’s for you to refer to).
You will probably want a separate diary or perhaps a wall
calendar to mark the closing dates, prize announcements and
second-draw dates for all the contests you have entered or intend
to compete in.
They’re already in your ledger or computer spreadsheet but I find
a wallchart reminder well worth the extra effort. Having the
information for the next couple of weeks in plain sight all the
time is extra insurance that you’ll never miss the closing date
with a perfect entry which you invested so much time and effort
Another wise purchase is a wide selection of reference books,
either printed or on-line reference sources. If your budget
allows, you should look for reference material, encyclopaedias and
online links which cover subjects you don’t deal with regularly.
Hitchcock’s Bible dictionary:
Rolland’s Cooking dictionary:
Ask something odd only a librarian could know:
Sometimes you have to buy special function software. But click
here for the selection of freeware first:
As you discover other useful dictionaries online, list them here.
Store the material you want to keep on CD-ROMs, DVDs, memory
sticks or print it out and store the pages in your files.
Whichever way you save it, save it!
You can save data in the sky, free. Click here for more info:
When you’re recording where you found out useful stuff, always
put at least the essential references. Put the basic information
with any information you have compiled for that competition.
Tip: You need to be able to verify any answers you give on your
entry forms. Judges might think you had insider information from a
friend. Especially if you become known as a regular winner. Having
the source listed with the clipping of the competition notice, or
a copy of a web page will also mean you can easily and quickly go
back and get more information if you need it later.
Other books worth having:
World Atlas: Search sites are good, but noting beats the actual
book to appreciate distances, sizes, contiguancies etc.
You can expect questions like ‘Which countries are contiguous
Roget’s Thesaurus: This is great for sparking spin-off ideas.
Find more interesting alternatives for the key words you use in
your entries. Seek better words than good, great, awesome.
Books of one-liner jokes. Google for Red Skelton, Henny Youngman,
Milton Berle, Walt Whitman etc.
There are heaps of these sites:
Reader’s Digest has a jokes section
and you know they are always clean
Jokes can help spur your imagination and also
lighten your mood after a heavy brain-storming
session. But don’t camp there.
You can find inspiration in humorous graffiti
slogans, road signs, clothing labels and witty
comments sprayed on walls etc.
Keep in mind that these types of reference books
may contain material some people find offensive so don’t leave
them around for young children to read.
Bartlett’s Book of Quotations:
You won’t win prizes just with the thoughts and witty sayings of
famous people. You can expect the judges to know them already. But
skimming through a selection of related quotations may produce
some useful adaptations, spin-offs or original quips of your own.
You can check whether your new quotation was used by someone else
a century before you.
Many successful competition entries started as famous quotations
to which the winner has given a smart, original twist so it tied
in to the product being promoted in the competition. Remember,
“There’s nothing new under the sun, just new ways of looking at
Also, remember that almost all competitions will never award a
prize to any entry which some people might be offended by, even if
it catches a judge's eye and everyone falls on the floor laughing.
They’ll gather their composure, then throw it out.
Having your main research material at your fingertips can save
you a lot of time and frustration. When you start working on your
competition entries and you are short of time to complete them
because of other commitments called LIFE, it pays to be organised.
Select Your Targets
Start by deciding the sort of competitions you want to enter and
the sort of prizes which would be worth your time and effort. For
instance, don’t put hours of effort into winning 20 tins of dog
food if you don’t have a dog!
At the beginning of your organised competing, you should look at
a wide range of competitions. Include some you may feel are beyond
your current ability and some that may not have the sort of large
prizes you want to win. In the beginning, pick competitions which
don’t require major commitment in time or effort.
Entering almost any competition in a systematic and determined
way during the early stages will help you hone your skills for
later, longer campaigns.
Spreading your net widely at first will help you find out if
there are any types of competitions which are more challenging for
you than you thought they would be. You may also be pleasantly
surprised to find you’re much better than you thought at some
other kinds of competitions.
Gather entry forms for as many different types of competitions
as you can, especially when you are just starting out on your
Always check whether or not you can submit multiple entries for
Be reasonable. Don’t take more entry forms than you can use.
Always leave some for other contestants. But you should get some
spares for the times when you, or your cat or children, muck up
your single entry form.
It is often a condition of entry that you must use an original
entry form supplied by the sponsor or promoter, not a photocopy.
You may want to get a reasonable number (like 50) when you first
see them for those competitions where you are allowed to submit
more than one entry. If you don’t get them right away, you may
find no more are available when you go back to that store.
They’ll probably try to get more but the smart competitor doesn’t
leave things to chance.
You shouldn’t have to expend a lot of energy or petrol/gas to
gather a bagful of entry forms. When you begin to really look for
contests, ie from today on, they’ll spring out at you when
previously you never have noticed any! Your subconscious can now
spot a competition entry form at 100 paces.
There are usually contests promoted in your newspaper, favourite
magazines and almost every type of shop will (on occasions) have
forms for competitions offered by their suppliers or themselves.
Supermarkets are like a competitor’s goldfield with competitions
on wrappers, boxes, necktags and more entry forms hanging from
hooks beside the sponsors’ products in every aisle.
Look on the back of your sales dockets for more entry forms.
Some stores gather a lot of the entry forms for the various
competitions in one permanently-sited stand in their store.
That’s great for you when you are in a hurry but:
• You’ve still got to go to the place where the sponsors’
products are to get the specially marked packets or, at least,
look over the details about the product and its packaging which
might be significant in the competition.
• These racks are attractive to small children, so a lot of the
neatly filed entry forms can disappear, or be scattered on the
floor. Hence, shops only put out a few of each form. So you may
need to ask “What other competitions do you have entry forms for?”
• My guess is the sponsors do not get the same sort of response
when their forms are not in the aisles where they can help to draw
the shoppers’ eyes to their products and draw sales away from the
competitors’ products. But that’s not our worry.
There are some competitions where you just have to write your
name and address details on the entry form and put it in a box
right there at the store. Those competitions are 100% luck, but
still worth entering of course. That’s why you always carry a pen.
You’ll also find some sort of Lucky Draw at exhibitions such as
Home Shows, Boat shows, Car Shows, Computer Shows etc. Many
exhibitors use those entries to compile a mailing list for an
after-the-exhibition marketing campaign. You can expect to be
You may feel differently but, if the follow-up is spelled out on
the exhibition stand and is offering me stuff I might be
interested in, I don’t mind. They pay the postage.
Proof Of Purchase
You may need to send off the wrappers of the sponsors’ products
with the entry form/s and keep your sales dockets as proof of
purchase if you enter the related contests. That means bits of
paper and plastic wrappers - often small, odd-shaped ones - you
will have to store, maybe for months at a time.
You should mark with a waterproof black marker the contents and
any other important details (such as ‘Best before date’) on cans
if you take the labels off to enter contests. Otherwise, you could
be surprised to find out that baked beans and peaches without
labels aren’t the same when you empty them into a pot!
Your entry, or entries where the rules permit you to enter more
than one, must comply with all the rules for the competition.
That’s just common sense but it’s also the deciding point where
a significant proportion of the entries in every competition are
When you have written out your first ideas, put them aside for
say, 24 hours and then re-examine them. You’ll probably think of
better ones or, at least, ways to significantly improve your first
efforts. Your first efforts are ‘Draft #1’ so don’t expect them to
be your best work.
Don’t worry if your ideas seem very average when you start. You
can expect your output to improve as you exercise your creativity
more. It would be terrible to think you will never produce
anything better than your first few entries.
Giving each entry you produce some time to mature or rot is what
many writers learn to do when they’re developing their stories or
Later in this book, I’ll share a great technique which will help
you to produce plenty of valuable ideas, almost at will.
Of course, that will require a time investment on your part –
about 20 minutes should do it!
Discussing your ideas with anyone else is probably not going to
help you. If the other submits an entry which is influenced by
your discussion, both your entries may be treated with suspicion
as being too similar. Friends can fall out over less than this.
Apart from that, you can expect some people to actively
discourage you. Their comments may be well-meant but could inhibit
your enthusiasm and creative drive when you’re just beginning.
Tip: Avoid negative people. They won’t help you win anything.
If your spouse is negative about your competitions hobby, keep it
fairly quiet. Don’t shout about what you’re doing. The good news
is, they will soon change their tune when you win your first car
or cruise or house. You’ve got time on your side.
Shaw Finn says “When I tried to write a different book a couple
of years ago, I mentioned it to a couple of friends. I talked
about it very enthusiastically - in fact, at every opportunity.
The combination of the cool reception which my family and close
friends gave to my ideas, their obvious disbelief that I could
write a book at all and the energy I expended in just talking
about my book brought me to the point where I abandoned the
“I’d put all my energy into talking about it and no energy was
left for the actual writing part. Don’t let that happen to any of
your competition campaigns!”
Pack Your Entry Carefully
When you submit your entries, you may have to include a token
such as a bottle cap, flattened packet or wrapper. You have to
pack them well enough so they will pass safely through the postal
system and yet not with such protection around them that they take
two people ten minutes to unwrap them.
If your posted item is less than 1/2 inch / 13mm thick, it goes
at regular letter rate. This is cheaper than parcel post.
Use common sense with your packaging and consult your Post Office
which probably has pamphlets, or even web pages, describing the
recommended ways you should wrap such items safely to comply with
the postal regulations in your country.
Make sure you check your entries have sufficient postage,
especially those which have tokens, packets etc enclosed.
No promoter is going to accept any entry which requires them to
pay missing postage and excess weight / thickness fines!
Don’t put any decoration on your entries. I’ve heard about people
who are skilled artists and they decorate their entries. I am no
artist so it’s a no-brainer for me. But, I also believe regular
entries which are neat and correct have as much chance to win as
the decorated variety which take a lot more of your time to do.
If you have time to put into decoration, spend it sending in
twice as many entries instead!
If they say ‘entries should not be fastened together’ then send
all sheets without fastening them. Use a paper clip or the ribbon
(hence the phrase ‘all tied up in red tape’) lawyers use.
If I’m sending more than one page I enclose these in a clear
plastic sleeve. If it says “Don’t use pings”, don’t use pins!
If you use staples, make sure the points are pressed down so they
won’t interfere with mechanical letter openers or injure the clerk
who opens all the entries.
The Coding Secret
You should adopt a tactic used in Mail Order selling for your
entries in those competitions where you are allowed to submit more
than one entry.
You’ll want to know the actual wording of the entry which won so
you can look at it more closely when your excitement dies down and
try to see if there are particular tactics you used in that
winning entry which you can use for future competitions. This is
called ‘learning from your own experience’.
The coding secret is for you to use a different variation of your
name and address for each different entry you submit to multientry competitions and record the changed address with the details
of that particular entry in your files.
If your address is:
Mr. Shaw Finn, 19 Freedom Road, Nanley, Utopia 1234
You might use some variations like these:
Mr. Shaw Finn, 19 Freedom Road, Nanley, Utopia 1234
Mr. S Finn, 19 Freedom Road, Nanley, Utopia 1234
Mr. S. T. Finn, 19 Freedom Road, Nanley, Utopia 1234
Shaw Finn, 19 Freedom Road, Nanley, Utopia 1234
Shaw Thomas Finn, 19 Freedom Road, Nanley, Utopia 1234
Mr. Shaw T. Finn, 19 Freedom Road, Nanley, Utopia 1234
… etc, etc.
Mr. Shaw Finn
Mr. S Finn
Mr. S. T. Finn
Shaw Thomas Finn
Mr. Shaw T.Finn
Now, when you get confirmation that you have won second prize
in that competition, the way your prize announcement letter is
addressed will help you check which of your carefully crafted
contributions paid off this time. Learn from your own experience.
Second Chance – Best Chance
A lot of competitions which require the purchase of a bottle of
soft drink or packet of soup etc, offer a second chance draw with
smaller prizes. Or they’ll have a second draw to find winners for
the prizes which are not claimed after the main prize allocation
has been announced.
Yes, it happens – sometimes even some of the most valuable prizes
wind up in the second chance draw! The promoters, under the law,
are required to distribute all the prizes.
So, don’t mislay the token for the second chance draw. Make sure
you get your entry in for the consolation draw within the
The extra time and cost is negligible and a second chance win
will certainly soothe your hurt feelings about missing out on the
big prizes in the main draw.
The easiest competitions to enter are those which need the least
effort and skill. For example:
Drop Your Entry In The Box
Many stores have competitions where you pick up an entry form,
put your name and address details on it and drop it in a
prominently displayed box right in the store. No skill is required
beyond correctly printing your name and contact details. The
prizes will probably not be major ones and the number of entries
is likely to be high because it’s so easy. But, why not use it as
a test of your new, positive mind-set and enter? Every time.
Email Contests – No Thanks. Avoid Them!
Forget those competitions which arrive in your email with all the
other spam. You probably won’t win a prize. There may not even be
a prize as the whole thing may be set up just to get your email
address and confirm that your email is active so they can sell
your address to other spammers.
Or, they use the lure of the contest to get your personal
information. (Two words: identity theft!) Some of these offerings
even plant spy-ware in your computer!
There are also competitions, usually promoted through media
advertisements and television shows, where ‘all you have to do’
is phone a special number and leave your name and home telephone
number. The calls to enter these competitions can cost more,
sometimes much more, than your regular local calls.
Beware numbers which begin 0900- they cost you money to make
One scam technique is to invite you to answer just five questions
to win a prize. The first question/s are really simple, like
“Who did Adam live with in the Garden of Eden?” Soon they will
hold you on the call while they check to see whether your answer
is correct. All the while your call is racking up charges at
$9.99 a minute! Rip-off!
It’s important to make sure your children don’t enter these
competitions either. Sometimes the children have the generous
motive of trying to win a prize which they can give you or your
spouse for your birthday or Christmas. If they really get hooked,
you could end up paying more than the prize is worth. Or you fail
at the last question and win nothing at all!
The newspaper or television programmes which promote these
competitions often get a share of the telephone call costs. So do
the promoters. You can now see why there are so many of these
‘Mark The Spot’ Competitions
While competitions like ‘Spot The Ball’ where you have to mark
the actual centre of a pictured object - such as a football - is a
skill-based competition, there’s really more luck than skill in
Differences in the thickness of pen the entrants used can make
the competition no more skilful than the ‘Pin the tail on the
donkey’ game at your children’s Sunday School picnic.
Find The Difference?
With these, you have to identify and mark a specific number of
differences between two almost identical drawings.
These used to always be line drawings, mostly fun cartoons. Now,
some contests offer two very similar photos with the differences
introduced by digitally altering one of the pictures. They use
High quality printing makes for a better competition. Earlier
contests were spoiled when some entry forms had additional
differences which were not intended differences between the two
versions of the same drawing. Extra marks were caused during the
rudimentary printing process!
Here’s a tip to help with these ‘spot The Difference’ contests.
Make a square of cardboard with a square hole cut in it. The hole
is about a ninth of the size of the whole cardboard.
This simple device helps you focus more carefully on a particular
small area of the picture you’re examining. You’ll be
concentrating on one small portion of the whole picture. Use an
old cereal box to cut the cardboard square from.
Looking at the pictures through a magnifying glass doesn’t help
because the dots which comprise the picture distract you from
seeing the picture’s details.
Putting Items In Order Of Importance
In these competitions, a little skill and care will greatly
increase your success rate, though you can’t deny there is also
some chance or luck involved.
Maybe you’re not the ‘ideal user’ whom the company’s carefully
researched list of desirable characteristics is looking for.
Never mind, you might be able to construct a profile of the sort
of consumer the company is focused on. You can do this by using
information from their promotional material, the wording of their
competition form, the media in which it appears and the packaging
of their products. Sometimes you have to carefully review each of
the product’s listed benefits.
You should submit more than one entry if that’s allowed in their
rules. That may require more time and possibly the cost of extra
products to obtain the required forms or proof of purchase tokens.
You should reflect points which are highlighted in the sponsor’s
advertising. That often means they have found them to be the most
compelling features in their research.
There may be some points which have great appeal but just to a
relatively small number of potential customers. Those points
usually rank lower, depending on the specific wording of the
information supplied on the entry form.
At the other end, there may be points which have wide appeal –
eg: saving money, saving time, reducing stress or making the
customer more popular. They would be points which most customers
will rate highly, whatever their situation.
Another tip is to look at the list from a different point of
view. This may give you an advantage over many competitors who
will stick with the task exactly as stated on the form.
Instead of just asking yourself, or the ideal customer whose
profile you’ve worked up, ‘What are the most appealing features?’
look for those which have less appeal. Then you eliminate them or
put them at the bottom of your ranking list.
This fresh way of thinking can shake your mind out of its rut and
cause you to explore the contest opportunity more extensively.
Don’t be surprised if you see a couple of the listed features
almost jump out at you as having more or less appeal than most of
the others listed.
You have to be as sure as you can be that your list gives the
features in the order which you believe the judges are most likely
to want. This reverse-focus exercise can bump you a little closer
to producing another winning entry.
Calculate The Numbers
You may think it’s quite easy to rank, say, ‘Six features in
order of their appeal’. After all, that’s only (1x2x3x4x5x6=) 720
Of course, if you have to rate ten features, there are
(1x2x3x4x5x6x7x8x9x10=) 3,628,800 possible combinations!
You could rule out the absolute-no-hoper being in position one,
which shortens the odds a bit. But just a bit.
Whatever the number, there will possibly be more than one correct
entry! The promoters will have a tie eliminator for those people
with the same right answers. It will usually be a test involving
some skill, such as writing a short slogan.
Be assured that, if a draw is used to select the eventual winner,
it will be done properly and supervised to ensure that it complies
with all legal regulations and expectations.
The test may, for instance, ask you to write a short promotional
slogan about the most important feature of the product. Or write a
caption for a supplied photograph.
The eliminator will probably be harder than you found the
original problem to be when you had to rank the features in order
of merit. You will normally be asked to enclose your tie-breaker
slogan together with your original ‘ranking the features’ entry.
Complete This Sentence
Writing a short, original and relevant paragraph about a product
may seem hard to do. However, this type of competition where
contestants have to finish a given, incomplete sentence presents
• Most of the sentence is already written and that part cannot
• Your contribution has to be just a few words and they have to
be relevant, positive and, if possible, include a little humour.
Don’t push too hard to find a humorous angle because something
you may put together with a lot of sweat might not strike the
judge as very funny or even turn them off your entry altogether.
• Look for some clues from the promotional material and the
• Concentrate on submitting something which stands out from the
great majority of entries and is tightly focused on the product’s
main appeal to customers.
• If you’re praising a packet of soup, decide which is the most
obvious feature which the majority of entrants can be expected to
focus on and then find something else, equally enticing to
customers, but which is not so obvious.
• For instance, there will be plenty of entries mentioning the
taste and warmth of a homely cup of hot soup in cold weather.
Perhaps the sponsor’s soup has:
more of the main ingredients than their competitors
more eye-appeal on the plate or in the cup or glass
a greater variety of ingredients
ingredients which are locally grown or made
the soup is more economical.
Write Creative Captions
Although there are about the same number of words in the
sentences usually provided for the ‘Complete The Sentence’ contest
and a ‘Write The Caption’ contest, the caption gives you more
That’s because you don’t have to use just those words specified
by the promoter and you can arrange them however you want to get
the best possible effect.
But, of course, it still isn’t easy to come up with three or four
potential winners about say, a packet of potato chips/crisps.
They’re probably very nice chips but finding something new and
enticing (and short) to say about a product which has been around
in various forms for years requires thinking time.
Remember that the rewards can certainly make all your effort
Professional copywriters struggle to find something new to say
about an old product. Whereas you, the novice copywriter, can get
lucky and hit a hole in one. It happens. Mainly because your mind
is totally fresh to the task.
Produce Better Answers Faster!
You can get the very best results out of your mind with this
simple technique. No, you don’t have to send in $25 dollars and
you don’t get any steak knives with it.
This tip is included here because it can really help you in those
competitions where skill and creativity are important.
Shaw Finn says “I’ve read about authors, quite good ones, who can
write their books while they’re listening to the radio or watching
sports on TV. Teenagers still try this technique at homework time.
Trust me. It isn’t the best technique. Total focus works best.
“Most of us lack the necessary powers of concentration.
“To improve the results you’re currently getting, all you have to
invest is 20 minutes every time you write your entries for a new
competition. Here’s the key: lock yourself in a quiet room for
that period. Twenty minutes. Without any distractions.
“If you can’t lock
Switch off or unplug
cellphone, TV, radio
20 minutes. Just you
yourself in, then lock everyone else out.
anything which might distract you: telephone,
etc. Then, focus on the entry for the whole
and the reference material you have on hand.
“Don’t surf to Google or any other site because they will
distract your focus.
“It sounds easy, but you’ll probably find it hard to complete
your first 20 minute session without your mind drifting on to
“Pretend your life depends on it.
“It’s almost that important.
“The benefits will surprise you. You’ll get more and better
captions, more creative limericks or whatever and then you’ll get
a valuable bonus - even more powerful, potentially-winning ideas
that pop up over the next few days as well.
“That’s because your subconscious mind absorbs what you focus
your conscious mind around (the important word is focus). Go and
have a shower, drink glass of water or play with your kids after
each session as your reward for focusing.
“Meanwhile, the power in the 90% of our brain that most of us
rarely access will be quietly turning over the thoughts and
information you focused on even while you sleep.
“Now 90% of your mental power will be working on what you had
barely 10% working on before.”
Keep a Notebook Handy
Always have easy access to a notepad (3B1 has 32 pages). And a
pen. Put notebook ONE and a pen on your bedside table. Put
notebook + pen TWO in the glovebox of your car. Put
notebook + pen THREE where you sit to watch TV /
radio. Put notebook + pen FOUR by the telephone. Put
notebook + pen FIVE in your handbag or pocket. Put
notebook + pen SIX on your desk or workbench.
The point is this: you never know where you’ll be when
an idea comes to you. WRITE IT DOWN there and then.
A short pencil is better than a long memory.
Shaw Finn says “I don’t do it myself, but some competition
commandos use a pocket tape recorder for recording their ideas.
Check the batteries regularly and have plenty of fresh tapes.
But that’s old technology. Modern James Bond style digital voice
recorders -which look like a pen- can carry 20 hours of recording
time. They sell for about US$30 at
Look under ‘Electronics – Pen Recorder’.”
Notebooks and pens are the cheapest and simplest way we know to
capture your good ideas as they happen. Yes, being well equipped
is worth the trouble.
This simple but powerful mental discipline of writing down your
ideas as they pop into your head will improve the quality and
quantity of the ideas you get. You’ve probably already realised
that this technique will also give you improved results if you
apply it to other problems in LIFE you have to contend with.
How To Be Creative And Original
Take notice when they say, “In 20 words or less …”
This is a stated rule, so observe it. They don’t mean 21 words!
Don’t think an extra word won’t matter. It will and it does.
This type of competition is very popular and is often used as
a tie-breaker between competitors who have all entered correct
entries in, say, a competition where they had to rank in order
several benefits of the sponsor’s product.
The first thing to remember is that the cleverest entry in the
’20 words or less’ section will probably win if it complies with
Tip 1: Brevity counts. If they say 20 words, try for 18 or 17.
Count hyphenated words (eg counter-productive) as two words.
Tip 2: Give your writing efforts a 24 hour rest period, then go
back and re-evaluate them. Especially when you feel you’re
producing your very best creative stuff.
Be sure to get some real rest. You will do your chances no good
and possibly cause some harm to yourself if you keep driving
yourself to find the perfect word or phrase, all in one session.
Tip: Drink plenty of ordinary water. It lubricates the brain.
Study the most important qualities of entries in these sorts
The rules said, “In no more than 20 words”. Don’t exceed the
But this is one time when you can give them less and get more
in return. Writing 15 exquisite words, even 12 which are exactly
right, will impress the judges mightily.
Tip: If you use Microsoft WORD for writing your slogans, use the
word counter. Highlight the set of words, go to TOOLS and drop
down to WORD COUNT. It’s especially useful when you have to keep
under 100 words or 500 words etc.
Remember, Abraham Lincoln said he could write a long speech in a
day but a short speech would take him a week.
Don’t obfusticate with a cacophony of verbiage. That’s the
show-off’s way of saying (with big words) “Be clear and easy to
Be like the boxer whose short punch is his most powerful punch.
Many judges have already judged similar competitions. They’re
familiar with all the quotation books, joke books and they
remember probably more of the entries they’ve already seen than
they really want to. They can easily tell when someone is trying
to ‘recycle’ other people’s material.
If you can find it in a book of quotations, it’s already a
If you’ve crafted something you reckon is original, check here
to see whether it’s already a cliché or not.
If you can provide a spark of true originality while remaining
focused on the target of promoting, say, the sponsor’s baked
beans, then your entry will stand out!
That’s something you should always strive for with every entry
and every competition. Originality and novelty. They win gold.
Remember, your strike rate will improve as you enter more
competitions and improve your strength of focus.
Shaw Finn summed it up: “Keep entries short, simple and fresh!”
You need the most relevant words that tie in with
1) the sponsor’s product,
2) the features they promote most heavily,
3) the benefits they promise customers will get by using
Start collecting your toolbox. The standard Macmillan Thesaurus
(and its online equivalents) is useful. However, you may feel you
are almost drowning in possibilities and alternative words. Stay
with it. Having options is the key to making better word choices.
A Thesaurus is another standard reference book.
Ten dollars buys the real thing, Roget’s Thesaurus in book
format, to live permanently by your elbow.
Technique: Prepare lists of key words under such headings as
Then link them together in an engaging way – using puns and
similar sounding words to replace the word a judge might have
expected to see you use. Surprising the judge can raise your point
score very quickly.
Practise Playing With Words
Make a long list of better words than GOOD. Words which mean much
the same as good, but which sparkle. For instance,
High quality, best quality, first class, first rate, superior,
fine, excellent, outstanding, brilliant, exceptional, first rate,
admirable, superb, tremendous, unequalled, unparalleled,
unsurpassed, luxury, premium, super, best choice, terrific,
wonderful stupendous, exceptional, dazzling, awe-inspiring,
marvellous, radiant, dazzling, sparkling, gleaming, shining,
bright, exemplary, extraordinary, incomparable, sophisticated,
advanced, complex, remarkable, noteworthy, significant,
incredible, astonishing, amazing, unusual, unexpected,
outstanding, fabulous, stunning, marvellous, important, striking.
There are more than 50 words here which are far more exciting
than GOOD will ever be. Use some of them in your tie-breaker
sentences and your competition entry will come alive with
sparkling originality. This is probably the most significant
recommendation in this whole book.
Another useful book or tool is a rhyming dictionary.
I looked up words which would rhyme with silver and it delivered
2200 words. Each one could be used in a rhyme.
A rhyming dictionary is almost essential when you are composing
an original limerick or completing a rhyming couplet with a few
words of your own. Imagine the impact if you can pack a relevant
rhyme into your 18 words.
Hey, this is where jingles get born. Sponsors pay huge sums to
professional jingle writers. Knowing what you now know, you’ll be
better than at least half of them!
Read The Rules - Again
Re-read the rules and any other guidelines. Again. If you live
outside the allowable district, or you’re not in the allowable age
range, skip over this competition. Put your energy into one where
you qualify under the rules.
Take special note of any emphasis the judges give to particular
features of the product.
Then, if you’re writing a brief slogan, see if you can cut even
one word out without harming the sense or impact of your entry.
Remember, you’re striving for brevity as well as originality.
If you can cut one word out, maybe you can cut another one!
Aim to be succinct. Think of the poets. They consider and replace
every word in their poem many times.
Remember when you sent a telegram and every word cost sixpence.
Can you apply a quote about something similar to or different to
Can you graft the name of the product into a well-known saying?
Eg: “You made the right choice when they’re ready, willing and
ABLE.” That’s for the Able Furniture Removals competition.
Check The Innuendo Potential
Make sure there is no way any of your entries could be viewed as
negative or have religious, political, ethnic or sexual overtones
or innuendoes. So no blasphemy or racist, sexist jokes.
You must not offend even 1% of society. The judge’s spouse might
be in that 1% you just offended.
To be sure, show your entry slogans to a trusted friend. A fresh
mind can see what your tunnel-vision cannot see. Remember, words
change their meaning over time. Gay used to mean fun-loving.
Different regions can give strange meanings to ordinary words.
Check here for weird words with unusual meanings.
Or words which sound similar but have different meanings.
For instance, know your aureole from your areola.
Rules Give You Official Protection
Every company which offers a competition has to comply with
national and/or state legislation.
Competitions in the United States must comply with laws and
regulations supervised by the Federal Trade Commission
and each states’ Attorney General’s Rules For Competitions.
They’re the authorities you should contact if you are an American
and have concerns about a competition and its rules or organisers.
Readers in other countries should contact their own national
authorities. Look under ‘Internal Affairs Dept’ in your telephone
If you are unsure who to ask about official rules, contact the
Consumer Protection Authority in your area. The Canadian
Government has a website with lots of useful information.
Better Business Bureau has hundreds of regional offices in many
countries. Start here and use the SEARCH tool.
Citizens Advice Bureau are in many countries. Check here:
Usually, the advice and/or service provided by these
organisations is free, impartial and helpful. (They’re funded by a
If the promoter does not restrict access to the competition to
residents of just one country, ie it’s an international
competition, then the operation and details of the competition
must comply with each country’s laws. Administering this can
become a legal nightmare. Hence, these are usually a series of
separate parallel competitions running in each country, all on the
same theme, all running simultaneously, but reflecting their own
country’s rules. This would be the case where the sponsor is an
airline or a worldwide brand name, like McDonalds or Rolex.
Most competitions have a restriction about who can enter based on
national boundaries. This keeps the list of official rules simple
and short. When the competition rules look too cumbersome and
officious, ordinary people are put off entering. (This can improve
the odds for you.)
Competition laws are among the most frequently amended laws in a
country because of changing technology and social customs.
Until a few years ago promoters could advertise large numbers of
prizes, then draw one winner for each prize; but they only had to
distribute prizes to those people who claimed their winnings within
a set time listed in the promoter’s rules. Commonly, it was three
months. Now, in most places, ALL advertised prizes must be awarded
and this is often done by means of a second chance draw where all
the entries have an opportunity to win any unclaimed prizes.
Sometimes, the second chance draw requires that entrants must
have already submitted a special token with their entry, for
example a ‘proof of purchase’ token.
Major competition rules are always carefully prepared in
conjunction with lawyers who have experience in these areas.
Fortunately for contestants the laws usually specify that all
rules must be easily understandable by prospective entrants. This
minimises a lot of legal jargon in the rules.
All competitors are bound to accept the rules as published by the
promoter. Remember the famous phrase: ‘… and no correspondence
will be entered into’). That’s usually the last of the published
rules, for obvious reasons.
You Can Expect The Rules Will Cover:
• State and Federal permits issued for the competition,
• The contact details of the sponsor and/or the company promoting
the competition. Many big competitions are run by professional
• The dates between which the competition is valid, especially
the closing date of the competition. Usually this is deemed to be
midnight, but it could also be 5pm or some other time.
• Where the results will be published, ie which newspapers will
carry the announcement, usually in Public Notices or Competition
• The date when results will be published in specified major
newspapers and/or on the sponsor’s website.
• How entrants can obtain a copy of the list of winners.
• How people may obtain a free entry form without purchasing the
sponsor’s product. Sometimes this is a requirement under local
laws. Yes, it can defeat the sponsor’s purpose. But who will spend
a dollar on postage to get a free entry form when it’s around the
neck of a $2 product.
• Whether there is a limit on the number of entries which a
person or household may submit. If there’s no limit, go for it!
• Restrictions on the prizes given, such as ‘no prize exchange
for other goods or cash equivalent’.
• Whether prize winners will get notified by mail or email or
telephone ore a courier van with a prize to be delivered.
• Whether all entries become the property of the sponsor. This
includes the copyright to any words or pictures you supplied!
Remember, they could end up as a jingle or company slogan. Don’t
expect any extra payment if that happens.
• Winners agree to supplying limited personal details and
(perhaps) a picture to be used for post-competition promotion.
Whatever is required by the sponsor or their advertising agency.
• In the United States of America, there will be a ‘Kraft
Clause’, restricting the promoter’s liability if there are
printing or other errors in the entry forms, tickets and/or
related material. This clause helps limit any extra costs to the
sponsor incurred from such errors. For instance, if there were 50
times as many winning coupons or tickets printed as was intended.
Invoking this Kraft Clause will create an extra headache for the
sponsor and/or promoter. They will need to know how to address the
public relations problems involved in admitting such errors. That
can be a long, expensive process in itself and reputations get
frayed. Usually, finding some extra prizes is the cheapest outcome.
As an interesting aside, Google <“Hoover's ill-fated flight”>
It explains the Kraft clause, vacuum cleaner competition fiasco
and the free British Airlines tickets competition which backfired
badly. In the US, Kraft produced too many winning number tokens,
to their considerable embarrassment. The New York Daily News
Scratch’n’Match game also produced too many winning tickets.
Having the Kraft Clause in got them off the hook – legally.
• The judges decision is final. No correspondence will be entered
into. The sponsors hate any inquiry into a competition and how it
was conducted. Respect that. Move on.
Points About Some Common Rules
• Don’t write your entry in pencil. Especially not colored
pencil. If they specify ink that means regular ink, ballpoint or
rollerball ink is acceptable. Use normal blue/black. Not red.
• If they say BLOCK CAPITALS, then use BLOCK CAPITALS.
• Don’t send plain paper or photocopied entries if the rules say
‘Original entries only’. That means you must buy the magazine and
clip a coupon. Yes, they want you to buy their publication.
• If they require your signature, don’t print it in BLOCK
CAPITALS. Sign it.
• If it says “No correspondence will be entered into” don’t
include any. Don’t send any type of letter or note. If you are
sure there is something terribly wrong with something on the entry
form, politely contact the promoter directly either by phone or by
separate letter, sent to their regular business address – not the
• Sometimes they require a stamped verification entry form with
the name of the business where you bought the product. Supply
exactly what they want. That may mean the supplier is also
eligible for a prize if your entry wins. Fair enough. Help them.
• ‘Winning entries become the property of the sponsor’ means your
creative and successful entry/ slogan/ photo/ poem/ whatever
cannot be used for any other competition with that promoter or any
other competition. This rule also permits them to use all or part
of your winning entry/ies as they see fit.
• ‘All entries become the property of the sponsor’ is less common
however it means your creative but unsuccessful entry/ slogan/
photo/ poem/ whatever cannot be used for any other competition
with that promoter or any other competition. This also permits
them to use all or part of any entries as they see fit.
I’ve never heard of any sponsor using entries which were not
awarded prizes. After all, they weren’t good enough to win!
They are mostly just covering themselves against claims by
disappointed, losing contestants.
And remember, any such complaints are useless (‘Judges decision
is final’) means exactly what it says. You only reduce the energy
and time you have to prepare entries for the other contests you
want to win.
Always Read The Fine Print And Conditions
Always read the fine print at least twice. You’ll get quick at
this after awhile.
• A first reading is to ensure your entries comply with every
part of the rules.
• The second reading is to check the obligations which those
rules place on you as an entrant, especially if you go on to win a
Most promoters require that winners permit their picture and
limited personal information to be used when the results are
announced. You may also have to appear at a live presentation.
Usually, this will be in your area. It might be at the store
where you bought the sponsor’s product.
Prizes, especially for things like trips, cruises, or flights may
have to be taken at certain specified times. Probably the dates
will exclude the most popular peak travel periods such as school
holidays, Christmas, Easter, when cultural or sports festivals
like the Olympics etc are on.
You may have to pay for your own holiday clothing, meals, travel
insurance, taxis, visas, departure tax, vaccinations and all the
other incidentals which make a simple flight a holiday. But these
costs which enable you to take a ‘free trip’ can mount up.
Such prizes may be for two adults, so you may have to pay full
cost for your children to accompany you. Or the responsibility is
yours to arrange, at your own expense, for other people to look
after your children while you’re away. (Don’t forget the presents
you’d be wise to bring them when you return.)
There’s also the necessity for you to check with your employer
that you can get time away from work during the specified period.
Whether or not there’s a problem there or not, it feels weird to
be asking, “Boss, can I have four weeks off next year if I win
Tip: Be confident, but win the trip first. No reasonable boss
will block you when you announce a BIG TRIP WIN.
Prizes may have other limitations. The prize may only be for the
travel component and some accommodation for your trip. You could
have to pay for connecting flights and overnight accommodation
just to get to the point of departure where the prize trip (such
as a cruise) you won begins and ends.
Check Your Tax Liability
You must consider all potential tax liabilities with prizes you
win. The tax liability varies widely from country to country. You
should check with your Tax Accountant and/or Income Tax Office.
If you have to declare your winnings, don’t “accidentally forget”
to do so. No one will believe you overlooked a new Mercedes car
prize, or a free trip to Las Vegas.
Where it’s allowed, the sponsors and promoters may pay the
relevant taxes. But, this is something you must check for
yourself. After you’ve won, ask for this matter to be clarified.
Record all your competition entries in your special book or
computer database spreadsheet. This is for future reference.
If you’re required to pay tax on your winnings, then you’re
probably entitled to claim expenses incurred in entering the
competition which produced the prize. Ask your tax adviser about
this aspect. If need be, get a written decision from the Tax
Department. It’s best to do this before you win the big one.
Claim whatever expenses you can. This could include the magazines
you need to buy; computer equipment; product samples so you can
extract the wrappers; telephone calls; special software; postage;
and transport to collect your prize.
Wow, You WON!
It’s going to happen to you sooner or later, and probably more
often than you think right now.
The more entries you send in before the competition closing date
and the more care you take in crafting your entries, the greater
your chance you’ll start winning major prizes.
Some people win a few small prizes first, mainly because those
are the size of competitions they enter. Others go for the
jugular, so when they win their first competition it’s a whopper!
The excitement of winning is something you have to experience –
maybe that’s why reporters keep asking big Lotto winners,
“How did you feel when you heard you’d won ten million dollars?”
Even though the question has been asked and answered many times
they’re always ecstatic, thrilled and overjoyed! What else could
they be? And yes, there is a huge difference between being lucky
and knowing you have the knowledge and smarts to REPEAT your win.
If you’re asked to be part of a public relations prize
presentation, that is your chance to be generous to the promoter
Make them glad YOU are the one they delivered the yacht/ RV/
Mercedes to. But, please remember this: although you’re an
essential part of the event, the sponsor’s product is the real
star. Refer to the product often in your speech. Mention the
company’s name often in your speech. They’ll love you for it.
Remember how radio and TV works: they’re a series of 20 second
sound bites. You need to include your thanks and the sponsor’s
name or product in the same breath.
Don’t be surprised if a job offer comes from the competition
promotions company, the ad agency or the sponsor company. They
always want people who can get excited about their products.
Ad agencies are always looking for new jingle writers.
At the prize presentation wear neat, conservative clothing. That
means no T shirts. Especially, no slogans or brand names for other
products showing on your clothes. That includes your cap. Look
like a deserving winner.
At the prize-giving, talk nicely to everyone. There will, almost
certainly, be reporters among the crowd at the presentation and
probably also at any non-public gatherings. Be careful what you do
or say because anything you do or say may appear in a press, radio
or television report later on.
Remember this: NOTHING you say is ‘off-the-record’. You can be
photographed at any moment, so don’t even scratch your nose.
Caution: Something you thought would be ‘funny’ to say during the
event may appear gauche, disrespectful, or negative when people
see it in the newspaper or on TV a few days later. Don’t make the
sponsors cringe with embarrassment.
Keep your acceptance speech short and to the point. “Thank you”
always goes down well. Anything else is usually superfluous. Just
keep repeating “Thank you”. That’s not hard to remember.
You don’t need to mention that you put 999 entries into the
contest. Some people might think (correctly) that you’re a
professional contest winning machine. And jealous people can do
OK, So You Didn’t Win
Of course, this happens to all of us but, remember, it is not
your inevitable fate. Get whatever value you can from the
experience and move on. Move on. Move on. Keep a forward focus.
The only real losers are those who never try and those who give
up! Promise me, you’ll never stop entering competitions.
But you can
use those exact losing entries again, especially if the
that all entries become the property of the promoter.
use them to kick-start your mind as you prepare
your next competition.
Look for the winning entries which may be published with the
announcement of the competition you didn’t win. They may be used
in future advertising by the sponsor. Learn from knowing what was
good enough to win.
Don’t waste time grumbling that your entries were much better.
My friend, that competition is over. Move on to the next.
Don’t look for excuses. However, try to find out what it was
about the winning entries which caught the judges’ eye. You can be
sure it was NOT coloured envelopes, fancy decoration around the
border or any of the other gimmicks which some people still
believe work. They don’t. Mostly those entries get disqualified,
either formally or informally.
Entries which are crumpled up, then straightened out so they are
bulkier than normal flat entries don’t get any advantage. Entries
which are chemically treated so they almost jump with static
electricity into the hand of the person selecting the winners,
inevitably jump into the disqualified pile too.
Put yourself in the judge’s position. You see an entry which
stands out, but only because it is a crinkled mess in an ocean of
neat, carefully prepared entries. That’s not a good enough reason
to give it a prize. Or it leaves a greasy stain on your hand
because it was chemically treated. Would you really want to spend
extra time flattening out a crumpled entry when there are another
5000 to read? No.
Bad handwriting will also rule you out. Which judge will ponder
an almost unreadable entry form? What if they decipher your great
slogan wrongly because it was badly written? They won’t take the
You now have the knowledge to win competitions fairly and
squarely. You don’t need cheap tricks. (They don’t work anyway).
Better Luck This Time
Entering and winning competitions will bring more rewards than
just the cars which will line up in your driveway. More than even
the new cash in your bank account.
You’ll find that keeping your mind alert and active will increase
the success you have in all other areas of your life.
You will become a more interesting person. You’ll have learned
all manner of general knowledge things. You’ll become the dinner
party guest other people listen to.
Remember the people at Coca Cola. They don’t tell their winning
formula to all and sundry. Nor should you.
The last and most important rule is this: PERSIST. PERSIST.
Times will get difficult. You’ll enter a lot of competitions and
not win a single prize. It happens. PERSIST.
If you need motivation, remember the story of Abraham Lincoln,
the most respected president of the USA. His history was a litany
of failures and disappointments until he became Mr President.
See his list of failures here >
We all have many disappointments. Me too. But if we don’t give up
we’re not losers.
Sir Winston Churchill said it eloquently and simply: “Never give
up. Never, never, never, never give up.”
Tomorrow is a whole new day, completely untouched. Good luck.
By the way, when you win your first prize, please let me know.
Send 50-100 words to [email protected] I’ll be delighted to know
about your win and congratulate you.
I invite you to check my other ebooks at this website:
The end of Section ONE. Special Bonus Report TWO follows.
Special Bonus Report. Section 2.
How I Won The Australian Mastermind Quiz
and Other General Knowledge Competitions
By Bill ‘Mastermind’ Fitzgerald
Welcome to the wonderful, exciting, and rewarding world of quiz competitions.
It’s a world where the quick-witted and the knowledgeable usually win. But it’s still a world
where every participant can enjoy themselves, broaden their range of interests, enhance their
general knowledge and enrich their lives with more than just prize money. So where do we begin?
You’ll pick up sooner or later that I’m an American living in Brisbane, Australia. I’ve been here
30 years or so and I don’t want to live anywhere else. Been there, done that.
To keep this report reasonably brief I’ll assume you already know there are places where quizzes
are conducted fairly regularly. Lots of places. These are usually pubs and sports clubs and private
fund-raising events. There are other places and events that regularly feature quizzes as a way to
draw crowds to an event. They give people a chance to win some product prizes, cash, or both.
You’ve probably seen them at State Fairs, Agricultural Shows and School Galas. They’re a pretty
standard event worldwide.
Since every person alive knows something, and the quizzes aren’t usually extremely difficult,
you won’t get questions like “What was the name of King Alfred the Great’s dog?”
Lesson 1: The people who run these quiz shows genuinely want someone to win the prizes.
So they don’t make the questions unreasonably hard. The sponsors want to look like ‘good guys’
who give away prizes and make people happy. Then we will all go visit their shop or buy their
widgets or whatever.
If you’re over the age of 12, chances are you’ll be able to answer some of their questions.
But wouldn’t you like to do much better? Would you like to make a really good showing, and win
major prizes consistently? Of course. Let me show you my method for winning quiz contests.
It also works for remembering the stuff you need for passing exams.
Do I know what I’m talking about? Is my method any good? Well, I’ve won a house-load of
prizes over the years and my most notable win was being crowned Australian Mastermind on
national TV in 1980.
I unashamedly trade on my track record. So should you when you’ve got a few wins behind you.
It opens doors.
But you decide all this for yourself after you’ve learned and used my techniques.
How to get the ‘mind-set’ of a quiz show winner
Once you get the feel for it there’s no limit to how far you can go with competitions. But to win
consistently you’ve got to acquire ‘the knowledge’! That’s what this book is all about! As an aside,
London taxi-drivers are not granted their cabbie licence until they have
‘The Knowledge’. That’s the term they lovingly give to their intimate
appreciation of every major and minor road in central London. To get it, they
ride around on a bike for 2-3-4 years, traversing the roads, avenues and lanes
of London, soaking up their knowledge of one-way streets, blind alleys and
short-cuts. When they pass their test, they can be a taxi driver in London. For them, it’s a lifetime
career, up there with heart surgeons and top restaurant chefs.
The sooner you feel comfortable about what you know and can bring information to mind in an
instant, the sooner you can enter and win quiz competitions.
I’ll show you how to get that knowledge quickly, effectively and keep it for all time. In other
words, once you get knowledge in your head you’ll never forget it. If that doesn’t excite the pants
off you, skip the rest of this report. But I say it will.
You’ll be able to use my memory retention technique for the rest of your life, entering quizzes
and winning prizes for as long as your brain still works!
The learning methods I’ll share with you will enable you to keep learning all kinds of stuff for as
long as you live. If you’re about to start a university course, good. I’ve got to you just in the nick of
time. You’re going to find this knowledge mind-blowing. Simple, but hugely valuable.
Lesson 2: Don’t let anyone tell you can only hold a limited amount of information in your brain.
As far as we know, there is no limit to how much information any individual can store in their
brain. What’s more, you can retain it forever! And you’ll recall most of it at the click of your
fingers. The bits you can’t recall are there, but the recall is too slow because it wasn’t lodged
There are far too many people recalling complex information at the press of a bell or buzzer
(I’m one of them) to have any doubt about that. You will become an instant memory recall expert
as well, if you aren’t one already. This is what I mean by the ‘mind-set’ of a quiz winner.
Lesson 3: Anyone can learn, retain, and regurgitate information. All kinds of information.
There is no special talent you needed to be born with. In fact, we all have that memory talent
already. Including millions of people who don’t know they have it.
Please be clear on this: memory and knowledge and recall are not all the same thing. Each is
different. But I’ll explain these important differences shortly.
I say it’s up to the individual to WANT to acquire information. To be successful at this you have
to be excited by the amount of knowledge you can cram into your brain. Remember, you can’t
overload the brain. It is infinitely expandable. Retaining information and producing it on demand is
absolutely simple. So let’s get started.
How to soak up the information you need in a day
The first thing that frightens most people about quizzes is the amount of reading and memorising
they think seems to be required. This is a reasonable fear. No one wants to make a fool of
themselves whether it’s on national television or in a local pub competition.
But any fear you have can be overcome fairly easily and quickly.
“Always remember” (I use this phrase frequently because it fits in with what I’m teaching you.
It’s a wonderfully powerful mantra to recite to yourself to keep your brain calm and focused.
I never use the dreadful phrase “Don’t forget” which is a double dose of the negatives. Yuk!)
“Always remember when you’re studying for quizzes, or simply gathering facts in preparation for
an exam, if you tell yourself to “Always Remember”, your mind, the slave to your commands that
it is, will remember and have the facts ready for you the instant you need them!
Lesson 4: You really don’t have to test yourself on what you know. If you’ve read it, heard it,
seen it, touched it, smelt it, tasted it, drawn it, painted it or produced it, the information will be
inside your brain and available to you instantly. All you need to do is tell yourself to “Always
Remember” before you start acquiring the new knowledge.
Where do you get FACTS from?
So where do you get the facts you need to know? Do you become a monk living in a cold library
surrounded by stacks of dusty books? That’s old thinking.
You’ve got the 21st century Internet at your disposal. Plus all kinds of general knowledge
information in books, magazines, pamphlets, lists, card files, CDs, DVDs and the list goes on and
on. Sometimes it seems as though there is almost too much information available! How can you
know it all? Even if you wanted to. Where should you begin?
Lesson 5: Do you need to know it all? No. How much do you need? Just enough to pass your
exams or win big quiz prizes consistently. After that, you acquire fresh knowledge for the fun of it.
Yes, for the fun of knowing more today than you knew yesterday.
Question: How do you decide which information to put into your wonderful brain’s memory? I
was confronted with the same problem when I entered (and won) my biggest quiz contest,
‘Australian Mastermind’, in 1980. In that competition there were two rounds of questions for each
contestant. A ‘special subject’ nominated by the contestant, (I chose American Presidents from
18?? to 19??) and ‘General Knowledge’ chosen by the producer. Each round had three minutes of
rapid fire questions.
Remember what I said earlier? “Do you need it all? No.” This is where the quiz winner’s mental
strategy kicks in. You can give an answer to each question and get it right or wrong, or you say
“Pass”. At the end of the questioning period, if there was a tie between contestants giving the same
number of correct answers, the winner was declared as the person with fewer passes.
Lesson 6: So my technique for winning was to answer questions rapidly, as soon as the answer
entered my mind. If I had to think for a moment about the answer, even if I was certain I knew it,
saying “Pass” was the best strategy. It was wiser to move on quickly so I’d have more time to get
more questions I could answer instantly. This was a dramatically better tactic than to wait the few
seconds it took to dredge up an answer from deep inside my brain. I might eventually recall the
correct answer, but I risked losing the game because of the time it took me to remember.
In subsequent television quiz programmes (in which I also did very well) my strategy was simply
to hit the buzzer in front of me faster than my opponents. So I held both hands over it. Whichever
side of my brain thought it had the answer would activate one or other of my hand muscles. Once
again, I had to rely on the knowledge being in my brain. I’d hit the buzzer the instant even the
briefest murmurings of an answer came to me. I did this without thinking about whether my answer
was right or wrong. I trusted my brain.
In 95% of cases the information in my brain would be correct because I’d trained my brain to
deliver the correct answer to the question.
Pardon me for responding in the first person and being a bit of a bragger. However, that’s what I
did and it worked. Actually, I’m proud of my achievements. So should you be when your turn
comes. I worked hard at being successful. I’d say luck was less than one percent.
It takes time and effort to reach a level of general knowledge where you feel confident about
having enough of it to enter and win competitions. Always remember, you also have to be quick.
It’s not enough to know a great deal. You have to bring it down from your brain to your vocal
chords or buzzer hand instantly.
We’re individuals, but good technique is universal
I have an enormous amount of historical knowledge accumulated in my brain from my passion
for history, from my university studies and from when I lectured on history.
Lesson 7: A study of history brings with it a huge amount of general knowledge tangled up in the
wrapping. Historians know not only who begat whom, who killed whom, but also what people
wore, ate, what games they played and peripheral stuff like that. So I started my quiz winning
career with a solid base.
There was always so much more to know about my selected subject, so reading was my constant
activity. But I’ve been an avid reader all my life. I knew my competitors would be very good.
They’d have to be to get on the Mastermind show.
I could have tried reading a lot of extra material, but there really isn’t enough time to do that.
There never is. We all have day-jobs to attend to.
So my strategy question was: “Where can I access a wide range of general knowledge in a nonboring, non-technical way?” I can memorise lists of kings, wars, major events and social
happenings until my mind rebels. I still won’t know whether I’m wasting my time because my
topics may be off-beam. It’s a gamble trying to choose which ones to memorise, even if
memorising comes easily.
I was looking for something which would offer me a random selection of easily
digested facts that were not necessarily related to each other. I needed something I
could read easily without becoming jaded or bored. Thinking along those lines I
went to my lifetime collection of National Geographic magazines!
“Of course,” I thought. This publication is always well written, enjoyable to read,
illustrated, and whatever the article covers it’s invariably extremely informative.
In addition, the articles seem to cover enormous areas of knowledge, especially
geography and history, as well as biographies, humanities and most of the sciences.
The real beauty of this magazine for quiz contestants, however, is the photographs and the
commentary caption that accompanies each one. Essentially, the photos with commentary are brief,
but they provide a concise summary of what is in the articles they illustrate. So, to learn and
remember the information you need only read the captions under the photos.
Lesson 8: YOU DON’T NEED TO READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE! This saves you
enormous amounts of time. And a photo is an excellent way to remember the information it
displays. Words plus pictures hits your brain twice. It’s perfect for general knowledge learners!
You can zip through a whole year of National Geographies in a few days and learn heaps of stuff.
Now, I do not have insider information, but why is it that so much of what I read in my National
Geographic magazines seemed to form many of the quiz questions I got? Believe me, I can vouch
for it. Coincidence? Maybe. Or do question setters also read National Geographic? I say “If there
are short cuts, or stepping stones across the water, use them.”
This method of quick learning from National Geographic was instrumental in helping me
become ‘Australian Mastermind 1980’. I was also champion on several other national TV quiz
shows. Over the years I’ve won dozens of pub quizzes and other types of general knowledge
contests. It was great fun! My health now dictates that I’m retired from quiz shows. So I won’t be
competing against my protégés. That’s you.
You may not be a ‘learn the list’ type of person, but this can be overcome by another method of
committing lists of stuff to memory.
Lesson 9: Don’t just make a list and try to memorise it. Not the best way. My advice is: write a
sentence incorporating each item on the list. Write the sentence in longhand. Don’t type it.
That’s just hitting keys. Longhand writing means your brain forms the letters, words, sentences.
It uses your eyes, hand muscles and memory in coordination.
For example, on a list of capital cities you could write ‘Rabat’. But that’s too easy to forget.
Whereas you should hand write ‘Rabat is the capital of the Kingdom of Morocco. Humphrey
Bogart knows the biggest city is Casablanca.’ Now you’ve committed the information into your
mind and your two sentences associate Rabat with Morocco. It’s a kingdom, its biggest city is
linked with an easily remembered movie star and his classic film. You’ve secured Rabat with four
memory hooks. Plus, you used hand, eye and memory to lock the knowledge into your memory.
By being creative in your memorising you’re adding value to the list and cementing the
information about the city into your memory. You’ll remember those four facts about Rabat, now
and forever. The sentences you wrote will come back to you in an instant.
Make lists of things you already know will be helpful to you in pub quizzes!
For instance, what are the most popular sports in your country? What are the most popular sports
in other countries, winter and summer? Who are the most popular sports heroes in various countries
around the world?
Tip: Because of the pub or club clientele and their usual age range, the subject of sports and the
key players are a common topic in pub quizzes. To memorise all the sports simply think of the most
prominent players of the present and recent past. Now write a sentence next to each name telling
why they are so well known. For example,
David Beckham, played 109 times* for England. There was a popular film ‘Bend It Like Beckham’.
David married Posh Spice and he has two boys. *Subject to checking.
Pelé was the best soccer player of all time. FIFA named the Brazilian Player Of The Century.
He entered politics in an attempt to fix the corruption problem in soccer.
Lesson 10: Capital cities of the world are frequent quiz questions.
Make your own lists from an atlas. Discover facts about them from websites. Then memorise the
names by writing a sentence or two which associates each capital city with prominent features such
as rivers, iconic structures or significant events. For example,
Paris, capital of France, is on the river Seine and Paris is dominated by the Eiffel Tower.
London, capital of England and the UK is on the river Thames. London hosts Wimbledon tennis,
famous for its strawberries and cream.
Washington DC, (District of Colombia) is on the Potomac river and the US President lives in
the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
If there are 195 separate counties in the world, your created list will be long. You’ll enjoy
finding one or two interesting facts about each one. Hey, the key to memorising is to make it fun.
Lesson 11: Another popular quiz question concerns specially created capital cities around the
world. Include these on your list:
Canberra, Australia, purpose built on Lake Burley Griffin, declared the capital in 1927.
Brasilia is the capital of Brazil. It was built especially and declared capital in 1960 because
Rio de Janeiro was already too crowded to be politically functional.
Washington DC is also in this category, home of the Smithsonian Institution Museum.
Lesson 12: Prominent people of the present and past are always popular topics in quizzes. Lists
can be created in categories such as politicians, leaders, kings, queens, emperors, empresses, tsars,
tsarinas, presidents, prime ministers, premiers, shoguns, dictators, pharaohs and suchlike.
Make up your lists with something in your written sentences that distinguishes and creates a
mental picture of the individual. There are many encyclopaedias, both as books and on the Internet.
Each gives its own angle on the facts they present. Start looking here:
Start building your own lists (with one or two sentences YOU write.) For example:
U.S President Abraham Lincoln presided during the American Civil War (1861-1865). After
that war his Emancipation Proclamation set the slaves free. He was shot dead by John Wilkes
Booth in the Ford Theatre while watching the play Our American Cousin.
Hirohito was Emperor of Japan during World War II (1939-1945). Japan signed the war
surrender documents on board USS Dunlap, 3 September 1945.
William the Conqueror, became king of England with the Norman Conquest of 1066 when he
won the Battle of Hastings, defeating English King Harold.
If you want to know heaps more about the fascinating history of England, even back to Roman
times, click here:
Warning: History can be addictive. When you click below for details of The Doomsday Book,
you’ll spend hours. However, it’s all knowledge and one day knowing about it could win you a
Other categories for you to create lists: Inventors and their inventions; Wealthy people and the
source of their wealth; Smithsonian Institute Museum. in history including where they were fought,
when, who were the main antagonists; Famous movie stars each in their era,
from the silent film days of the 1920s, through each decade to today;
Academy Award winners and the Best Picture of each year; Chemical
symbols of well known or commonly used items; Major calamities such as
eruptions, floods, bush fires and the 9/11 terrorist attack.
By now you can see the number of lists you could compile is close to endless. Hence, it becomes
a question of what topics do YOU find inherently interesting. I’m a history enthusiast, so those lists
are fun to compile. Whereas remembering the list of chemical symbols is hard work. But I keep my
vision of winning lots of contest prizes in my mind.
Use your imagination to create lists of interesting people, noteworthy places or things that are
important but soon forgotten. They are the kinds of questions often asked in pub quizzes precisely
because most people don’t commit them to their memory. Why would ordinary people bother?
But if you’ve read about them or heard them mentioned in a context, speak the
item aloud which stores it in your memory without you realising it. For instance,
“So Englishman Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile on 6th May 1954 at the
Iffley Road track in Oxford, running on cinders. How interesting.”
I told you the range of lists is practically endless. You can make lists of slang
terms in American English, Australian English, British English, Cockney Rhyming English, and
any other English where you might find an interesting slang term. For instance, a holiday cottage in
the hills can be called a bach, crib or a cabin – depending on where it is.
You should also make lists of commonly used foreign terms. For instance, start with French:
coup d’etat, bon mot. Learn the difference between esprit de coeur and esprit de corps. Check this
website for definitions:
There are many words and phrases in English which are derived from Germany, Italy, Spain etc.
India is an interesting one because Indian words like bungalow, pyjamas, jute, calico and jodhpurs
have been seamlessly absorbed into English.
Having a list of the most common 100 foreign words and phrases will also broaden your personal
vocabulary. Check The World Dictionary of Foreign Expressions. ISBN 9780865164222. Also check
this useful website.
Create your own categories and lists and write short facts about them, in full
sentences. The full sentence technique is important. By writing lists with facts in
complete sentences means you’ll remember them. Thinking up the sentence creates
pathways along the synapses in your brain. Once created, those pathways last
forever. Well, for as long as your brain is working.
Once you add an association between the listed word and another fact about it,
and you write the lists yourself, YOU WILL REMEMBER THEM! Whereas if you
just copy a list of single words from a page without creating a sentence about them you will find it
is difficult to remember them.
Telling yourself to remember, as I mentioned earlier, is also a very effective way to remember
things! Don’t neglect this. It may sound too simplistic to you. But it works!
Many remembering techniques might sound too simplistic to be true. Many of them work
nonetheless. Unless you’re interested in neuroscience, you don’t really have to know how or why.
As a university lecturer in my earlier life, one of the courses I taught was: ‘The History of World
Civilisations’. This is an enormously broad subject. It required a huge amount of reading and fact
remembering, as well as lots of writing. I didn’t want to frighten my first year students about the
difficulty of the course, but I did have to alert them to the amount of study involved. I developed a
novel approach to teaching the subject which included informing the students how best to study
history and how to do well in their exams.
Lesson 13: The best way to learn new things is summed up in my teaching technique principle:
‘Excitement is the genesis of knowledge!’
This simply means we learn best, quickest and most reliably when we are excited about the
topic. We can certainly learn stuff without being excited. Schools all over the world still get by
with teachers who are boring, frightening bullies. These teachers are limited in their own depth
of learning, disinterested in their jobs, and not very effective at educating their students. Do you
remember your own experience at primary and secondary school? Rote learning. Boring facts.
Lists of dates or symbols.
So when I became a history lecturer at Kent State University, after having experienced what
passed as normal teaching methods when I was a ‘supply teacher’ (ie a substitute when the regular
teacher had a day off) I had definite ideas about how I would teach.
There was no way in the world I was going to be boring! And I wasn’t!
I showed the students how exciting my topic was and this made it easy for them to learn it. As we
got into each new semester they wanted to learn more about it! They wanted to learn the sidebar
supplementary stuff as well as the mainstream facts. The word spread and students were asking to
join my class. That was unheard of in history teaching!
Here’s the key point: When someone wants to learn about a topic, they will find new ways to
do it. They’ll prepare their brains to create new pathways so they can accept new information about
I made it easy for my students to remember vast chunks of new material as we motored through
the ‘History of World Civilisations’ course. They were motivated to learn.
They even manage to listen with interest to boring teachers who taught the complementary
history topics. Unfortunately, boring teachers rarely manage to make their information stick.
That’s why their students rarely learn very much and their exam marks reflect this.
Lesson 14: When the time comes to select your courses from what’s on offer, spend most of your
time evaluating the teachers. A good teacher can make any topic interesting. A boring teacher can
stifle and strangle your interest in your favourite topic.
A good teacher also has to make the students believe they can learn and pass exams! Some
students will already be excited about the prospect of what they will be learning. It might be their
favourite subject. Sadly, too many students don’t choose their subjects or teachers with enough
care. They fall into a class by default. They become the good teacher’s greatest challenge. How can
I motivate the unmotivated to become wildly excited about what has been happening on this earth
before they got here?
This is what I’m attempting to do for you in this special report. I want to get you wildly excited
about winning competitions. Lots of them, with huge prizes. Don’t worry if those who live around
you are not wildly excited. You are the only one who is important on this trip. When the others see
your prizes, a smidgen of excitement might penetrate their sad souls.
My First Lecture Had A Big Purpose
When I gave my first lecture in the ‘History of World Civilisations’ course I addressed the matter
of excitement directly. First I told the one hundred students sitting in the largest lecture theatre at
Kent State University about the difficulties they were facing. I explained that they would have to
learn about 2,500 years of history. They would be introduced to thousands of names, places, dates,
events, concepts, relationships until they might go crazy trying to remember a tenth of them. As I
spoke I could see their faces beginning to show fear, distress, disbelief and probably a
determination to get the hell out of the course before they were locked in. I could see misery on
their faces. I’d taken down to the lowest point. I gave them a theatrical pause.
Then I told them they didn’t have to remember any of it. It would all come to them so easily they
would hardly believe how easy it was. To demonstrate this I told them a fact. Just one fact. This
was the origin of the colour purple.
“Y’see, in ancient times it was very difficult to make purple coloured garments. In those days
there were no artificial dyes. It was natural dyeing or nothing. So where did the colour purple come
from? It came from a rare mollusc found in the Mediterranean Sea. Some were harvested at
Essaouira on the coast of Morocco, near Casablanca. The mollusc was also
located on the north coast of Lebanon, near Tyre. To get these molluscs the
fishermen had to dive to prodigious depths, holding their breath. There was no
scuba gear in those days. Many men died from exhaustion, from drowning or
they were eaten by sharks. The divers collected the particular Murex and
Purpura whelks that produce a liquid in their anal gland which converts into a
powerful purple dye when it is exposed to sunlight! And that’s where the colour
purple came from! It was extremely difficult to collect the little shellfish,
dangerous to dive for and not that easy to make the dye as it is not water-soluble.
This made the whole process of producing a permanent bright purple dye extremely
expensive. That’s why only very wealthy citizens wore garments with a purple
striped edge. They were showing off to everyone how wealthy they were. In time,
totally purple clothing became associated with royalty,
hence the colour’s name ‘royal purple’. During the
Byzantine Empire purple garments were reserved for the
Imperial Roman family! Anyone wearing a purple garment
who wasn’t entitled to wear it was put to death for showing disrespect.
When I finished this true story I told the students they would never, ever
forget what I had just told them. They wouldn’t have to memorise anything. They now just knew it.
Since that time over 30 years ago I have met many former students who did that history course
with me. Invariably they mention how they still remember facts from ‘the colour purple’ story
I told them that day. They also confirm how relatively easy it was for them to complete the course,
pass the exams, and how much they learned.
Why Did They Learn The Stuff I Taught So Easily?
Answer: The students were at first devastated about what they’d got themselves into by signing
on for my course. When I told them they didn’t have to remember arcane facts they began to feel
easier about it. By assuring them they’d remember simply by attending my lectures and reading the
course material, without consciously committing any of it to memory they felt more confident.
By removing their fears, their negative anticipation, they were free to become excited about what
they would learn. Those students became enthusiastically excited about the course! Just as I was
excited about teaching it. My excitement rubbed off on them and their excitement rubbed off on
me. How symbiotic.
The fact that it was far easier to remember things than they had imagined, meant their excitement
grew the more they were exposed to the knowledge. This in turn led to deeper understanding and
incredibly long retention. Lifelong, in fact.
Lesson 15: The more you connect facts with other associated facts or ideas, the more easily you
will remember them, and for the rest of your life.
Another very powerful way to remember things you read is to read them aloud! That is, don’t
read them silently to yourself. Read them so you can hear yourself as you read. The
reading doesn’t have to be noisy, just loud enough so you hear your voice as you read.
This works because you are taking in information through your ears as well as your
eyes. What’s more, the brain is giving your vocal chords and mouth subconscious
instructions to speak the words. It’s like a three-shovel attack on loading up your
memory. You don’t need to read everything aloud, just the material you want to
remember for some important purpose, like winning a quiz contest, or passing an exam.
“Do these techniques work?” do I hear you ask. Absolutely. I can confidently assure you because
I use the same methods myself, and I have done for over 40 years.
I came across these remembering techniques without knowing at the time how incredibly useful
they were. Now I understand why they work. Now, so do you!
As primary school students, most children are taught to recite things, and read aloud passages
from books, usually in class with their fellow students as their audience. As children progress
through school this ‘child-like learning tool’ is jettisoned, making students think because they’re
older and wiser they don’t need such elementary learning techniques. Teachers even encourage
this attitude. I think the kids lose something incredibly valuable: their three-pronged remembering
The teachers are correct, of course, in that children are able to read faster when they read silently.
Children who still ‘mouth the words’ as they read usually become slow readers. This problem then
has to be addressed as a handicap which is holding back their reading progress.
Paradoxically, one of the best memory tools (reading aloud) is dropped so children can progress
in other areas of their education. But, other methods of remembering stuff are nowhere near as
effective as what you’ve learned from me so far.
The Price We Pay For Speed Reading Is Too High!
We can miss hearing the sounds of words. English is a beautifully colourful, sonorous language.
Prove it to yourself by reading these lines aloud. Yes, aloud. So you HEAR the words.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Daffodils, by William Wordsworth
Glory be to God for dappled things
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow
For rose-moles all in stipple upon the trout that swim;
Pied Beauty, by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Because we don’t always hear words we don’t appreciate how melodious they might sound
when spoken. We constantly deny ourselves that pleasure. This also severely limits your ‘working
vocabulary’ of words. You also lose the benefit of memory training. Consequently, you can’t use
words in speech which aren’t locked into your memory.
When you read aloud you are much more likely to remember what you’ve read, you’ll remember
all the details, not just the big lumps that jump out at you when you read silently. Advertisers know
this when they get you to sing along with the words of the jingle. In my youth it was
“You’ll wonder where the yellow went, when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.”
Do you remember: “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing, in Perfect Harmony.”
This was a pop song which originated as an advertising jingle, produced by Billy Davis and sung
by the Hillside Singers, for Coca-Cola. It featured as a TV commercial in 1971. The Hillside
Singers’ version was released as a successful single the same year. It reached #13 on the Billboard
Hot 100 and #5 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. The New Seekers also had a hit with the
song around the same time.
Do you see how powerful speaking, reciting or singing aloud can be?
Most people have a vocabulary that is far greater than the one they use every day. So they know
many more words than they use when they speak and even when they write! They intentionally
don’t use their extensive vocabulary in everyday discourse because they don’t want to be seen
showing off their knowledge. That’s called dumbing down.
Many more times, however, they don’t use a lot of the words they know
because they simply don’t know how to pronounce them. When you read a
word like façade, or brioche, or rabbinical, and you’re not sure how to
pronounce it, click here: It speaks the correct pronunciation.
Until you hear these beautiful-sounding words coming from your own mouth you won’t
appreciate how melodious they are. And if you can’t say them properly you’ll not speak them.
Thus, your vocabulary diminishes.
Why I Tell Stories To Lock Facts Into People’s Brains
By now you must be wondering how I came across this method of reading aloud as a means to
improving memory and speech! And telling stories to lock facts into our brains.
Well, a lecturer at the university where I taught once asked me if I would mind him sitting in on
one of my lectures. He explained how he’d heard from some students who’d taken my course that I
was “an exciting lecturer” and they looked forward to attending my lectures. Some of them even
invited their friends who weren’t even taking my course to attend with them. Anyway, I told this
lecturer he was most welcome to attend.
(He felt he needed to ask if I minded because most lecturers are almost paranoid about other staff
attending their lectures. They think they’re being spied upon, scrutinised or about to be criticised
for some reason. Or other people will steal their ideas. So they dislike peer-group observers
On the other hand, I enjoy speaking to any audience, no matter who they are. The bigger the
better. I’d be honoured if the Vice Chancellor dropped in to observe me in action.
Thus, I began to wonder what was different about my lectures. What made them so interesting
and exciting and memorable? Certainly I was confident I knew the material I was teaching. Didn’t
Most lecturers do know their subject, but only a few think seriously about how to deliver that
knowledge. They sincerely believe it is their responsibility only to deliver it. How it’s delivered,
and whether it’s received by the audience isn’t their worry. They say “It’s the students’ concern to
remember, not the lecturer’s.”
This attitude, of course, assumes that students will listen intently no matter how interesting or
boring the subject matter may be. The students will get the knowledge no matter how badly the
lecturer delivers it. These poor quality teachers don’t care how the students feel when they sit in the
lecture theatre. They believe they’re being paid to drop a load. Like delivery truck drivers.
I knew the day I decided to be a lecturer exactly how I wanted to teach history, or any other
subject I felt confident to teach. I had studied history because I loved it, so I could sit through
history lectures by boring lecturers without losing interest. Instead of being bored I either read my
history text while the lecturer droned on boringly, or I analysed the lecturer’s style. I wanted to
know what he or she was doing wrong. Why was the lecture boring, why weren’t students listening
when the topic itself was fascinating?
How could it be done better?
After studying for many years, gaining my graduate qualifications and listening to countless
lectures in the process, and not just history lectures, I had many ideas on how to improve the
learning process. What you’ve just read has been well thought out, tested on thousands of students
in hundreds of lecture theatres.
I also take my own medicine. These techniques I’ve shared with you are the same ones I’ve used
to win dozens of general knowledge quizzes, pub quiz shows, sponsors’ fine products, travel prizes,
cruises, clothes, cars and freezer loads of food. I’ve lost track of the stuff I’ve won.
However, the biggest test of all for my technique was winning the Australian Mastermind
competition 1980 on nationwide TV. I knew I was up against the best brains in the country.
And I won.
Now, do you believe my technique works? Try it. Use it. Win with it.
Enjoy the other ebooks I’m associated with.
Click my website: www.ebookofKnowledge.com
There’s a book on how to get $5 bargain flights.
What you need to know about franchising.
There are new titles being added almost every week.