Like an up-and-coming politician, Sharon Ching quickly realised that two things were crucial for success in the "My Favourite Financial Planner" competition.
One was to deliver a fluent performance on camera when recording her video presentation. The other was to "get out the vote" by making sure friends, family, clients and colleagues knew she was taking part and, most importantly, went online to register their support.
Clearly, the strategy worked because Ching, an agency manager with Ageas Insurance Company, was the second winner of the insurance category, introduced in 2008 as part of the SCMP/IFPHK Financial Planner Awards.
Along with the other top seven contestants in the second round of the main competition, she was invited to record a two-minute video explaining key points about an investment-related subject. In her case, the given topic was returns - or lack of them - from the Mandatory Provident Fund, and all the resulting clips were posted online for viewing and voting.
"I think it helped that I studied journalism at university," Ching says. "That experience means I am quite confident in front of the camera and have good pronunciation. Looking at some of the other contestants, I could tell they were quite nervous and not so fluent."
With only 20 minutes allowed to complete the recording, Ching realised the importance of detailed preparation. She asked colleagues to review her draft, practised many times at home, paid close attention to the pace and intonation of her delivery and made necessary adjustments after checking the playback.
"As insurance agents, we tend to talk a lot, so I told myself not to speak too fast and to keep smiling," she says. "You can memorise the script, but I also tried to perform naturally."
Her focus was to introduce herself to the audience and then to offer a series of practical tips. She also made a point of chatting in advance with the official camera crew so as to feel more relaxed.
Subsequently, attention turned to actually getting people to vote. For this, her company provided great support. It publicised her participation around the office, allowed her to address an agency meeting of 2,000 colleagues, and circulated news via intranet. The company also created a pop-up window and a special link to the official website, making it easier for people to see the video and vote.
"I also created a Facebook page for my family to forward to their friends and set up a discussion group to answer questions about financial planning and the competition," Ching says. "It has really paid off with more business referrals and hits."