Step 1: Pick your Topic
Make it exciting and find an interesting place to research it. This will help your application stand out from the others and make it easier to be interesting when you get interviewed. Ask yourself if it is important to you (this is important because you’re going to be living it for a whole month), to your company (this is important because you’re going to be asking them to give you a month’s paid leave very soon – be prepared to be flexible with this – both in terms of timing and perhaps taking some holidays yourself), to your clients (see last point), to the industry (this is important because CIBSE are going to give you thousands of pounds to go on a free holiday) and to the world (this is important as it gives you a nice warm toast like glow inside, and allows you to be smug)
Step 2: Discuss your idea with your employers and colleagues, with your friends and with complete strangers. They will all have some input – some of it will even be useful. Google it and send emails to random strangers in other countries who might be interested in participating. Ask suppliers and manufacturers who have offices or factories in the countries you might be visiting. You never know where an amazing link might come up, or who will turn up trumps. Again – other people may not turn up trumps so ensure you have back up plans and alternative ideas. But don’t make your schedule so busy that you have no time to follow up leads when you’re on tour. Obviously you don’t want to do too much of this before you win but once you do win you need to do a LOT of it.
Step 3: Fill in the application form – this is very important. In it you need to explain your plan, give an idea of the route and places you’ll be visiting and lay out exactly why it’s important to all of the above people. Don’t worry about the detail at this point – there will be time to panic about that later.
Step 4: Forget about it until you get called for interview.
Step 5: Panic and throw together a presentation. It will be very informal so you don’t absolutely need to do power point but remember that they’ll be expecting a presentation from you at the end of it. So taking advantage of the opportunity to show off your presentation skills and drop in a mention of that performance you did recently at Ecobuild or Manchester Comedy Festival will not hurt. Avoid using the phrase ‘free holiday’.
Step 6: Forget about it until you get the email you’ve won.
Step 7: Get drunk or celebrate in another fashion – annoy your friends and housemates for weeks by going on about it. This way they will actually be glad when you do go, even if you haven’t got around to installing the central heating before departure. This would be the ideal time to locate your passport and any other travel essentials.
Step 8: Chose your transport (I would recommend folding bike and train, obviously) and book your tickets and some of your accommodation – this isn’t critical but I did it so that I wouldn’t have to worry too much en route and to make the most of the £1000 float which CIBSE let me have beforehand (sadly they don't just give you the cash in a big wad - you have to submit expense claims). So most of my trip was booked and paid for and claimed back before I set off meaning I didn’t end up out of pocket or not for very long and not by very much.
Step 9: Pack – bear in mind the weather and the places you’ll be visiting. Take a dedicated notebook with you to record interesting facts and observations – not an old diary. Make sure you have a good camera, with a case – and don’t leave it balanced precariously on top of your bike, especially if it’s your boss’s (trust me on this).
Step 10: Really really find your passport. Go. Have a lot of fun, write a blog, buy presents for your friends and send postcards - send one to me.