A coordinated, evidence-based approach to teaching awards in higher education at institutional level has developed over the past decade in Ireland. Some research has suggested that teaching awards create substantial benefits in higher education by motivating and recognising excellent teachers. However, not all of the literature favours the existence of teaching award systems. The experience of participating in a teaching award system has rarely been captured or subjected to analysis or reflection. Specifically, there has been very little discussion in the literature about what individual academics derive from participating in an award process. This paper explores the benefits and tensions of participating in a regional teaching award process. The analysis provides insights relating to the expected and unexpected benefits and tensions associated with that experience. It also aims to inform academic developers about the enablers that supported participants through the process.