Unfortunately, you’ve seen it more than once. A beautiful, poised young woman steps to the front of the stage and draws her question from the bowl. She listens intently while the emcee reads her question, she takes a deep breath and begins her answer.

The first few words are okay, but it quickly goes downhill from there. She bravely tries to work her way through it, but nobody’s buying it – including the judges. She wraps up her answer and returns to the lineup, covering her disappointment with her best beauty queen smile.

The on-stage question portion of your competition can be a little intimidating. So how can you avoid making the mistakes that other contestants make? Just check out these 3 Sure Ways to Bomb Your Pageant On Stage Question.

1. You Try To Ride The Fence

Every contestant fears a tough, controversial question. But the purpose of a controversial question is to determine how you will handle that type of question when doing a media interview as the titleholder.

Many contestants don’t want to offend the judges, so they decide to go with a “ride the fence answer.” But this kind of answer leaves the judges feeling like you’re unsure of your position on this topic.

Let’s take a look at Miss Arizona’s, Alicia-Monique Blanco, answer at the 2009 Miss USA pageant.

Question: “Do you believe that the United States should have universal healthcare as a right of citizenship?”

Answer: “I think this is an issue of integrity regardless of which end of the political spectrum that I stand on. I was raised in a family to know right from wrong and politics, whether or not you fall in the middle, the left or the right, it’s an issue of integrity, no matter what your opinion is, and I say that with the utmost conviction.”

Not only does she avoid stating an opinion, but she doesn’t answer the question and sounds seriously confused in the process.

It’s okay to want to deliver your answer without offending others. But trying to ride the fence right down the middle often ends in an answer that doesn’t score.

2. Your Answer Shows that You Don’t Know About the Subject

While nobody knows everything, your on stage interview is not the time to demonstrate that you didn’t adequately prepare for common current events topics.

The whole purpose of the on stage question is to help break the ‘dumb beauty queen’ stereotype. It’s your opportunity to demonstrate that you’re just as smart as you are beautiful.

Of course, you should thoroughly prepare for any possible on stage question. Thorough preparation is key to a winning answer.

But what should you do if you’re not familiar with the subject of your question? Use your common sense.

Most contestants immediately panic when they’re not familiar with the topic in the question. But, if you listen to the question closely, I bet you can create an answer.

How? In each question, there are clues that will help you answer the question.

Let’s use Miss Utah USA 2013, Marissa Powell’s question and answer as an example.

Question: “Recent reports show that in 40% of American families with children, women are the primary earners, yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society?”

Answer: “I think we can relate this back to education and how we are continuing to try to strive to figure out how to create jobs right now. That is the biggest problem. I think especially the men are seen as leaders of this and so we need to figure out how to create education better so we can solve this problem.”

If she had just listened carefully to the question and used her common sense, she would have recognized that this is a question about whether or not it’s fair that women often make less than men.

By using only the information in the question, she could have created an answer. She could lead with, “I am very concerned that women are the primary wage earners in 40% of families yet they continue to earn less than men.”

Then she could throw in a common sense sentence, “I think it’s important that we, as a society, work to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work.”

Then she could wrap up with a ‘world peace’ closing sentence, “If we all work together to ensure that both men and women are paid appropriately it will benefit families and children throughout the country.”

3. You Wander Around Hoping To Find An Answer

Judges and audience members alike hate answers that wander all over without ever answering the question.

This typically happens when a contestant knows that she doesn’t have a great answer. She keeps on talking in the hopes that she’ll come up with something along the way. Let me be clear: you’ll never come up with something along the way.

Let’s look at Caitlin Upton, Miss South Carolina Teen USA 2007’s answer:

Question: “Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can’t locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?”

Answer: “I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uhmmm, some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and uh, I believe that our, I, education like such as, uh, South Africa, and uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uhhh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, should help South Africa, it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future, for us.”

We all know that it’s hard to answer an on stage questions. But if you really and truly don’t have an answer, the best choice is to make your answer short and sweet.

You must resist the temptation to ramble on hoping you’ll come up with an answer along the way. If you don’t have a good answer up front, you’re not going to invent one in the middle of your answer.

Remember, the on stage question is typically not the deciding factor for your final placement. Some pageants don’t even score the on stage question. And for those that do, your on stage question is typically only 10% of your total score.

If you give an okay answer – not great – just okay, it’s probably not going to drag your score down. If the judges loved you before your question, they’ll still love you if you give an ‘okay’ answer.  But if you just keep talking without ever answering the question, it’s going to impact your placement.

The best way to avoid bombing your on stage interview is to make sure you practice your answers. The #1 difference between contestants and contenders for the crown, is that contestants hope to win and contenders practice their skills.

After all, practice makes perfect, right?