Miss Utah Struggles to Answer Question at Miss USA

I know you’ve seen this happen. A beautiful contestant walks up to the microphone and prepares to deliver what she hopes will be a winning answer. She does her best, flashes her brightest beauty queen smile, and returns to her spot in the lineup. But everyone else gets a strange look on their face as they realize that she didn’t actually answer the question. And if audience members and the emcee noticed, you can bet the judges did too.

So why do contestants who have practiced for hours and hours end up in this situation? For the answer to that, check out my 3 Reasons Why You Didn’t Answer Your Pageant Interview Question.

1. You’ve Only Practiced One Answer on That Topic

You know that you need to practice your interview answers. But did you know that you need to practice multiple possible questions for each topic and sub-topic? Most contestants only practice one or two questions per topic.

Often when your answer is sort of on the topic but doesn’t really answer the question, your practice strategy is to the problem. You’ve probably only prepared content for one or two questions on that topic, but then the judge asks a question that doesn’t exactly match your prepared content. You can’t think of new content on the spot, so you deliver what you practiced and hope that the judges don’t notice.

But here’s the thing, if you are able to notice that your answer doesn’t fit the question, the judges will too. And let’s be honest, it’s obvious when a response didn’t answer the question. You don’t need to wait to review the video clip. You immediately have an uneasy feeling that your answer missed the mark.

So the key when practicing your interview is to practice with a big list of pageant interview questions. This will help you to practice different versions of questions on a variety of topics. Because even just a one-word difference can completely change the meaning of a question.

It can seem tedious to practice multiple versions of questions, but if you practice your interview correctly, you can rack up interview points and pull ahead of your competition.

2. You’re Cramming Content Where It Doesn’t Belong

Often contestants decide ahead of time what they want to tell the judges. They want to tell them about their plans as the titleholder. Or they want to tell them about the personal challenges they’ve overcome in life. And both of those answers would be great if the answer matches that question the judge asked.

But many contestants mistakenly think the way to ‘control’ the interview is to decide ahead of time what they want to tell the judges. But what if what you want to tell the judges isn’t what they want to know about you? What if they ask questions they feel will help them determine who to vote for as the next titleholder, but you ignore the question and cram your prepared content into your answer.

Each judge has a slightly different idea of what they’re looking for in a titleholder. One judge may be looking for someone who has made a lot of appearances. Another judge might think that honors and achievements are most important. And a third judge might feel that your knowledge of the pageant’s official platform is key.

And here’s the problem with cramming content: you don’t know what the judges think is important. You have your idea of what’s important, and you assume that the judges feel that way too. But often that’s not the case.

So what’s a contestant to do?

The judges are leaving you clues throughout your interview about what they think is important. The questions that the judges ask are like a little trail of breadcrumbs that lead to the title. It’s very easy to get distracted by what you think is important, but then you’re not following the little breadcrumb trail.

If you forget about your grand strategy based on what you think is important and stick to answering the question that is asked, you’ll be providing the judges with the information they’re looking for to determine if you’re a great fit for the crown.

Don’t be tempted to stray. If the judge asks, “What is your favorite color?” and you answer, “Pink because it reminds me of my breast cancer platform.” Or if they ask, “What is your favorite subject in school?” and you respond with, “Science because it reminds me of my STEM platform,” you’re forcing content where it doesn’t belong. They want to know what it is that appeals to you about the color blue. Maybe you find it relaxing or it might remind you of a clear sky on a sunny day. And maybe you love science class because you enjoy conducting experiments and problem-solving.

If you listen to the question, don’t force content, and follow the breadcrumbs, you’ll find your way to a top interview score!

3. You’re Afraid of Controversial Topics

Answering current events questions can often be challenging, especially if it involves a controversial topic. Contestants don’t want to give a current events answer that might offend the judges. But if you’re afraid of a question, you can’t give a great answer.

Often in my private VIP Coaching appointments, contestants ask me to help them create a ‘middle of the road’ answer to a current events question. When I ask them if they have an opinion on the topic, they sort of have an opinion, but are not completely sure. Why? Because they’re afraid of controversial topics and don’t want to give an answer with their real opinion for fear of not giving the ‘right’ answer.

But you can answer current events questions diplomatically in a way that won’t offend anyone, even if the judge’s opinion is different from your own.

When you get a question about a controversial topic, you don’t need to come across as indecisive. You just need to understand the facts related to that topic and then tactfully deliver your answer. The judges are evaluating you based on your knowledge of the topic, your explanation of your opinion, and the manner in which you deliver your answer.

I’ve successfully coached contestants to deliver opinions about abortion, gun control, and immigration. I’ve helped created tactful answers for LGBT rights, health care, and pay equity. Often these contestants end up winning Interview and the title. And these contestants all have different opinions and give very different answers.

But if you shy away from studying controversial topics and don’t have a structured formula for answering tough questions, you’ll come across as indecisive and unsure. You end up giving a milk-toast answer that doesn’t impress anyone.

So next time you’re tempted to whiz through your pageant interview practice session, take time to evaluate how you’re practicing. Are you practicing three to four possible questions for each item on your contestant resume? Are you stuffing pre-determined answers where they don’t belong? Have you taken the time to determine your position on controversial topics?

A strategic approach to your practice sessions will ensure that you always answer the question and impress the judges. After all, we both know you’d make a terrific titleholder.

You’re going to be FABulous!