One of the most common stereotypes about pageant contestants is that they are mindless Barbie dolls who repeat scripted, memorized answers. After all, Miss Congeniality premiered almost 20 years ago, and people still joke about the “World Peace“ answer.
These types of answers are often scored down by judges because the contestant sounds over-rehearsed. Judges feel that contestants who sound over-rehearsed aren’t being authentic or genuine. They’re concerned that you’re just repeating a canned answer that someone else told you to say.
But it can be frustrating when you invest time to develop your pageant interview skills, and then are told you sound over rehearsed. What’s a girl to do?
Of course, you should practice common pageant interview questions ahead of time. But the trick is to practice them correctly. Don’t memorize answers word for word. Don’t repeat answers that you’ve heard other contestants give. And don’t say something just because that’s how your mom or Director would answer the question. You want to sound prepared without sounding like a robot.
Your judges see scripted, memorized answers as a crutch. And I know you don’t want to look like you need a crutch to deliver a great interview.
In order to be believable, and let your personality shine through, here are some tips to fix your over rehearsed pageant interview.
1. Know Your Material
Let’s step out of Pageant Land for a moment and think about the conversations that you have every day. Let’s pretend that you’re a competitive dancer and someone asks you how you got started in dance. Or maybe you play in the school orchestra and someone asks you why you decided to play the violin. You could easily answer those questions because you’re extremely familiar with that material. You know that your mom signed you up for dance after you destroyed your bedroom while rockin’ out to Beyonce. And you remember that you decided to play the violin after hearing Itzhak Perlman play at a concert you attended with your grandmother.
It’s easy to answer those questions because you’re 100% familiar with those topics. So, to easily answer questions in the interview room you’ve got to be an expert on your content.
What does that mean? If your judges are instructed to only ask questions from your bio, prepare for any possible question that could come from your contestant resume.
If your interview includes discussion of your personal platform, come prepared with statistics, a list of your appearances, and the goals for your platform.
And, if your interview could cover current events, you need to be consistently tracking and thinking about stories in the news.
If you know your material, inside and out, you’re less likely to rely on scripted answers during your interview.
2. Think, Think, Think
To answer any question during your interview you’ve got to be on your toes and think. But most of your thinking should take place well before your pageant interview.
Once you know your material, you want to think about it and let it simmer for a while.
Recently I was working on a tough question with a contestant, and she was really struggling with an answer. She needed an answer that indicated her ability to be a spokesperson for the pageant, but it also had to be something that she genuinely believed. It took her two weeks of thinking and a couple of appointments to come up with an answer she liked. And it was a killer answer.
You see, you can’t just know your material and then leave it there. You have to engage in some critical thinking. The more you think about something, the more familiar you are with the topic. And the more familiar you are with the topic, the easier it is for you to develop an opinion or answer.
And don’t just limit your thinking time to practice sessions. Think about things while you’re working out, getting dressed, or taking a long bubble bath.
The more you think about your answer content, the easier it will be to deliver without sounding memorized.
3. Just Talk About It
Now that you know your material and have given it some thought, practice talking about your material in everyday conversations. But not in question/answer mode, just talk about it. Ask Mom to chat with you about your proudest moment. Talk about what it was, why you picked that moment, and how you felt at the time. She can contribute by talking about what she remembers about that moment and why she was so proud of you.
Then move on to another topic with someone else. Talk to your college roommate about your favorite holiday family tradition. Give details, make her feel like she’s actually there experiencing the tradition herself.
And it goes without saying that you need to have discussions with others about stories in the news. The challenge with current events topics is that sometimes they’re controversial and people have strong personal opinions. So limit those discussions to your family, close personal friends, or your pet hamster. You know…people who won’t be offended and shame you on social media for your opinion.
Once you’ve mastered your material, given it some thought, and talked about it with others, it’s time to decide if you want to adjust your answer content. Maybe you’ve learned something new and changed your mind along the way. Or maybe you’ve become even more adamant about your position. In Pageant Land there’s always room to adjust. Just because you’ve given one answer before, doesn’t mean you have to stick to that answer. And just because you’ve heard other contestants answer a certain way before, doesn’t mean that you have to give the same answer.
When you take the opportunity to adjust, you’re personalizing your answer. And when you personalize your content, it’s easier to remember so you won’t be tempted to give a scripted answer. When you deliver your answer, the judges will be able to see that you are genuine and in the moment.
So next time you hear yourself giving a general, memorized answer, stop and work through these steps. You’re not like other contestants and you shouldn’t sound like them. Your content should be just as special and unique as you are.
By taking a little time, you can fix your over-rehearsed pageant interview and win over the judges.
You’re going to be FABulous!