Katie Stam with parents after winning Miss America pageant.

When you hear the words “pageant mom” you probably wince and roll your eyes. But sometimes pageant mom’s get a bad rap. The vast majority of the moms of the contestants I work with are supportive, encouraging and super helpful. But occasionally, I’ll run into a situation where the mom really wants to help, but the daughter doesn’t want to practice her pageant interview with her mom. That’s perfectly understandable; it’s part of a life cycle that specifically impacts Teen and Miss contestants. But there are ways that your mom can help your interview without actually practicing pageant questions and answers. Check out the 4 things below that you and Mom can do to improve your pageant interview.

1. Have a Daily 10 Minute Conversation.  According to communication studies, conversations about everyday activities are more complicated than they seem. You’re taking in obvious information as well as information that requires you to “read between the lines.” Then, you process that information and make your next statement to continue the conversation. While all this is going on, you’re also observing the message, tone, and body language of the other person.  These are the same skills you use when interacting with the judges during your pageant interview. Surprisingly, just a 10-minute conversation every day with your mom can improve your skills. You can talk about school, an activity you’re involved in, or anything else you can think of. But, don’t do it in question-answer style. Just have a conversation about the topic. This technique improves your cognitive skills, develops interview content, and polishes interview delivery skills. Having just a short, 10-minute, conversation with your mom (or someone else) every day can have a big payoff in the interview room!

2. Talk About Current Event Issues.  Current Events questions strike fear in the heart of even the most experienced contestant. But brushing up on current events doesn’t have to be difficult and time-consuming. Begin by having a conversation with your mom (or someone else) about something recently in the news.  Once you understand that basic facts of the topic, discuss the “behind the story” or contributing issues. (Hot tip: it’s always the “behind the story” issues that make a great current events answer.) Then ask your Mom’s opinion on the topic. Listen politely, don’t butt in. Then, it’s Mom’s turn to listen while you state your opinion. And since you didn’t butt in, she doesn’t get to either. She doesn’t get to correct your content, tell you what she would have said, or disagree with your position. This is just a chance for you to get information about a topic and then practice stating your opinion. Before you know it, you’ll be able to discuss a variety of current events topics with ease!

3. Defend the Opposite of Your Position.  People are always amazed at my ability to create a great answer for several different opinions on any topic. (As a pageant coach, I don’t think it’s my job to tell you what your opinion should be. My job is to teach you how to express your own opinion.) How do I do it? When I hear a news story, I listen to the facts, determine my opinion, and then make sure I understand the perspective of others who might have an opposite opinion. This might sound like extra work, but I guarantee you’ll be able to discuss topics with much more depth if you practice considering the issue from a different point of view.  If you’re typically in favor of gun control, practice discussing why people might be opposed to gun control. But don’t give a vague, general answer, be specific. This technique is easy to practice this with your mom (or someone who knows you well) because they can help give you insights on why they, or someone else, might have an opinion that’s different from your own. Of course, during your pageant interview, you’ll be answering based on your true position on the topic. If you practice defending the opposite of your position you’ll be surprised at the level of sophistication you display during your next pageant interview!

4. Use Conversations to Build Your Vocabulary.  Studies indicate that the average high school senior has been exposed to over 45,000 words throughout their education.  However, the average high school senior typically only uses 17,000 of those words in everyday conversation. What does this mean? You probably already have a wide vocabulary, but you may not be using it. Make a specific goal in your 10-minute conversation with mom to use different words than you would usually use.  Incorporate new words that you’ve heard on TV, read in a book, or saw on the Internet.  Sign up for free word-a-day emails and practice using your new word in a sentence each day.  Gradually expanding your vocabulary on a daily basis will make certain that you’re not at a loss for words in the interview room.

So next time your Mom asks if you’ve cleaned your room or done your homework, get her involved in a conversation that can actually help you improve your interview.

You’re going to be FABulous!

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