Pageants usually conduct onstage interviews and top five questions. These crucial top five questions and on-stage interviews are some of the most important aspects of pageant competition, where you must know how to succeed.
The Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss Universe pageants, in particular, place heavy emphasis on speaking skills with three onstage interviews:
- Semi-finalists’ conversation with the host
- Finalists’ questions from judges
- Identical or non-identical top five questions (or top 3 questions)
Consequently, being comfortable answering questions on-stage before an audience or television audience is imperative to success in pageants. Whether it is the crucial top five questions, on-stage interviews with the pageant emcee or on-stage pageant questions and tests, speaking on-stage is one of the most important aspects of pageant competition. Why are they so important? Pageant questions have a great impact on the judges and often determine who wears the crown by revealing which contestant is best qualified to fulfill the actual day-to-day functions of the pageant titleholder.
The eventual winner must be able to converse with reporters (without embarrassing gaffs), give press conferences, deliver speeches with little preparation (sometimes before state legislations and the U.S. Congress), and converse comfortably on live television during her reign.
Major national titleholders often glide off the runway and onto the sets of Piers Morgan , Late Show With David Letterman, and a slew of morning talk shows. There simply isn’t time to teach the winner to communicate in public.
Therefore, judges place a great emphasis on a contestant’s ability to sound like a winner in the spotlight. Obviously, for judges, onstage interviews and top five questions test and reveal each contestant’s ability to think on her feet and express herself under pressure, which in turn, reveals to judges how she would handle the interviews, press conferences and public speeches required of a titleholder.
Onstage communication also reveals which contestants have the outgoing personality to chat cordially and confidently with everyone from major celebrities during television specials to executives at a sponsor’s reception. “The Miss USA system is looking for a hostess,” says Kati Fish, a former Miss Arkansas-USA, “someone who will be able to stand in a cocktail party, mingle, and carry on a conversation with anyone. By the time you get to the national level you’ve got to be a natural. You’ve got to be able to speak easily on just about any subject – whether you are talking to one person, five thousand, or five million.”
Whatever the format, the quality sought is always the same – effective, pleasant, diplomatic communication skills under pressure. The bottom line, says Richard Guy, is “These girls have got to be able to speak!”
Tips for On-Stage Questions
- Always take a breath before speaking.
- Don’t grab the microphone from the emcee.
- Don’t lean toward a hand-held or stand microphone.
- Even if you are scared-look confident and relaxed.
- Jitters can raise the voice. Lower your voice a bit.
- If the host asks you a question, don’t stare at the judges when answering. Look at the host, then include the audience and judges as you speak.
- If a judge asks you a question, smile at him or her first, then include the other judges and audience.
- Get to the point. Don’t ramble.
On-Stage Questions Often Come From Your Contestant Fact Sheet
Whether the format is an on-stage interview, a question from a judge, or a top 5 final question, creating a winning image depends upon using carefully chosen personal information to mold how judges view you. Fortunately, you can often help shape what questions you are asked.
Obviously, the success of an onstage interview often depends on the quality of the material the emcee has to draw upon…and you supply pageant organizers with the information they will draw upon in writing their on-stage questions. “We take the information off of their contestant fact sheet and entry form and they have a conversation based on that information,” confirms Tina Birkett, of the Miss Teen All American Pageant.
If a contestant’s entry form or fact sheet offers interesting hobbies, athletic awards, academic pursuits, career goals, or family trivia, the emcee will have an assortment of colorful topics to ask her about. The better the topics, the better the questions, the better the onstage interview, the better your scores.
However, you can never tell what entry on your pageant fact sheet will catch the emcee’s eye and lead to an unusual question, so be prepared for anything and everything. For example, during her on-stage interview as a semi-finalist, Dick Clark asked one teen contestant to do an impersonation of her favorite character (which she had mentioned in her contestant fact sheet) – on live national television. Nothing like a little pressure, but she gamely went along with it.
Know your contestant fact sheet inside and out, and be prepared for question related to anything on that fact sheet!
What Judges Look For
While the judging criteria will differ from pageant to pageant, some of the qualities judges consider include:
- Personality, charm, sincerity, charisma
- Confidence, poise, and composure before an audience
- Pleasant conversationalist
- Ability to think on one’s feet under pressure
- Able to articulate one’s opinions and values
- Voice, vocabulary, grammar, eloquence
- Content of remarks
- Courage of her convictions
- Use of wit and humor
- Suitability as a role model! sponsor spokesperson
- Overall impression
Onstage questions, introductory statements, casual conversations, and final questions and interviews provide an ideal opportunity for a contestant to create a winning image because they all help judges to get to know the candidates better.
Every time a young woman opens her mouth to speak, her personal style is immediately evident. Is she a casual collegiate athlete, an intellectual law student, a wholesome future kindergarten teacher, or a gorgeous, but ditzy, aspiring actress? The way she communicates types the young woman.
Consequently, use onstage communication to create a winning image by emphasizing what is special and admirable about you.