How to Improve Your Communication Skills for Pageant Interviews
Strong communication skills are one of the most effective keys to the crown. Since pageant interviews combine elements of both public speaking and casual conversation, a contestant should become skilled at both arts.
Give Speeches in Public
“Speaking is a skill that is learned. I would suggest that every contestant take a course in extemporaneous speaking. There are courses offered in high school and at local colleges. Take as many courses in speech as you can because it trains you mentally to answer questions. If you can give a hundred speeches around your community — do it!”– says Donna Axum, a former Miss America and national pageant judge.
To develop public speaking skills, contestants should practice speaking before an audience.
“Speaking is a skill that is learned,” says Donna Axum, a former Miss America and two-time Miss America judge. “I would suggest that every contestant take a course in extemporaneous speaking. There are courses offered in high school and at local colleges. Take as many courses in speech as you can because it trains you mentally to answer questions. If you can give a hundred speeches around your community — do it!”
The more you speak in public the more confident you become communicating to your “audience” of judges during personal interviews, as well as onstage interviews with pageant emcees.
Helping their titleholders become winning communicators through months of constant public speaking is one of the “secrets” of the famed GuyRex team, former owners of the Miss Texas-USA franchise that produced five back-to-back Miss USAs (1985 to 1989). Laura Martinez Herring, the first in that chain of champions, started off as a shy naturalized Mexican-American citizen with a thick accent. Within two years, she was chatting away with Bob Barker at the Miss Universe Pageant in front of 600 million viewers as the first Hispanic Miss USA. Herring observes, “Making speeches really does something for you.”
Absolutely. It gives you the confidence and communication skills to convince the judges you’re their winner.
Take every opportunity to improve your communication skills:
- Practice interviewing in front of a mirror.
- Take speech classes in school.
- Sign up for your school’s debate team.
- Give speeches to local clubs and schools.
- Join a Toastmasters club.
Improve Your Conversation Skills
“There’s got to be a genuine dialogue of give-and-take. Don’t speak at the judges. Speak with them and to them.” — Dennison Keller, noted official and judge.
Pleasant conversation skills are important in any pageant system.
“It needs to be spontaneous,” says Dennison Keller, noted official and judge. “There’s a certain relaxation where the person is just chatting with you. There’s got to be a genuine dialogue of give-and-take. Don’t speak at the judges. Speak with them and to them.”
Fortunately, friendly, relaxed conversational skills can be developed with a two-step strategy: Keep up with topics likely to come up in conversation, and constantly interact with people around you.
“One of the main things you can do to speak more easily is to be knowledgeable. If you have no idea what’s going on in the world you’re not going to be able to speak easily to anyone about any subject. Know what’s going on in the world around you!” Second, she says, “Force yourself to be around people, to create conversations, to talk to people. If you’re standing in line in the grocery store, start a conversation with the person behind you. If you’re in line for concert tickets, talk to the next person in line. That’s the easiest way to become a more outgoing person.” — Kati Fish, Miss Arkansas-USA 1993.
Such practical steps have worked for many titleholders.
Kris Beasley, Miss Tennessee 1986, practiced interviewing with her father every night.
“He would ask me how I felt about different issues, and I would toss those issues around. He helped me to see sides of issues that I had never thought about before and to become more competent in expressing my thoughts. But in the beginning. I was afraid to even answer in front of him because I was afraid I might not sound right. But I found that the more I spoke, the better I became, and the more I knew what to say. It got to the point where my father would say, ‘Man, I never have to worry about what you’re going to say because you always pull it off.'”
Experience is the best teacher.