Today, I’m saving you from the ‘deer in the headlights’ look.
I know you’ve seen it before. It’s so super awkward for your whole audience and the poor girl usually doesn’t even know it’s happening until she gets the photos back and she blames the photographer for catching her at a bad moment…until she gets the DVD and realizes she had no good moment.
The ‘deer in the headlights’ phrase describes the pageant girl that walks onto stage and nearly freezes like a deer that steps out onto the road and freezes looking right at it until it’s hit at full speed. It’s awful. For everyone. But especially for the woman that doesn’t even realize she’s doing it.
First, let me explain what is going on in the woman’s mind when she is standing there, looking stunningly gorgeous but with giant doe-eyes, frozen in a stiff pose and barely breathing. This happens when a woman is fully aware of her surroundings and not aware of her own existence. This happens from nerves. It’s like an out of body experience. You end up just floating along, blacked out to what your body is doing and so focused on what everyone else is doing and thinking. When you walk off stage, you could explain exactly what you saw in the audience, the judges faces, the kid picking his nose in the front, but you have no recollection of not breathing, blinking or connecting with the audience.
Women that have little experience on a stage are more susceptible to becoming the deer in the headlights because they aren’t used to understanding their body awareness under spotlights when they are being watched, not to mention judged. Women with excellent self awareness on stage are usually dancers, athletes, and singers – people who have performed so much they are unaffected by the dynamic change from being in the audience to being in the spotlight.
A pageant is just like any stage performance. All the people in the audience are behaving normally and the people on the stage are captivating the attention of the audience to spark an emotion that entertains and delights. It’s a form of one-way communication that not everyone is skilled at. When someone who is not used to that level of responsibility and communication is brought onto a stage, she could easily freeze under the pressure.
The best way to cultivate this self-awareness is through actual stage experience. Take up a dance class where you have to perform in front of your classmates. Join Toastmasters where you practice giving speeches to the group. Or spontaneously bust out into song and dance outside the Gap at the mall. Ok, that last one is extreme, but truly the best way to experience the spotlight is to jump in!
But… you know this episode doesn’t end there. I have a less-vulnerable way to remain aware of your own actions while on stage and communicate with your audience appropriately.
Mostly, it’s a mindset shift. You have to recognize that your job is to perform. That means to communicate an emotion and engage a reaction that delights your audience. To do that, you have to fully own your responsibility and know what you want to communicate.
That’s where my Mantra Exercise comes in. A mantra is something that you say over and over to evoke a reaction. People use mantras to stop eating junk food by saying, ‘I love healthy food. I love healthy food.’ over and over.
Some people start every day with powerful mantras like,
‘I am wise, powerful, and influential. Today, I will conquer
whatever comes my way.’
I use mantras in pageant competition to evoke an emotion that I want to communicate to my judges and audience. Here’s how:
For every phase of competition, I consider what emotion I want to evoke in my audience and in myself. For example, in evening gown, I want to evoke a sense of love and grace. I want my audience to say, ‘She was so lovely and gracious.’ Knowing what I want them to say, I can create what I want to communicate to get that reaction – do you follow me?
So, I would want to communicate something like, ‘Thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor to be here.’ And their response would be the feeling of love and grace.
For swimsuit, I wanted to evoke an emotion from my judges that was something like, ‘I wanna go hang out with her, she looks like she’s on top of the world!’ So my mantra was ‘I’m having a pool party, you’re totally invited.’
As I entered stage for each phase of competition, I would say that mantra in my mind over and over and ‘perform’ that phrase to communicate with my audience. Every one of my clients that has done this says the same thing – ‘It helped me relate to my audience and I wasn’t as nervous!’
There are 2 keys to creating your mantras:
First, they have to be authentic to you. Something you would actually say in real life.
Secondly, they have to include your audience in some fashion.
I make sure mine say ‘you’ somehow: you are totally invited, thank YOU for having me. That helps to make sure you are actually communicating with them and not just in la-la land on stage saying things like ‘I’m so sexy, I’m so hot’ – that’s different. Your performance has to communicate with the judges.
Communication is key!
Because, that, my dear, is how you win a pageant.
For more great pageant training, enroll in the Free Pageant Course