Answering an on-stage question is a necessity for most pageant winners. I always tell my clients, if you want the crown, you have to go through the orientation, the rehearsals, learn an opening number dance, be called into the top 10, answer a question on stage, and hold some other woman’s hand while you both sweat to death until your name is called….it’s all part of the game of pageantry.
When you commit to winning a pageant, you commit to answering questions in front of crowds, sometimes hundreds, thousands or hundreds of thousands.
Trust me, the more you prepare the easier it is. Just like a celebrity prepares to promote their movie on a talk show or a politician is debriefed for a press conference, you, too, must be prepared with talking points for the public.
Having a process to understand the on-stage question is key to preparing your talking points for your answer.
Pageants are much easier than the press, so this skill will need to be continually developed as you continue in your pageant career, but the model remains the same.
Know what the on-stage question is really about.
The judges are measuring how well you can craft a full thought and inspire action in a very short amount of time.
My training as a professional host in Los Angeles taught me to speak in sound bites. This is also a great way to become selected to be the next bachelorette on ABC. Speaking in sound bites provides full thoughts in small snippets. Media loves this because they can edit and maintain context. For example, if a question is “What is the most important idea of your platform” you can’t leave your platform out of your answer or else your audience has no context.
Usually, an on-stage answer is about 30 seconds so communicating your message at 30,000 feet is ideal. If you get too detailed, you’ll have to back out of it awkwardly or you’ll over-talk until that annoying bell will ring you off stage.
Know that most on-stage questions are the same.
Pageants do that to level the playing field. Sometimes a girl will get a curve ball, but for the most part you can expect questions to focus on seven main topics: Education, Fundraising, Awareness, Impact/Legacy, Strategic Plans/Marketing, Opposition/Challenges, and Personality.
For my clients, we work together to prepare specific actions and answers for each of these areas of conversation. Inevitably, they’ll come up if not during interview, at a fundraising event or other appearance and you’ll want to be prepared.
For on-stage question, I recommend lumping several of these together. For example, your Legacy Project, can include elements of education, fundraising. Your Marketing or strategic plan will include elements of raising awareness. All of these will be developed with your opposition and challenges in mind as well as your ultimate legacy. So….they all tie together! Which means if you can work through each of these, you can create an on-stage answer that is well thought and meaningful in advance so you can relax while the other girls freak out back stage!
Here’s how to outline your answer:
Step 1 – Main Point (story or statistic) – a new angle on a concept that gets people excited to be a part of it. Ask yourself: Why should anyone care about your platform?
Step 2 – Strategic Plan (Fundraising, Partnerships, Marketing Plan) – prove you have value to bring the title/pageant. Ask yourself: What are you going to use your title to create during your year? Also consider your Biggest Opposition/Shadow Side and how will you handle it?
Step 3 – Measurable Impact/Legacy (Numbers, Dollars, Percents) – this is what you’ll leave having accomplished. Ask yourself: How will the world be different because you held this title?
Step 4 – Inject personality and vocal inflection
Step 5 – Be real and answer the actual question
At Miss International , the questions are historically related to Education, Awareness, and Fundraising. So, I crafted an answer focusing on these topics, which pushed the agenda of my campaigning for the national title.
My answer was:
“My strategy as Miss International would be to create strategic partnerships on a global level. As the official spokesperson for the International Sports Science Association, I’ll use their film studio to film my Get A Better Body series on DVD and distribute it to 182 countries. And, I’ll work with The AHA for distribution in the US. My goal is to get more people exercising for a healthier life… and a better body.”
Here’s a video example of my on-stage question that was taken during rehearsal at the Miss International 2014 pageant.
The actual question I ended up getting was related to the shadow side (what wasn’t yet seen) of my current platform. But, I was ready for that, too, so the answer still worked 😉 Nerve-free and easy!
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And, that ladies, is how you win a pageant!