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5 Tips to Nail Your 60 Second Pageant Interview

National American Miss Titleholders - Photo courtesy of Trinity Turlington.
National American Miss Titleholders. Photo courtesy of Trinity Turlington.

There has been a recent rise in short interviews in the pageant world. While most interviews seem to last three to four minutes, many systems are conducting interviews for just one to two minutes.

In fact, the one-minute interview format is one we often work on in our mock interviews.

I affectionately refer to it as, “Pageant Speed-dating.”

You want to make sure the judges really get to know you and if they only get to ask you one question and you don’t even get to finish answering it in one minute, that’s not a great impression to leave behind.

Think about it, in Miss America, they are given 20 seconds to answer their onstage question. In one minute, that’s three onstage questions. Granted you are also contending with the judges asking the question, but it shouldn’t take up too much of your time. So you still should be able to get two to three questions in one minute.

Additionally, a titleholder should be able to express her views and thoughts in a timely manner as to not take up too much time when meeting people at events or conversing with stakeholders who are often crunched for time.

With a little practice and preparation, you can totally do this.

5 Tips to Nail Your 60 Second Pageant Interview

1. Be prepared

Preparation is key when you don’t have much time. Just like laying out your wardrobe and supplies the night before to ensure a smooth and efficient morning, interview works the same. The better prepared, the smoother it goes. (Read: The 10 Toughest Pageant Interview Questions and How to Answer Them)

“…Remember, the interview process begins before you walk in the room. The first step for any process is preparation. You should practice your communication skills long before you get to your pageant,” said LaKishia Edwards, NAM National Coordinator. “Be sure to work on making eye contact, sitting with good posture, and answering with well-developed thoughts.”

Tip: Ask friends, teachers and coworkers to look over your bio sheet and ask you one question pertaining to the information on it. Make sure your posture is pageant perfect during this practice, too. Some people may ask you about the same thing, but perhaps in a different way, so this will give you plenty of practice to be prepared while not memorizing your answers.

You can even have friends buddy up and have each one ask you about the same subject on your bio sheet, and you can make sure you don’t answer it verbatim as the time before.

2. Don’t memorize answers

The absolute worst moment is when you’ve been asked a question you know you know the answer to but because you’re nervous, the precise way you want to answer said question floats from your brain into oblivion.

It’s waiting by the door, though, because as soon as you pass through that threshold at the conclusion of your interview, it will fall back into your head.

To avoid these blunders, don’t memorize your answers. This isn’t a presentation, it’s an interview.

“Interview should be a conversation. Using voice inflection and strategic pauses aid in making sure responses sound natural and not monotone. Never memorize your answers, because if you forget, you get that ‘deer in headlights’ look,” said Casey Crow McCorquodale, pageant coach. “Instead, have bullet points in mind. Most importantly, let your personality shine!”

Bonus Tip: To practice inflection and pauses, read children’s books aloud. There are a lot of characters and emotions, so you can really practice this. You don’t even need to read at library story times or in classrooms to accomplish this; your teddy bears and other stuffed friends make great, nonjudgmental interview practice companions. But, reading to a group of kiddos is a great appearance opportunity, too.

Your personality is key to winning a pageant. If you’re trying to remember the exact way you wanted to express a thought, your personality is going to be stifled or worse, sound rehearsed and come across fake.

“…Be careful not to sound rehearsed; it may seem insincere,” Edwards said. “Every question you will be asked at NAM is going to be a question that you already know the answer to because each question will be about you.”

Edwards added, “Your goal is to sit with this new friend, the interviewer, and let them learn a bit about yourself. By answering the question with good eye contact, complete sentences, and a complete answer, you will be giving the interviewer everything that they need.”

Tip: Be you! Don’t try to imitate the girl that won last year. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Most importantly, don’t try to fit yourself into whatever box you have imagined pageant girls to be in. You never know what the judges are looking for and girl, it just might be you.

3. Communication skills are key

When you only have one minute, you need to be able to convey your message and story in the least amount of time possible. This is where the preparation comes in handy, but you also need to know how to communicate your thoughts coherently and concisely so you don’t waste time rambling or stumbling.

“Tell your story, create a picture for the judges, and have personality. Get a coach to help you decide what you need [to] work on to give a positive impression and how to be concise since you don’t have much time,” said Wendi Russo, pageant coach. “Sometimes you think you are amazing at answering questions and do not recognize how you come across to people who don’t know you, so having an outside honest opinion on how you communicate is key!”

Remember, the judges don’t know you, so even though your friends and family may find you totally hilarious or your expressions unoffensive, to others it may come off very differently. (Read: Should You Shake Hands in Pageant Interview?)

“You should practice your communication skills long before you get to your pageant. Be sure to work on making eye contact, sitting with good posture, and answering with well-developed thoughts,” Edwards said.

Tip: Practice with a stopwatch. Ask yourself the question, then start the stopwatch and answer as you normally would. Stop the time when you complete your answer and see how long you took; you’d be surprised how long you can talk about the simplest things.

4. Command attention

From the moment you walk into your interview, make sure to command the room. Titleholders are expected to command the attention of the audience wherever they go, so make sure you demonstrate this quality at this time.

“You must walk in with power; remember my phrase, ‘Powerful People Take Up Physical Space™,'” said Deb Sofield, interview coach.

Make sure to practice your interview walk just as you would your onstage walk. While there may not be lights and music, you are on stage in the interview room the moment that door opens for you to walk in. Treat that walk into the room just as you would your swimsuit or evening gown walks. (Read: How to Walk in Every Phase of Pageant Competition)

Tip: You will want to make sure that you practice your walk in your interview shoes on all sorts of flooring surfaces to make sure you are sturdy and the shoes fit properly so you can walk in with the same confidence Cinderella walked into that ballroom with when she got Prince Charming, the envy of every eligible maiden in the kingdom, and the wrath of her stepmother. She came out on top.

5. Posture

You’ve commanded their attention, now you have to keep it. Queens don’t slouch or shlump. Remember your princess training. (Read: 12 Lessons We Learned From Queen Clarisse Renaldi)

“If you are sitting, you need to lean in from the waist and engage me as a long lost friend, using your eyes to sparkle and show a kind soul inside your body,” Sofield said. “When you get up from your seated position, make your rising one movement [practice this] so you gently stand and pivot to walk out.”

There are of course interviews that are set up with you standing. You may or may not have a podium of some sort, so pay attention to your feet just as you would in your onstage walks.

“If standing, come out from behind the lectern and stand beside it so I can see all of you,” Sofield said. “Use your hands; if it makes sense, be Italian, to show your energy and enthusiasm.”

Make sure you don’t lean on the podium at any time, whether beside it or behind it.

Your eyes are a key interview success ingredient, as Sofield explains.

“Your eyes need to be a focal part of your persona; don’t look dead and don’t look crazy, find your look that says you’re here to win and you’ll make our state proud!”

Eyes are extremely important in conveying your message, especially when discussing a topic in which smiling would be inappropriate but you still need to be engaging.

Tip: Record yourself with the lens facing you, but not the screen so you can’t watch yourself, and practice some fun and serious pageant questions and then play it back and watch your face and eyes. If you suddenly transform into a statue with your shoulders slouching forward and your face dropping on serious questions, work on that.

Stay relaxed and poised, keep your shoulders back and your chin up. Record yourself again and notice the difference. You can be empathetic and serious with slight head movements without collapsing in on yourself.

Going Forward

While one minute seems like a long time, in interview it goes by very quickly. You have to format your answers wisely and optimally to maximize your time with the judges.

To make sure you get the most of your one-minute interview, especially if you are constantly eating up too much of your time answering and want to know how to whittle it down, get a coach. Like Russo said, an outside perspective can work wonders on your interview skills.

You can find the coach that is right for you by clicking here for our directory of pageant coaches. We also have a VIP Program where we will coach you to success in your next pageant!

Good luck, ladies!

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