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Tips to Conquer the Fish Bowl Question

Amanda Moreno, Miss International 2016, during Onstage Question. Photo: Paula Preston.
Amanda Moreno, Miss International 2016, during her onstage question. Photo: Paula Preston.

Onstage question is nerve-wracking enough, and to have to pull from a fish bowl for a question on a topic that, depending on your system, could range from political to cultural to current events, it can be even more sweat-inducing.

Additionally, your time to answer the question can range from an unlimited amount of time to just 20 seconds.

But, the amount of time you have to answer your question doesn’t justify how well you can answer the question. It is possible to answer a fish bowl question with plenty of quality content even with a short amount of time. (Read: How to Answer Onstage Question Confidently When You Don’t Know the Answer)

The biggest tips: stay calm, listen carefully and breathe.

Tips to Conquer the Fish Bowl Question


No age division is exempt from the possibility of a fish bowl question. Even Teens are subjected to this style of onstage question.

The older you get and the more prestigious the system, the better the chance of getting a politically charged question. But there is no need to fret.

“Do not fear the possibility of political questions; preparing is easier than you think,” said Garin Harris, Miss Teen International 2016. “I recommend downloading at least two news apps on your phone and getting notifications from both of them. This way not only do you have two different opinions, but you read the basic headlines for the stories. If you see a story that seems really important then go to the article and read the whole thing, or watch the news video most apps provide!”

Getting both sides of the story is extremely important. Something I always caution my students in research papers and the girls I work with in our mock interviews is to research, not rant. In order to properly convey an informed opinion, you need to be informed on both sides of the issue. (Read: 3 Simple Tricks to Mastering Your Onstage Question)


The biggest mistake many contestants make is not listening to the question. In the heat of the moment, contestants tend to blank and not hear the question in full. This error has, in fact, been the downfall of many contestants in finals. (Read: What to Do When You Start Rambling During Your Pageant Onstage Question)

If they do hear the question, some ladies try to answer as they think the judges are wanting them to answer rather than answering as they truly feel is right.

“Listen to the question and speak from your heart,” said Amanda Moreno, Miss International 2016. “So often people begin to over analyze or allow their nerves to get to them and it causes a less-than-flattering presentation on stage. By truly listening to what the question is asking for and then allowing your heart to show… you’re sure to stand out with crown worthy communication!”

Passion speaks louder than position. A common man with excellent rhetoric can rally for a revolution more effectively than someone with nothing more than a political title or position of power.


The older we get and more knowledgeable we become of the world around us, the harder it can be to effectively express our views in a short amount of time. But it is possible if you keep your emotions in check. (Read: How to Keep Your Emotions Calm During Onstage Interview)

“It takes more than a pretty face and a flattering figure to win the crown… It requires the right amount of intelligence and reaction,” said Priscilla Pruitt, Mrs. International 2016. “Don’t stress! When we stress, we become overly emotional. Answers are better explained with words and not tears. Keep it real. Don’t allow yourself to be thrown into a dramatic moment. If the question pulls on your heartstrings, communicate your raw emotions but govern them, communicate the truth from your heart.”

We expect our Mrs. women to be able to keep it together no matter what is going on and to be a strong and understanding presence at all times. Think of her as we think of the first lady or Queen Elizabeth.

International Pageants

The introduction of the fish bowl question at International Pageants begins this year. The idea is that it tests the potential titleholders’ abilities to answer and think quickly on their feet, which is vital when dealing with the media and at appearances.

At-large titles for the 2017 pageants are still available in Mrs., Miss and Teen divisions. (Read: 10 Tips for At-Large Titleholders)

The pageant is quickly approaching with Miss and Teen divisions competing August 3-5, 2017, and Mrs. competing August 11-12, 2017, all in Charleston, West Virginia. To get involved, contact International Pageants for more information.

Additionally, some preliminary pageants are already accepting applications for the 2018 pageants. For more information, visit the appropriate International Pageants website for your age division to discover how to represent your state or country at International Pageants in 2018.

Going Forward

Never fear the fish bowl question. I actually quite enjoy the challenge. I firmly believe that the title is won in interview, but if judges are for some reason on the fence, the onstage question can seal the deal.

So, take a deep breath, stand your ground but not on a soapbox, and speak.

Want some help preparing for onstage question? Follow us on Instagram @pageantplanet for our Question of the Day or sign up for our VIP coaching program for some one-on-one practice.

Good luck!

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