What are the most important pageant interview questions to practice?
One of the most frequently asked questions I get as a pageant coach and consultant is 'What are the interview questions I need to prepare for?' When this question is asked, I often think that clients are looking for a silver bullet, as though the perfect cheat sheet or checklist will enable them to ace their interview.
I have some bad news.
This cheat sheet doesn't exist.
While some questions come up frequently in some pageant system's interviews, the truth is that questions can be as diverse and wide-ranging as who sits on your judging panel. A good contestant will learn to expect the unexpected and lean into herself and her truth when answering interview questions.
Of course, there are ways to better prepare yourself for a pageant interview. And, yes, the more questions you are exposed to and practice with, the better. But, ultimately, it's not about what they ask you in the interview but rather how well you know yourself, your brand, and your vision for reign.
In working with my clients, I encourage them to think beyond the crowning moment. I ask them, 'What is your vision for reign?' and 'What will your legacy as a titleholder look like?' I can't tell you how often clients are unsure of how to answer this. Ladies! You need to know your why —your ability to articulate this why is crucial.
As an educator, I frequently engaged in 'backward planning' when creating lesson plans for my students as a teacher and professional development sessions for my teachers as a school leader. It's a process used to design learning experiences and instructional techniques to achieve a specific goal. In other words, you need to know where you're headed to know how to prepare.
So... let's start at the end. Here are the three questions I want you to be able to answer:
1) A year has gone by, and you are about to crown your successor. What will the emcee say about what you accomplished during your year as Miss State?
2) Why are you here, and what do you hope to gain from competing in this pageant?
3) How will this title help you further your personal platform, goals, and/or development?
The first thing to note is that all of these questions can be tackled with the same content --- assuming you know what that content is! So, let's dig in.
To know how to answer these questions, we need to work backward. First, let's start by identifying your passions. If you're like me, you can list a whole bunch. For the purpose of this exercise, I want you to hone in on just one. Think about your passions, specifically through the lens of service --- which of your passions also opens the door to helping others?
Next, I want you to consider your talents. No, I don't mean your ability to sing, dance, or do science demonstrations. I mean, what skills do you have to offer the world? For example, are you gifted at public speaking? Writing? Creating digital content? Again, consider these talents through the lens of service --- which of your talents could be leveraged to serve others?
Once you have honed in on a passion and talent, it's time to brainstorm! How can you use these two things in tandem to make magic as Miss State? When I went through this exercise as a competitor in the Mrs. America system, I landed on mentoring as my biggest passion and writing/communicating as my most shareable talent. I thought about what I could do as a titleholder that would allow me to do both to serve the community. I developed two initiatives: a scholarship opportunity for young women and a weekend mentorship series geared towards helping girls expand their community outreach.
Goals are great. And in the world of pageantry, we hear A LOT of them. Action is key. Enter the planning phase. It's been said, "a goal is a dream with a deadline." So, let's set them. I'd encourage you to set one big goal that can be accomplished, piece by piece, throughout the year. Then, think about your monthly goals. They should be complementary to your big goal. To again use me as an example, my big goal was to award a $500 scholarship annually to young women to pursue their academic desires or get their service projects off the ground. On a month-to-month basis, this required me to do two things: build up relationships with young women who I thought could benefit from the scholarship to encourage them to apply and raise the capital to award the scholarship.
Once you know what you want to accomplish and your timeline for accomplishing them, it's time to chunk out your timeline. Think about how you'll measure success. Schedule times to check in on your progress. Then, take a moment to reflect: If I were to accomplish these goals, how will I grow as a result?
Once you've gone through all of these pieces (make sure to use the handy free planning template you can download here), go back to those original questions. I bet you can answer them much more clearly, right? When you have a vision, you have something to share with the judges. When you have thought about and planned for this vision, you can articulate it.
So get planning, Queen! There may not be a cheat sheet of interview questions for your pageant, but there will always be an opportunity for you to set yourself apart by knowing yourself, your goals, and your vision to make it happen as Miss State.