Continuing from our previous discussion on the Pageant Interview, we will now look on how to conduct yourself in the actual interview.
The final piece of preparation is to select one topic which you would like to tell the judges about yourself. Then you are ready to face the judges!
The interview can have two different question formats:
- the direct question, in which you are asked a specific question on a specific topic, i.e. “What would you do to inspire the youth of your country?”
- the open-ended question, in which you basically get to decide what you want to talk about, i.e. “Tell us about yourself?”
Starting off with an open-ended question is off course ideal, because you can go straight in and talk about the topic you selected beforehand. Do, however, avoid the following pitfalls:
- do NOT start by saying your name. You have already been announced so the judges know who you are
- do NOT mention your age, unless it is relevant for the topic you are going to talk about, i.e. you are 20 years old, have been working since you are 16 and you are now the proud owner of your own home
- do NOT mention your profession or study, unless you are going to talk about why you chose that profession or study as an insight to the person you are
The trick with a direct question is to structure your reply in such a way that you get to talk about the subject you chose beforehand. Some questions are easily malleable, whereas other aren’t. It also depends on your topic.
If you find that you can’t direct the question, answer it quickly in order to get another question. When I say quickly, I mean without embellishment. It is extremely important to answer every question properly.
If you are asked a question that you are comfortable with and very knowledgeable about, keep talking so that you do not give the judges the opportunity to ask you something you are not comfortable answering. Make sure you do not start repeating yourself though. Only stretch your answer if you have a lot to say about the subject.
Body language is also an important aspect of the Personal Interview. It is therefore important that you know how your body reacts when you are stressed.
- if you have a tendency to fidget, sit in a way that will make make fidgeting more difficult
- if you use your hands a lot when you speak, hold one hand over the other in your lap so as to control your hand movements
- always address the judge that asked the question. Do however, take time during your answering to look at each of the other judges
- look the judges in the eyes. Averting their eyes creates the impression that you have something to hide. If looking at them straight in the eyes makes you uncomfortable, focus on the space between their eyebrows
- dress appropriately. Never wear cocktail outfits. You don’t have to wear a suit, but take into account the time of day and the fact that you are interviewing for a job
- make sure what you are wearing and the way you sit does not give the judges unexpected views
- do not wear distracting earrings or necklaces
It will for sure help you to practice, so invite some of your friends over and do some mock interviews.
If you are planning to compete, the best way to prepare for the Personal Interview portion of any pageant is to join a Toastmasters Club about a year before the date of your pageant. To this day I have found them to be the best coaches in the area of public speaking and structuring of your thoughts for communication to others.