Understanding How Pageant Judges’ Score and Make Comments for NAM and MAC Pageants

Not all pageant systems release their scores or make the judges’ comments available to the contestants. This is typical. However, National American Miss (NAM) and Miss American Coed (MAC) are two systems that do provide feedback to their contestants. Many of you are receiving your score sheets in the mail and have been emailing me tons of questions about what they mean. Today I’ll share my insight from a judge’s perspective.

When I am judging hundreds of contestants at a pageant, my scoring decision is made within seconds of the contestant taking the stage, or starting the interview. My score is based on the contestant’s performance right then and now. I don’t compare it to her previous areas of competition. If there is time, I may make a quick comment on my score sheet about the contestant, but most of the time there simply isn’t enough time to do this and I have to trust my gut feeling.

Because time is so short, most judges’ comments will be short and to the point. For example, common comments may be nice smile, great dress, or very confident. Most judges will comment on the positive things to build up the girl’s self esteem, and honestly it’s faster to write these types of comments. That’s why you will see many “feel good” comments on your sheets. It’s a time issue.

However, as a parent, this leaves you confused as to what to work on to improve her scores. Hopefully what I am about to share will in part help satisfy some of the perfectionist type “A”, highly competitive, overachieving people out there. LOL. I know how you think because I am a “recovering” one myself (big smiley face).

In pageants where there is a final ballot cast, the very last time the judges see the contestant on stage is in her evening gown either walking or standing. There is something about her walk, her facial expression, or overall appearance that will sway them to score her either up or down. That’s why it is important to work on your walking and projecting your stage presence.

It’s in that final moment where I see how pressure changes different girls and women. Some contestants, because they want to win so badly or can’t control their nerves, will either walk too slow and exaggerated; or they will speed off the stage so fast that all I see are taillights. Or if the contestants say their introduction again or there is a final question, I hear the “ramblers”, “attitudinal divas”, or “deer in the headlights” deliver their answers. Just relax. I know it is nerve racking; but you need to learn how to control your nerves.

Remember, judges don’t keep a running tally in their heads for each contestant. Competition happens too fast to do that. There are too many contestants and we can’t keep everyone straight. The contestant is scored based on her performance in the moment. Period. Once I hand in my ballot, I clear my mind. Judges have to do that in order to remain fresh and impartial so every girl gets the same attention and opportunity. This is also why it’s not a good idea to contact judges after the pageant to ask them for feedback. They won’t remember the specifics for you. Judges don’t keep the score sheets or materials at the end of the pageant.

Ladies, in the final moments, you need to take a deep breath and remain calm. Stop over analyzing things, putting unnecessary pressure on yourself, and copying what you think is the winning walk or talk. The reason it worked for that girl is because it was a natural part of HER. You have to focus on you.

Stop comparing yourself to other people. Take the time to develop you and keep a healthy attitude about competition. There is an “inner calm” about people who possess true confidence; and true confidence is revealed when people are under pressure. You will remain calm when “you know that you know”, not in an arrogant sort of way; but a peaceful calm of knowing who you are and being consistent and true to yourself throughout the entire pageant. Learning how to handle both inner and external pressures is a life skill that will not only help you in pageants; but in your life as well.

If you need to work on your walk, or need a resource of interview questions to practice your speaking skills, I recommend my DVD and interview cards.