The pageant has just been concluded, but lessons related to it just won’t end there. As a Language Specialist, I cannot help but notice how the contestants have applied these timeless strategies in bagging the crown. Upon reflection, I mulled over the tips I’ve been teaching my students in English Proficiency and Communications. I hope they’d be able to help you in winning your very own crown (literally or not!).

  1. Grammar counts.

We cannot deny it, but grammar does count… a lot. Although experts might disagree (since they’d argue that what matters is the message and the nonverbal gestures), but still, adhering to proper subject-verb agreement, verb tenses, pronoun usage, and others is really a turn-on.

Note that grammar is just part of the lower order of concerns, but getting a grip of it does wonders. Try reviewing and practicing writing then speaking using correct grammar and see how it makes a difference when you deliver your message. The key here is reading (so you’d know how sentences are constructed by experts), writing, proofreading for errors, and speaking. Learn these by heart and you’ll be on your way to grammatically sound messages to your fans!

  1. Keep your message simple, short, and sweet (KISS).

Thinking about the ways to ace the Q&A round? How in the world could 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach have won the crown? Here are some insights I’ve thought about why:

* She delivered her message concisely (Check out her answer to the final question below).

To be a Miss Universe is both an honor and a responsibility. If I were to be Miss Universe, I will use my voice to influence the youth and raise awareness to certain causes like HIV. I want to show the world that I am confidently beautiful with a heart

* She provided a concrete example (HIV awareness) on the advocacy she’d focus on if ever she wins Miss Universe. For us communications instructors (specifically in terms of writing and speaking), this is a plus. Providing supporting details as concise as possible is definitely a winner. Aside from letting listeners have an idea of what she’d like to focus on, it shows her personality and image.

3. Use the power of nonverbal gestures.

Have you ever compared winners in the Miss Universe pageant with the runner ups and the other semi-finalists? What else did you notice (aside from their winning answers)? How were their non-verbal gestures?

When we say non-verbal gestures, we’re pertaining to the movement of their hands, eyes, arms, and other body parts as they’re talking (or even when they’re not saying anything). When answering, notice how the winners really manifest “power poses” (a term I’ve learned by watching Vanessa van Edwards’ lessons on influencing people via Udemy). Such poses depict confidence, first and foremost. However, they’re not over-confident stances that viewers can still feel their warm radiance.

Take a look at the following power poses of pageant winners:

miss universe pose

4. Mind your diction.

Speaking like a pro entails clarity when enunciating words. Whatever accent you have (American, British, Indian, Filipino English, etc.), you can readily have great diction if you’ll just learn to open your mouth as wide as possible when uttering words. It’ll also be a plus to learn the different mouth and tongue positions for specific sounds. For instance, saying “a” in apple entails the triangular mouth position (See figure below). You do this by smiling first then pronouncing “a” — apple.

To learn more about the other mouth and tongue positions in English pronunciation, here’s a nice resource: Rachel’s English.

5. Practice the ‘golden’ pause.

Yes, I know, it’s nerve-wracking. Speaking in front of hundreds or thousands of viewers can be scary. Imagine how Miss Universe contestants have to risk their privacy by facing such audience (even those watching via their TVs or online!). But even so, when it’s Q&A time, candidates have the chance to utilize an open secret technique practiced by expert public speakers: the ‘golden’ pause.

Upon learning about the question, the contestant has the chance to reflect shortly before answering. This is where the pause comes in.

Focus on the keywords from the question, pause for around 5 seconds (while composing your thoughts), and start with the introduction to your answer. With this, you will be able to calm yourself — knowing that you’ve got the situation under control. As you see, sometimes it’s not just about intelligent answering; it also boils down to how mindful you are when speaking.

. Vary your pitch, tone, and volume.

The secret of powerful speakers? Variation. Indeed, variation of pitch, tone, and volume. Aspiring pageant contestants must learn to use their voice well. Although some say that women are less blessed than men when it comes to their vocal chords (possessing a higher pitch and all), we can still make the most of what we have. Yup, we can! We just need to emphasize the words we want to put a stress on by saying them louder. Certain syllables can also be made more meaningful by saying them longer or by swiftly pronouncing them. It really depends on the message. Practice different styles of saying phrases/words and see which fits your purpose.

Altering the pitch, tone, and volume can really do wonders as we speak. Instead of delivering monotonous presentations or conversations, the Miss Universe in you can engage the audience’s attention. No more yawning from viewers!

7. Emphasize on keywords and phrases.

As mentioned on tip 6, it’s also helpful to stress on vital words and phrases as you speak. To do this, you just need to determine those words that matter the most in your sentences. Once you’ve identified them, you may highlight or underline them (if you’ve written them down) and say them more slowly, more loudly, or faster (depending on your purpose). These may also lead to a more dramatic effect on the part of your audience.

8. Practice, practice, practice!

Nothing beats mastery. The same is true when it comes to pageants and other sorts of competition. If you’ll be representing your country, you’ll definitely need to train hard and smart. This is what I’ve learned from , , and other beauty queens. Before they engaged onto the event itself, they devoted hours upon hours working out, practicing their spiels, and basically developing their skills to make them win the crown.

Even if it takes years (in the case of Pia), it doesn’t matter. As long as you put your heart into it, the length of time it will take will be irrelevant. In fact, according to a famous principle from a book entitled “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, for one to master a skill, 10,000 hours or more have to be dedicated in honing that craft.

9. Research about your audience’s culture and wants.

There’s no doubt that pageant contestants have to face the host country’s Miss Universe supporters/fans. With this, it’s also very important to have a clear look and feel of their culture and beliefs. How to do so? Aside from reading relevant books, observing natives’ ‘hot buttons’ or emotional tendencies are also very helpful. As in the case of Miss Thailand (Chalita Suansane), wherein she also tried to research as much as she can to learn more about the Filipino culture, this may have led to how she was warmly accepted by many Filipinos — to the point that she garnered the highest viewer votes (making her qualify for the 13th spot in the top 13).

10. Be confidently beautiful (with a heart).

Pia Wurtzbach

All the tips above will be put to waste if the contestant has low confidence. Add the ever-famous “confidently beautiful with a heart” tagline from Pia and you’ll surely win the hearts of the judges and fans. But the question still remains: How can one be as confident without going overboard?

Hmmm, sounds tough, especially if one has childhood issues that still need to be resolved. Well, who doesn’t have these issues? Whatever state she is in, confidence comes from within, truly. With the help of proper mind conditioning, affirmations, and cultivating good habits, this is attainable.

Likewise, exuding a sense of compassion, charisma, and charm does work. As Leila Lopes (Miss Universe 2011) states, they picked Miss France as Miss Universe 2016 because of her personality. The way she manifested grace under pressure made her wow the crowd.