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Pageant Arrival Etiquette: What You NEED To Know

20, July 2017

There are several phases of events you'll go through when it comes to competing for a crown. First you'll research systems and possibly meet with a director or attend open calls. Next, you may do appearances with a local title before preparing for the big day. Finally, you'll compete for the title and perhaps even walk away with the crown. This guide will walk you through the things you need to know when arriving at the various events you'll attend as a contestant and how to be best prepared. You always want to put your best foot forward at any function, so use these suggestions to shine from start to finish!

Kayla Kussrow arriving at Miss California USA 2019. Photo: Kayla Kussrow Instagram

Pageant Arrival Etiquette: What You NEED To Know

Initial meetings

In the beginning stages of researching a system, you will likely have many questions that a pageant director can help answer. Perhaps you'll attend a scheduled meeting or even an open call to gather all of the great information. If you've scheduled a one-on-one meeting with a director, treat it as a business meeting. Everything about this meeting should be professional in nature. You should arrive on time, at least 10 to 15 minutes prior to your schedule appointment. Business casual or "Sunday best" attire is a safe bet.

Bring copies of anything you feel would help the director get to know you better – perhaps a resume or your filled out application with entry fee. Most importantly, ask questions. Do not let the director talk most of the time while you just nod and smile. Good future titleholders aren't afraid to discuss questions or concerns with people of importance.

Open calls are another great opportunity to attend for information on a pageant system. Plan to arrive well ahead of time as these events can attract quite a bit of people at times. Attire should also be business casual or Sunday best. Pack a nice bag filled with any paperwork you need, a pad of paper and pen to jot down notes, a list of questions you may have, a water bottle, a snack and if you areof age, some touch-up makeup and hair items. Be prepared for a brief interview and possible photo shoot.

Remember that either type of meeting, one-on-one or open call, is a director's first impression of you. Typed paperwork, a smile, a professional attitude and a great presentation can go a long way.


You may make some appearances before the pageant as a local/regional title that the pageant assigns you if you decide to move forward in competing. Perhaps you are completing volunteer hours or attending local fairs and festivals. Appearance etiquette when arriving is incredibly important because not only do you represent yourself, but you also represent a pageant system and the directors behind it.

Know what you are showing up for and understand your duties. From the moment you arrive, always be approachable, smiling, ready to work and, most importantly, be flexible.

Large events take many moving parts to organize, so even if they have one particular idea for your duties, that can shift quickly. Roll with the punches and simply be gracious for the opportunity to be there helping out in whatever capacity you can. Be prepared for the day, especially if you anticipate it will be a long one. Follow the directions they give you and anticipate any needs you may have over the day. An appearance bag with water bottles, snacks, a phone charger, printed directions/maps and contact information (in case something happens to your phone), autograph cards, a pair of flat shoes and touch up hair/makeup items are never a bad idea to have on hand. These tips also apply after the pageant if you've won the big title, so make a note for when you WIN!

Pageant day: Arrival at venue

The big day (or week/weekend) is here! You've likely prepared and readied yourself for months and it all comes down to this day. Arrival at the venue is just the first step of many. Always be approachable and friendly to everyone you encounter. No one is less than you. From the moment you step foot out of that car on arrival, you must be ON at all times.

Consider who might be talking to who, and who might be overhearing it in a large setting such as a hotel or event center. Venue staff will likely be the first group you interact with. Having a pageant going on is exciting, even for them. Staff of the venue may even start chattering in excitement about the competitors. Don't be the one they talk negatively about. You are to be kind and courteous to all you meet. Smile when your hotel reservation isn't ready. Be appreciative when it is. Tip the bellboy. Smile and say hello to other titleholders when out and about in the venue.

Pageant day: Registration 

Arrival etiquette to pageant check-in/registration is of integral importance. Perhaps you haven't had the opportunity to meet the directors, staff or fellow contestants before hand. First impressions are everything and people make them quickly!

When you arrive at check-in, you should look professional and put together, be confident and approachable. Visit with younger contestants, be helpful to your mom if she's helping with paperwork and above all - be prepared. I am going to say that a few more times to really drive the point across. It is the most important, courteous thing you can do for your directors and pageant staff. Be prepared. Be prepared. Be prepared!

The most prepared contestants may bring a small tote bag with all the contents needed for check-in. A binder or folder of all paperwork is crucial. This binder should contain everything from your initial application, paperwork to turn in, any optional music CDs, emcee cards and photogenic entries. You should have at least a few copies of everything. One to turn in, one set of the major paperwork to review before interviews and one set as "just in case."

In addition to your paperwork, it's also helpful to your directors if you save/print all receipts of payments made, especially if you've made multiple payments on entry fees, ad pages, opening number outfits, optionals, etc. Directors are only human. Some accounting mistakes are bound to happen. If you save your receipts in order, you can quickly reference and figure out correct balances owed with the staff. Have those anticipated remaining balances to pay with you, counted out, enclosed in an envelope for safe keeping and in cash (if they do not take checks or credit cards). I usually bring what I believe to be the exact balance to ease my way through the registration line. I also bring at least $100 extra cash in case I miscalculated my final balance and to account for incidental purchases only available at check-in, such as flowers, gifts and apparel, etc.

International Junior Ms. 2019 delegates during registration. Photo: International Junior Miss Instagram.

Pageant day: Competitions

Let the "games" begin! Required competitions, optionals, interviews, rehearsals and get-togethers. This is the heart of your competition. Your arrival etiquette is crucial at this point. Let's review the basics: be ready. Don't forget anything. (Don't be flustered if you do – be confident and don't let it show). Don't be disruptive. Be kind, always. You never know who may be a judge!

My absolute number one for pageant arrival etiquette: don't be late! I could literally type that 10,000 times in hopes of having the same effect. But instead, I'll tell you why.

Being late can disrupt the entire flow of events. Think about if you've scheduled a doctor's appointment at 4:00 p.m. Have you ever waited until 4:30 p.m. to be seen? It could be because the first six patients before you each arrived five minutes late. Or three arrived ten minutes late. Get the picture? For example, if you and 10 other competitors each arrive five minutes late to interview, think about how that can impact the girl that is set last to interview. She could be waiting quite some time to catch up. "For interviews, we tell contestants to arrive on time at least 10-15 minutes early for their assigned interview slot to make sure they are punctual, but also to ensure they have the opportunity to calm down and settle nerves before they walk in the door," said Sunny Hill, President of American Pageants, Inc. "If a girl misses her assigned time for interview, we will let her go into interview at the end and the judges get to decide to deduct points."

Always remember, if you are on time, you're late. I leave my hotel room at least 20 minutes prior to an actual scheduled time. This accounts for time in the elevator, time to chat with others in passing or time for any last minute pit-stops. You will likely wait for a bit, but it is better than "coming in hot" at the last second! "As American Pageants directors, we like to see girls who are punctual during competition events because it shows respect to other people's time," said Kim Tuttle, state director for American Pageants, Inc. "It also foreshadows that they will carry that trait on as a titleholder representing our organization."

Going forward

Putting your best foot and impression forward before and during pageant competition is very important. Your etiquette in how you handle both yourself and interactions with other people can either help or hurt you. Don't let the latter happen! Make sure to always be approachable, smiling and ready to go. Sincere please and thank you's go a long way nowadays. Remember people's names. Treat others how you would like to be treated, no matter their status. And always, always be on time! May the odds be ever in your favor!


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