Miss America is Awesome!

Just chill before you get too judgmental, or at least some of you do. For some, Miss America, and all it represents may cause you to bristle. Let’s hear the facts first. My experience has been awesome for good reason.

The other day I was on a SpeakerPro training webinar with Roddy and Susan Galbraith. That, too, was awesome (I feel like I sometimes overuse that word?!?!). Part of their work included an interview with Teresa Scanlan, Miss America 2011. She won the title at age 17!

To step back for a second, Teresa also serves as the emcee for The John Maxwell Team International Maxwell Certification (JMT IMC) conference. The Galbraiths and I are team members. I had the chance to “meet” her at the August 2019 event, one of three that I have attended. She had just shared her personal story and it had an impact on me. She is a single Mom, like my oldest daughter. Her words were very motivational and emotional.

I took it upon myself to catch her at the side of the stage and thanked her for her remarks. She was very accessible and interested in what I had to think. Naturally, I took a selfie, which I thought later was a bit silly for me to do. Besides her JMT IMC work, Teresa also serves her country in the military and has her law degree. Pretty awesome!

So now back to SpeakerPro. According to Teresa, the part of the pageant we see on the TV is much different than what happens behind the scenes. One of the key judging elements is an interview process that happens off camera. Poise is a key element (just ask Kramer, right!). Ms. Scanlan did astoundingly well and after winning the pageant, her life obviously changed. As a 17-year old, she was thrust into the speaking spotlight.

For one of her first speeches, she was told she would be speaking for an hour. Teresa learned that nugget as they were driving up to the venue! Not exactly prepared for that! Ms. Scanlan developed her speaking through roughly 150 speeches that year. Teresa figured out that if she took the four elements of the Miss America crown; style, service, scholarship, and success, she would have a solid framework for a speech. Teresa could then adapt her speech around those four points regardless of the length. It took her about three months to fine tune it. She still uses a similar process with different speaking points today.

Some of the other key takeaways from Teresa’s speaking experiences:

  • Share both funny and serious stories, including self-deprecating ones
  • Fit your story to the audience
  • A speech about a life in service to others is universal
  • Feel the energy in the room and mix it up
  • Allow yourself to be pushed and do it afraid
  • We are always a work in progress

Who knew that Miss America could be helpful in my international speaking quest?

Right now, I am taking an international speaking course and they use a similar thought process. AJ Vassar teaches us to develop a universal speech, much like Teresa developed. Find your key themes and then adapt those to the audience. Michael Fabber broke down the elements of a quality presentation, especially humor (but no cussing). Margaret McClure gave us pointers on how to get more engagements, especially since I am no Miss America.

For those like Miss America and me, the speaking journey began in the more recent future. The lessons will be lifelong.

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