Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What do beauty queens know that writers need to know?

I began interviewing the people that know how to build a platform best this month because I'm writing a book called Courageous Beauty. All about confidence, courage and inner beauty. 

I know it might sound strange, but the people who know best how to build a public platform?

Beauty queens.

They have it down to a science! In order to compete for those titles, their platform must be so solid and focused that there is no doubt who they are and the work they do. The photo above has about 48 women who already won a state, regional, or country title competing for an international title. They already stand out and yet must find a way to stand out again against intense odds!

A beauty queen brands herself, creates an elevator pitch, back cover blurb (actually a 60 second speech about who she is and what she does), as well as learns to interview exceptionally well about her product...herself as a brand. She is required to turn in a Bio Sheet that is really a one sheet for the judges to look over prior to the interview. Which, by the way, is timed and 4-5 minutes (depending on the pageant) with each judge. She must impress each judge in 1/3 the time an author has with an editor or agent! At conferences, an author has about 15 minutes and that seems short! She must impress ALL the judges, or not win, in less than 5 minutes per judge and then have her scores averaged.

So it's speed dating on steroids, with the publisher committee meeting comparing,  acceptance or rejection without the benefit of an agent, or an editor champion in the committee room.

I was so stunned at the results  of the interviews that I began posting them on my blog. I'm going to begin interviewing pageant judges this week so I can start posting those soon too. What stands out to a judge? With speed dating as the form of interview, how can they even begin to choose between contestants?

What could you say about your support work outside of your book and then about your book in 4-5 minutes that would sell it?

I'm just stunned at what I'm learning from them all. Believe deeply in what you do and you cannot help but talk about it everywhere.

I don't think you can learn about building a platform watching a pageant on television because you can't see the process, but I do think you can understand how to build a solid expert platform in following a beauty queen through her interviews, appearances, getting to know her work behind the scenes, etc. It's nothing short of spectacular. They pick something very emotionally seated and go after that area with gusto for years. Targeted and focused, these women change laws, speak to audiences all over the world, and raise funds for programs they believe in through countless hours of community service.

They learn the issue inside and out. They'll do hundreds of appearances that they've booked themselves (contrary to popular opinion, beauty queens do not have teams of publicists working in the background to get them bookings.) They create their platform themselves by amassing speaking opportunities.

That is what an author needs to do. Be willing to learn. Be willing to start. Be creative about where and how to get your name out there.

What does a beauty queen know that authors need to know?

Make the phone calls to book the speaking opportunity yourself.
Ask what they are looking for before you tell them what you will do so you can tweak it to meet their audience need.

Look for opportunity at every single public event you attend.

Ask for business cards and contact information in order to make a speaking request and follow up immediately.

Carry your card and hand it out.

Share what you believe in when asked and how you are living it out in your daily life. Inspire them to do the same. They will want you to speak to their group and invite people to meet you.

Be interested in helping other people with what you know.

Be "on stage" and professional everywhere so people will trust your behavior.

Dress professionally for your position.

Be passionate about the issues you represent.

Smile, smile, smile, smile, smile because you make people glad to be in your presence.

Use your experiences, good and bad, to change the community around you through being an active volunteer. It's fulfilling and the gravy is an incredible network.

Hire a personal coach or join Toastmasters or both.

If hiring a coach isn't in your budget, look for ways to find a mentor and actually ask someone to mentor you. (I did this in addition to coaching and Toastmasters.)

Begin building your platform immediately so it will pay off down the road.

Send out proposals to be a speaker.

Book engagements way in advance. You cannot wait until the book is nearly on the shelf. Build that resume'.

Realize it's a numbers game. Not everyone will book you to speak or appear at an event. But enough will. Impress enough and the bookings come faster and easier.

That's the short list :-) No one can run out and do all of these all at once. You build on the skills and build the platform into your daily schedule. You cannot suddenly, overnight have the platform. It's built over time by purposeful action aimed at what you are passionate about and hold dear. It comes out in your writing, speaking, expression.

I am a Weight Watchers Ambassador. I never applied for the position. I had to first spend 8 months losing weight, learning, gaining experience. Then I worked for them locally for a year. Then I began building a platform for competing in pageants in order to get a bigger voice in the vast world. From that, Weight Watchers offered me the opportunity to speak for them sometimes on television and at events.

What I'm saying is that you have likely been building your platform, you just haven't formally recognized it.

Where do you volunteer? What do you get asked to do? What's your job? What is a recurring theme in your writing?

Think about the last year or two or five. Write down the places you've been unwittingly building your platform. Now go do it on purpose and continue to build that "resume'".

Please come visit my blog to enjoy the interviews :-)

Angie Breidenbach


  1. Angie, what a great article. People rarely think of beauty queens a working women. They do work very hard.

    You have some great suggestions here! I'm glad I stopped by.

    Blessings to you and yours over this holiday. Sounds like you have much to be thankful for. :-)

  2. Thank you so much, Sia. And what a beautiful, original name you have! I've just been blessed by Mary DeMuth. She's going to reprint this post on her blog: Wannabepublished on Dec. 1st. I'm so glad this is helping people :-)

  3. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Angie. Definitely advice to dwell on and put into practice.

    Have a Great Thanksgiving!

  4. I'm hoping to put together a little more on this idea. There are so many things I'm learning that these ladies do all over the world that I think it will be valuable to a lot of people.

    Thanks, Dianna,

  5. Very interesting post, Angie! I learned so much!!