JYou’ve trained and dieted for months for a show; purchased the perfect suit, paid for a professionally applied tan, paid for someone to do your makeup and hair, the whole nine-yards. You’ve invited family, friends, and possibly co-workers to your show, and they are all so thrilled to support you. You’ve devoted time, money and your heart into the 2 to 3 minutes you will be standing on stage judged by a panel of strangers that don’t know you from Adam. You stand before the all mighty panel and freeze, the “deer in headlights“ syndrome kicks in and you don’t hit your poses the way you should. You have missed your chance to impress the judges and show off all that you have put into the past few months. We, as competitors, slave away in the gym day after day. At times we push things aside in our lives to make sure we get to the gym. How many of us have missed friends' and families' birthdays, holidays, or special events because we are “dieting” for a show and just can’t make it? I, myself, am guilty of pushing events off just so that I have enough time to train and get all my cardio sessions in. Is spending so much time at the gym sculpting our bodies, dieting for months, spending extra money on diet food, a coach, suits and the rest of it all worth it? Of course it is! But why then, do so many competitors throw it all away once they step on stage? Presentation is everything. It never ceases to amaze me how competitors spend so much time and money on dieting, coaches, suits, tan, makeup, posing routines, and the thousands of other small details that go into preparing for a show, but neglect and put off to the last minute practicing their stage presence and posing. I have had countless clients come to me the week or days before their first show and expect to have the grace and elegance of a competitor with years under their belt by the day of the show. You would be considered crazy to stand in a boxing ring with no preparation, or jump into a ballet performance and not know the routine. So why on earth would anyone jump onto a bodybuilding stage with little to know background knowledge? It happens more often than not. My advice to all competitors is the day you start your diet should be theday you start practicing your posing practice. You diet and train every day, so you should be practicing your posing very day. It may sound like a tedious process, but we are not lifting weights on stage. The judges don’t see that we train every day, or reached a new max on certain lifts. All the training doesn’t matter; everyone trains hard and can diet. What sets you apart from other competitors is your confidence. You need to exude confidence, not cockiness, and present your body in the best way possible. Posing is all about accentuating your strong points and hiding your weaknesses. What all competitors need to do it to take pictures of themselves posing weekly. If you don’t have someone to take pictures for you, get a camera with a self timer. After taking the pictures, look at how you are holding yourself in each pose and compare it to a PRO that is known for his or her perfect posing. Do you look the same? How can you adjust your body to present your dominant features? If at all possible, video tape your posing. How do you look? It’s impossible to really see yourself and your posing for what it really looks like when you are looking in the mirror. Videos and pictures are very telling and will assist you in tweaking your posing. What some don’t realize until it’s too late, is that they have stage fright. Just think about it, you are in a small bathing suit, on stage in front of tons of people you don’t know, and sometimes can’t even see because the lights on stage are so bright. It’s a sea of onlookers all critically observing your every quarter turn. To assist in overcoming your fear, I suggest posing in your gym out in the open in front of the gym crowd. People will walk by and stare and move on, some will ask questions, some might make comments, but the whole point of this is to get you used to being out in the open exposed to others checking you out. If you can block these people out and not be bothered, you will have a better comfort level as you head out to the stage. Some are fortunate enough to be able to hire a posing coach, and I would recommend this if it is feasible for you. Having someone assist in tweaking your posing can be extremely helpful. If you don’t have the funds, you can do this on your own! It is possible! You just need to dedicate the time to your posing. If you do get a touch of stage fright, you will have practiced so often that the posing will have become second nature and all you need to worry about is your smile and listening to your number being called. How you present yourself on stage to the judges is where all the hard work you have put in all comes together. Don’t get caught like a deer in headlights, practice and master your craft! Jillian has been competing in Figure since 2007 and last year moved over to the new Women's Physique Division where she won her IFBB Pro Card at Jr. Nationals. She is just a few weeks out from her Pro-debut in Arizona. When she's not working out, she's going to Graduate School working on her Masters in Education Degree.