Rayner Reckons

Jun 26

Top Tips for Junior Judges

Posted on Thursday, June 26, 2014

Junior judging competitions are one of the most important activities for agriculture.  These competitions are often the entry point for many people into their chosen agricultural industry.  It doesn't matter if that industry is cattle, sheep, poultry or alpaca!  For me, junior judging was the start of my career in agriculture and so its one form of competition I'm always very eager to support.

I reckon its important to recognise junior judging competitions offer more than simply a format to demonstrate your ability to judge and place animals or entries.  

These competitions are a fantastic way to refine your ability to make decisions, to demonstrate your capacity to present arguments or a reason behind a decision and give you a great way to improve your confidence as a public speaker.  These are all skills that are highly valuable in your career, even if you don't go on to do a lot of judging in the future.

When I do have the opportunity to judge the junior judging competitions, I try to spend some time providing competitors with some ideas and suggestions to bear in mind in future competitions.  

Over the next few months there are a huge number of junior judging competitions coming up, and I thought it might be a good time to share a few tips with potential junior judges.

Tip 1:  Practice speaking into a microphone at home!  Holding a microphone seems to distract many people.  Combined with the nervousness that is already associated with public speaking this seems to really derail some peoples presentations.  So practice speaking into a microphone, holding it close to your mouth and get comfortable with the concept of holding and moving while speaking.

Tip 2: Learn to describe the exhibit. As a judge you are being assessed on your ability to describe the exhibit, and the traits you think are important.  Don't make stuff up!  Don't use jargon, particularly if you don't really understand it.  Its much more professional to speak and describe an exhibit with correct terms.

Tip 3: Make a proper comparison.  Judging is not simply placing exhibits in a ranking order.  Judges need to be able to describe what they are looking for and why their choices are placed in the ranking the judge has chosen.  Part of that is to compare exhibits.  You must be able to say why 1st place is the best.  And you have to say why the 2nd place is there.  

Don't skip over the comparison between the entries. I reckon the worst form of comparison is to describe an entry as being "overpowered on the day!"  Ask yourself, what does that mean?  If the entry was underweight, less well grown, less muscled, poorly structured, what ever the reason for it being more lowly raked, it should be said, and not hidden in this meaningless phrase!

Tip 4: Dress Appropriately! Judging is an honour.  Its not everyday that you will be asked to make a comment on peoples hard work in breeding, preparing and exhibiting.  

To respect the effort exhibitors put in, you need to present yourself as a professional.  Your appearance indicates you care, and it illustrates you want to convey opinions which are considered and helpful.  

Dressing correctly conveys your intention to be taken seriously and respectfully.  Its hard to take seriously the opinions of someone who can't be bothered to wear clean clothes, or even to wear their clothes neatly.  If they don't care about their appearance, do they care about their opinions and comments?

So make sure you wear good clean pants (not jeans); a clean ironed shirt and for men a tie.  You should wear a clean jacket. If you're at school there's nothing wrong with the school blazer.  If you are wearing a hat, which is mainly for cattle and horse judging, it should be a wide brim and clean hat!  The black yard hat covered in mud and dung looks terrible!

Tip 5: Make your decisions & use your time to get reasons 

As a member of the Australian Intercollegiate Meat Judging Team we spent several weeks training before the US competitions.  One of the lessons I was taught was to make your decision swiftly.  

Generally as a judge you know pretty quickly which order you will place a class.  So make that preliminary decision and spend your time on why - that is what are the reasons behind that placing order.

If you do this it may help you be certain you've got the order correct.  It will also help you be much more confident in your preparation to answer questions or to present your reasons to the judge of the competition.  

Tip 6: Enjoy yourself! Junior judging is a great opportunity.  Don't put yourself under so much pressure that it becomes a chore or something you don't enjoy.

Judging is a skill.  Like any skill it has to be developed.  The more you practice the more confident you will be.  look for the opportunities, listen to the feedback, think about the things you would like to do better and practice those things.

The Final Tip: Look for opportunities!

If you want to develop as a judge, or you'd like to be more involved in judging in your industry, junior judging competitions can only take you so far.  If you are keen, get involved in your local show society and get to know how shows operate.  

Make contacts with the judges in your industry.  Perhaps there are opportunities to be an associate judge where you can learn and refine your skills.  Don't overlook the opportunities to learn new skills, particularly by attending industry youth activities.  Its always a work in progress, but all judges started somewhere and if you keep at it, you will find your place in the industry of your choice.


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