Since winning the Baronial Championship last May, I've competed in one A&S Pentathlon and one Triathlon. For those of you not familiar with this competition format, it's pretty masochistic. You have to enter five (or three) items that one persona (not necessarily your own) might have owned or used that fall into three of five broad categories for the pentathlon or two categories for the triathlon. The goal, I think, is to make you stretch your skills, since really most people are comfortable with at most two of the categories, so to get all three usually requires you branch out of your comfort zone.
Aside from being a great opportunity to learn more about a particular time and place, these two competitions have been educational in and of themselves for a couple of different reasons. As I am teaching a class on documentation and competition next month, here are my thoughts on the format.
1. You are entering 5 distinct projects, not one entry with 5 parts. What I mean by this is that each part of your entry needs to stand on it's own in terms of presentation and documentation. This is where I fell short on my first try, I assumed the documentation would be judged as a whole, not as individual parts. Yes, its longer, but if you are doing the research anyway it's not really any more work.
2. Hot food at a camping event is a bad plan! I tried to present a hot drink for the first competition at a 4-day camping event, and this cause a great deal of needless stress. Plus the coleman stove on the display table was ugly.
3. Test your display idea and then be prepared for a totally different setup. I like to do this at home then pack everything I need for the display in it's own box or basket, at least in so far as I can get into one container. It's fewer things to forget when I'm packing the car.
3 (a). Ask for set-up help! You will probably have a lot of stuff to carry and be a little stressed (maybe that's just me, I'm always vertain I've forgotten part of my entry). Having someone to help you schelp and offer a second opinion about your display can do wonders to sooth the nerves.
4. Bring a table cloth. Bring more than one table cloth, especially if you are serving food as something is guaranteed to spill.
5. Look at the entry categories and judging sheets BEFORE you start you project. Trying to fit something you already made and wrote up into a category after the fact is going to suck. Know what the criteria are so you can address them in your writing. This happened with my spindle and probably cost me points.
6. Get a comment book and leave it with your display so people other than the judges can leave you feedback (the judges might not leave you anything other than your scores so this can be very helpful). Feedback is the real goal here, so do whatever you can to get as much of it as you can.
7. Take lots of pictures! Take picutres of your display, take pictures of you with your display, and take pictures of the other displays. It's nice to have a record of what you and others did, and you might get some ideas for next time.