In two days, I’ll be on a plane heading to Tokyo for the World Nail Championships. It’s my first trip to Asia and I’m fired up about competing in a totally new environment. And I’m nervous — I’ll be jet-lagged and facing 49 of the world’s best competitors!

When I start getting too anxious about it, I remind myself of the basics that have brought me this far. Here are the strategies I use every time I head into a competition. They are rules that will serve you equally well in the salon.

Understand the rules. I blew my first competition because I didn’t understand what the judges were looking for. Read the rules for each competition, e-mail the competition director with your questions, and look at online photos of winning entries. A competition nail isn’t a salon nail. There are significant differences. The goal of a competition is to push the envelope and create an extreme nail. This is what the judges want.

Know the product. Know the nail. Different environments will affect your product differently. Be prepared for an arena that is cold, hot, damp or dry and know how the product will react. Take product manufacturer’s education classes whenever they come to your area. Make your competition nails as consistent as possible, as thin as a business card and as precise as a razor’s edge. The sidewalls must be perfectly straight, the smile line perfectly crisp, and perfect product control is far more important to the judges than it is to your clients — but your clients will benefit as your skills evolve.

Practice, practice, practice that competition nail. Rehearse your competition nail a few times before heading out to the show. If you can, practice on your competition model. If the competition gives you 2½ hours to create pink-and-whites on one hand and red polish on the other, then practice that on your model. You may be surprised to find that your first effort will take you four hours. You don’t want to discover that during a competition.

Practice competing. If you haven’t yet attended a trade show and watched a competition, sign up for the very next one. Go to the show, watch the competitions, and attend competition classes. Creating a competition nail at your usual station is very different from the energy during a competition. Nail shows are a blast. Everyone’s there, it’s a high energy environment, and it’s loud and distracting! You may be thrown off your game the first time you experience this.

Competing enhances your career. Not only will your clients benefit from the improvement in your skills, but you will enjoy your career more and take greater pride in your work. It takes you from nail tech to a nail artist! Competing is fun because you’re really competing against your own skills. Don’t worry about winning. As long as you learn and improve from each competition, it’s well worth the hours of practice, and the wins will come in time.

So, after 18 years in the salon and dozens of competitions, I’m taking a big leap. I’m practicing my competition nail, packing my suitcase, and getting ready for that flight to Japan. I can’t wait to take on Tokyo! I’ll come home with lots of new ideas and new friends from the other side of the globe. And I hope you’ll take that leap too. Sign up for that next competition and I’ll see you there! — Lynn Lammers







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