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Floristry Judging: Empathy for the Competitor

Sarah Hills-Ingyon is not only an enthusiastic member of the UK Floristry Judges Guild but she’s also an experienced floristry competitor. So, who better to delve into the feelings and thought processes of a competition entrant?

Empathy. The ability to understand and share the feelings of others which undoubtedly improves communication and our perceived knowledge.

Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another's position. As judges, most of us started out on the other side of the fence as competitors, although perhaps a fair while back in our professional life now. For a floristry competitor, the whole competition process can be gruelling and perhaps more so now, with fewer competitions taking place and stakes therefore higher on each occasion. New competitors have to hone their early competition skills in high profile arenas such as Interflora’s Florist of the Year heats or UK Skills heats; how difficult and pressured is that?

We can all recall the process; starting with research, research and more research followed by sketching, reading the schedule over and over again and thinking and rethinking everything. Driving your close ones mad with your mumblings and ‘what if I do’s’… This is all sandwiched between a busy working life, perhaps including a peak trading period or two and oh yes, the paperwork and possibly VAT. And let’s not forget the member of staff suddenly off ill or the dog, the weather or the family!

These days, competitors seem to have the added pressure of keeping their social media current, compelling and informative. Not forgetting all the chat rooms they belong to as well! This planning process of course is only one part of the competition journey; there are also flower choices to be made, availability, ordering, costs and still you have the design itself to create. This invariably takes twice as long as predicted and in a lot of cases usually means no sleep for several nights. Then there is the final hurdle; getting to the venue which could be several hours drive away, unpacking and displaying work and all to ‘fresh perfection’.

So, it comes as no surprise to me and my fellow judges that when we have judged the designs, made a speech, announced the winners and feedback is in progress, that a competitor can be sullen, confrontational and/or just bursts into tears!

So, to my point at last I hear you say. That competitor and all the others need feedback from a judge who shows a high degree of knowledge but also shows true empathy and understanding.


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