Well Eric, you know how I feel about competitions....and you did a nice job at IBM.
My question is WHO IS JUDGING THE JUDGES???????
There are LOTS of politics involved. This, I know from lots of experience. I appreciate Pete Biro's wonderful comments, but, I know for a fact, that often the entire team of judges are not aware of agendas that other judges may have....
I've been there too many times, and heard comments after a lot of drinks at the bars....lots of judges are involved with a contestant as a friend, or mentor....and never reveal this to other judges, and of course, do their parts to make things go as they wish....
My feeling is that there should be simply a show of amateur magicians, auditioned for, and performed in front of their peers. The competition forum is often not fair, in spite of the idealistic hopes of those competing and judging.
But, to answer your question....I think that being in a show of any sort, raises the bar for magicians. So, ....practice on, and be your very best at all times. That's what has given audiences Lance Burton, and the like. ;)
Let the audience decide on what is magical to them....PEOPLE's CHOICE all the WAY!!!! :)