(Reminded by Terry's experiences!)
Sending to both iris talk and iris photos.
For a period of time, I was the placement committed for the SKIS show in Bowling Green KY. The group is very competitive on the show bench. They take their shows very seriously and it shows in the results.
The best article I've read on show grooming is the one in the AIS Bulletin by Sheldon Butts, April 1995 (Number 297) article on page 17. It was rerun is the bulletin in the spring of 2006.
I'd like to address Terry's comment about the top bloom in her 'practice' picture. Each stalk has a front and back. You can determine the 'face' of the stalk by looking at the top or terminal bloom. One side will be centered better than the other. Just a little prettier. After turning the stalk around a few time, you will learn how to 'read' it!
There should be NO foliage below the top of the container and definitely no foliage in the water. This includes branches and fans or the joining of both. Everything at the top of the container should be as neat as possible and this does include the spacers.
What you do below the water level depends on the type of container. Clear containers limit your options, but judges can't judge what they can't see . . . so solid containers allow some options with the height. If none of this can be seen, you can add lengths of stalk to the bottom of the show stalk, using tooth picks to join them. Take an extra stalk or two to the show just for this purpose.
Pieces of stalk are also good for wedging out the branches a few days before the show. Chunks of stalk are less likely to damage the soft tissue of the branches or leave trace material. Winners of our shows are known for staking the stalks days before the show to assure straight stalks.
Trimming of foliage should be at a minimum. It must follow the contour of the fan and be less than 1/4 inch. Artful people can get away with a little more, but a fan that is 'lopped off'' half way down will not merit a blue ribbon. (I've gotten by with excessive lopping and been caught doing it!)
Prepare a "show" bag with scissors, etc.. Take plenty of paper towels and Q-tips. Q-tips are good for cleaning the bugs off the blooms. Some judges don't allow for even one bug on a bloom, while others do allow for the possible migration of one or two 'visitors.' Good reason to mix up your judges from year to year.
Leave the 'frost' in place on the stalks unless you have finger prints in it. Then, go ahead and gently wipe the whole stalk down with a paper towel.
Feel free to add other tips for Terry and other newbies!
KY Zone 6