Saturday, September 16, 2017

PEZ ON THE RIVER, behind the scenes of a convention host

We always appreciate a great PEZ Convention, 
but what most of us don't see is all that goes on behind the scenes.
 PEZ on the river hosts Cheryl and Sandy Gardner-Ghionzoli 
take us though the journey!
It is still not to late to join the fun this year! 
Registration is still open!
 You can visit the registration 
or visit 
for more information. 
Pez on the River takes place in 
Winona, MN
October 12th, 13th & 14th 2017
Behind the scenes of a convention host….

Phase 1: 
The Beginning 
Where to host it?
It starts with planning a location. We plan for 2 ½ days, so need to find and work with the hotel, or find a new one. 
What are the costs? 
We need to keep our costs to a minimum while providing a wonderful experience. Ok- have the hotel, and most importantly they are willing to work with us to meet our needs. Challenge 1 down.

Phase 2: 
The Experience

What kind of experience do we want our guests to have? What is the guest expectation?
Hold up- we need to face reality. We can’t please everyone all the time and need to take our best guess. Things change, costs go up, resources are limited.  How do we address rising costs, and knowing that anything can be “expensive” to anyone? What will we do to keep things affordable and worth attending?  More in packets? Less? Limited quantities? What do we think people are going to want to get and is this truly what people are going to want to get? How do we meet in the middle or make a compromise? Get input from your supporters, what are their thoughts, ideas, observations- what are the bare minimums, what are the must haves? What needs to stay the same, thoughts on what needs to change and how. Get lots of ideas- keep an open mind. No-one can do this alone. Our primary goal is to provide our guests with an experience they’ll remember and treasure and this needs to balance with the reality of needing to balance our expenses while doing so. In essence, the goal is to plan a convention that will pay for itself with a little left over to get the next one going. Ok- have a plan, figured a budget, and most importantly have a few secret supporters sworn to secrecy until the convention. They are the buffer zone, ones to bounce ideas off, to get to brainstorm, provide input, and help maintain sanity.
Phase 3:
The Convention Itself

…it culminates after a year of organizing, designing, creating, planning, ordering, prepping, preparing, sorting, detailing, packing, and whatever other … “ing” you can think of!

Day before the convention thoughts? 
Do we have everything we need – door prizes, surprise goodies, schedules, packets, activities, resources (for Pez on the River, these include our significantly important “deck hands”). Everything must go is the phrase- what do we need, what might we need, do we have extra’s, what if…   

Get it all packed in a fashion that will make sense when it ends up at the hotel.  First things first- have to get the Hospitality room set up- how are we going to arrange it? What makes sense for a “traffic pattern”?  Need to make sure all guests get the royal treatment when arriving- where to put things, how to organize deck hands- who is helping with what.  

First early bird guests check in without a hitch, great!  Keep an eye on the time- the barbecue is tonight- what time are we starting, do we have some help, and does everyone attending know the plan.  Communicate, communicate, communicate.   Food was amazing as was the company. Everyone is well fed and socializing, final steps before actual opening day of convention. 

Up at 6am at the latest. Make sure hospitality room set up is going to continue to work.  Deck hands know their role and are comfortable. If not, show them the ropes, encourage confidence and provide support. Do we have all the what’s in place? What is our plan to make sure nothing gets missed for anyone attending?   What is our plan to maintain sanity when it seems like everyone has just shown up at the same time?

“Take a deep breath”, “grab a pop”, “go have a smoke”, “some strong coffee perhaps”?  (You’re going to make time for these things throughout the convention remember if you don’t take care of yourself, you are no darn good to anyone else). Whatever it is you need, get it- this is not a time for a meltdown.  Remember it is all about everyone attending and helping having them have an awesome and fun time. Here we go!

Doors open. Next guests arriving. Many familiar faces and oh the excitement on the new faces arriving. Things start to flow and people are having fun- attendees, deck hands and hosts. You are excited to see people making new connections, re-connecting, visiting, sharing stories and talking about what is to come at this convention. Make sure guests know all of what is available, what is needed for events this evening, time tables, etc.  Plan for nutrients- remember you need to eat too!

What are the other things that are occurring today, what is the plan- do we have enough deck hands- make sure they know what you need from them and that they have the means, supplies and time to do it.  Questions come up- it’s ok- we have this. Take it one step at a time. Who can find this out? Run this errand? Seek this information.  What is the plan to handle the bumps in the road?

Next activities are approaching- figure out the transition. We need to have people here doing this and there doing that- who is going to do what? Have we made it clear what exactly we need so that we can get it right the first time?    Don’t forget about Nemo- has he gone out, actually where is he? Did he wander off or is he sightseeing with a guest. No worries- all is well-we really appreciate those guests and deck hands who provide our mascot the royal treatment. Make sure he has supper before the next event. Have we got the treats, and things to keep him occupied, remember, he’s a dog and doesn’t really “dig” the PEZ (just the candy).  

Does everyone working with us have what they need to stay energized and moving- good food they like and will eat, time to eat, pop/beverages that they want to drink, a plan for people to take breaks- room hop, hang out, relax and put feet up.  We don’t want to kill our deck hands they are just as important to our success as our guests.   

Things are ready to transition. Close the hospitality room for now, have a plan and share it with others for those late arrivals. Put a sign on the door so that people know where we are, when they can check in and what is going on right now. Don’t want people to worry or panic, especially if this is their first convention- that not knowing is not only frustrating but draining. 

Let the games begin! Energy and excitement fill the room- are the games ready, prizes organized, deck hands filled in, microphone working. People are having fun! We are having fun! Games progress, time to get the auction set up.  Are our helpers ready for it to begin, auctioneer ready, guests have paddles or numbers, so far so good. Make sure we are fairly on time. Do we have too much for the auction? How long will it run? People want to room hop and visit afterwards- keep an eye on the time. Running good, make sure the “good items’ are at the beginning to get bidding and excitement going. Starting to get a little long- have had some healthy banter and bidding going on but clock is ticking.  Feel out the crowd- continue? Put some items into the silent auction?  Are there things people want to bid on tonight yet? We want to keep people happy and not bored.

Friday night games a success as was the live auction. People are room hopping, visiting or getting ready for the show tomorrow. Phew…. First day a success.  Before dropping tonight, what do we need to have ready for tomorrow? Does the hotel know what we need for morning set up, what time will our contact person be in? What time do we need to be in the main area to ensure everything is ready for the dealers? What problems did we run into yesterday and what is our plan to fix them, how are we going to handle any bumps.  Get your frustrations out with each other, vent, go for a walk or swim, whatever, we need to be positive and on the same page. Now, maybe for a few hours of sleep…. Maybe 

Good morning Day 2
The Show is Today

Early morning rise to meet in the ballrooms. Are the tables set up correctly? Do we have enough space for walkways, seating, etc. Get the tables marked so when dealers begin to arrive they know where to start setting up. Dealers begin arriving, loaded carts, hand trucks, dollies, arms, etc. Help dealers where ever needed. Almost show time, welcome table set up, greeters ready. Guests begin arriving, share with them all that is going on in the ballrooms. Check in with dealers, do they have what they need? If not, assist in meeting the needs. We are slowing down too, so make sure we eat and drink to keep energy and attitude up. Make sure hotel staff are aware of the show, invite them in.

Time to close costume contest bidding and tally up votes. Now for the announcement! Show starts to slow down, close silent auction and get to tallies. People are waiting to see who won what. Finish all tallies before starting to get people checked out. Dealers start to pack up. Assist as needed, wherever needed.
Time for something real to eat- dinner out with the Pez heads. Remember there are still activities this evening, so pay attention to the time so that you can arrive back and be set up in time for guests to arrive. Thank people for their support of the convention and welcome them to relax and have some fun with each other.

Games went well. People are retiring for the evening, some are headed out.  Say “see you laters’’ and until next time. Thank everyone for all their support.   We need to be out of the hospitality room before 8am tomorrow, so time to pack it up and pack it out to vehicles. Some stuff ends up in hotel room. Use your space wisely- you think you are heading home with less than you came with but remember you shopped to! Time for visiting with deck hands and loyal supporters who have not crashed yet. Return to room and literally crash- but remember, to set an alarm. Our fearless host Sandy is always up early to see our guests and dealers off. Assist with any last-minute issues with guests, hotel, etc.  

Time to check out, pay the bills and head home. Not done yet, need to drive home and then unpack at home. Trucks are empty, and so is the energy tank.  Time for a nap. Nemo already took the lead on that one- he started in the truck on the way home.     
-Cheryl and Sandy Gardner-Ghionzoli 

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