Monday, September 13, 2010

Special Report: 2011 Disney Mom's Panel! The Search Is On!


It's officially the first day you can apply for the 2011 Mom's Panel!!! Many of us have already applied (I did, although I accidentally sent my application in before I was done with it...oops! I managed to send it in again...hopefully that will work. And hopefully I can get a hold of Laura Spencer to clear things up before she starts actually reading the applications. Things like that only happen to me though it seems!)

So, with my terrible start to the road on the Mom's Panel, I thought we'd talk with someone who actually did things the right way. Matter fact, she did so well, she managed to actually BECOME a WDW Mom's Panelist!

Suzannah DiMarzio, otherwise known as Zanna to so many of us, was so kind to answer some questions for me about her process. If you all don't know Zanna by now, you should! She is a mom of 3, a former Disney Cast Member, oh and she has a great blog called Zannaland and you can find her awesome tweets on Twitter.

I thought Zanna could be some help to those of us applying over the next few days! (Remember, you have until Sept. 17th to apply.) It is so interesting to see how the process really works and of course get tips as to the best things we can personally do to make ourselves potentially stand out among the sea of other Disney fanatics and for those who are lucky enough, how to deal with the process! So, on with the interview!

Why did you apply?

I applied to the Walt Disney World Moms Panel after seeing a little blurb for it in the newsletter. I thought - wow, that's perfect for me! I have all of this Disney experience, both as a child visiting, as an adult working as a cast member and a travel agent, and now as a mom. I applied, but I treated it more like a resume and listed off all that experience, which was not the right approach. When I didn't get in, I just kind of shrugged, as I hadn't really been in the right place for it to happen, so when it didn't, it wasn't the end of the world for me. (Last year was a different story, however!) ;)

What was the process like?

The first time, like I mentioned above, I treated it like a resume. I listed off my countless visits and experience and tried to explain why this title was perfect for me. The second time (last year) I decided to just share who I was and share my experiences as a planner *because* of the passion I had for Disney. I discussed my family and our unique mix of members.

It's difficult to fit all that you want to say in 3 100-word essays, but that is part of the challenge. Disney wants to see that you can clearly and concisely convey what needs to be said. I'm not sure if the process is changing this year, but in the past it has been 2 sets of 3, 100-word essays, followed by a phone interview and then the panel. It's a long process that you must be prepared to endure the ups and downs of for the final prize! ;)

How did you handle the wait?

The wait is pretty unbearable if you are really obsessed with it, as I was last year. You understand going in just HOW many people you are competing with, so logically you know that it's a not a quick turnaround and you're in for a roller coaster of emotions, but it doesn't make it any easier just because you're prepared! My advice is just to do your absolute best and then try to distract yourself as much as possible as you wait! Easier said than done, I know!

What was one thing that surprised you about the process?

I think I just assumed going in that there was no way anyone could actually READ all of the first round applications...but they do! That's why grammar and spelling are so important because one way to weed out that many applicants is definitely to look to those errors first. I was also surprised at how nervous I was on the phone interview. I thought I was so prepared to be calm and be myself, but it's another emotion altogether when you see that "407" area code pop up on your phone!

Talk about the training process at Walt Disney World.

The training process is a wonderful combination of getting to know your fellow panelists (who become your instant best friends), highlighting some of the wonderful new things Walt Disney World has going on so that you are better able to describe them in your answers, some nerve-wracking video interviews as we tape the bios that appear on the Moms Panel site, and actual training on the computer program we used to answer the questions. It's a whirlwind of fun and emotion and VIP treatment!

What is it like being a Mom's Panelist?

It is an experience like no other. You definitely feel honored to be selected to such an elite group and I also felt like I wanted to prove them right. I wanted to answer the questions the best I could and I wanted to learn about every Disney news item or change going on. I was representing the company I loved so much, even if not in cast member form, and I wanted to do them proud. It's wonderful to meet so many people that appreciate what you do and want to join you too. Love for Disney parks is a very powerful thing!

How do you pick questions to answer?

Personally, I gravitated toward questions I loved to answer, such as those about resorts (differences, how to choose, etc.), dining options, families traveling with small children or babies, as well as questions that I looked at like a challenge. I wanted to research and find the best answer (and the right answer) for people that took the time to ask a question and get help planning their family's vacation. All the questions are fun in their own way and I loved looking through and deciding which ones I could best help with.

What has been the best and the strangest question you've answered?

It's hard to pick just one, but a question that actually brought tears to my eyes was one from a woman who had not been to Walt Disney World since she had undergone IVF treatment to have a baby. After years of trying, she now had her little princess and was bringing her back to Disney for the first time. That just made me tear up right sweet. This is why being on the Moms Panel is such an amazing experience, you get to share in "strangers" memories and triumphs, as they celebrate them at the Happiest Place on Earth. It's truly a gift.

I think the strangest question I got was about someone that wanted to go to Disney World, but said they also wanted to go to the ocean. Just kind of random. I answered as best I could, and tried to highlight the most "ocean-like" resorts at Walt Disney World and also told her about Disney's Vero Beach if she wanted to make a day trip! ;)

What is the one thing you will take away from this experience?

I think I learned a lot about myself in this process. I learned what's important to me and my family and how to share that with other people looking to plan their vacations. I learned how 43 people with almost nothing in common on paper can become the best of friends in reality. I learned a lot about social media as well, even though I thought I knew a lot already! Ok, so that's not one thing, but it's hard to narrow it down! The entire experience has been a gift which I cherish daily.

Anything else you think would be important for people to know?

I think, with odds like the ones in the Moms Panel application frenzy, it's difficult not to lose sight of the value you have as a passionate Disney fan. It's easy to say "I'm not worthy" when you get that email saying "thanks for applying but you haven't been selected" but that couldn't be further from the truth. There are so many amazing Disney fans out there and the Moms Panel is just one area to highlight your love and passion. Heading into its fourth year, the panel is trying to be as diverse and far-reaching as possible so every family looking to plan a vacation feels represented by those panelists here to help them. Just looking around twitter, facebook and the blogosphere, you can see you are not alone in the sea of Disney news, information and planning advice. Embrace it and find your niche, no matter where that takes you. Pink shirt or not, we are all lovers of Disney and represent Walt himself each time we share that love with others.

Best of luck to one and all! I can't wait to meet the new panelists!

A HUGE THANK YOU to Zanna for answering my questions! Like I said before, if you aren't reading her blog or following her on Twitter...stop reading this right now...and go and remedy this. I'll wait.....

I think the best thing to take away from what she says is that we all can be a part of the Disney community in our own ways. It doesn't have to be something as "big" as the Mom's Panel. It can be something like a Twitter-er, a Facebook-er, a blog reader, a blog commenter, a message board participant, or in my case...a blogger and a podcaster.

I know while I gave it my all today in my matter what the outcome is, I am lucky to have found and be involved in the Disney community! We are all lucky that we've found people like ourselves...crazy about a Mouse.

So, best of luck to everyone who applied or is still thinking about applying! Because out there, right now...(I feel like Ryan Seacrest at the beginning of the season of American Idol)...among the sea of people applying for the Mom's Panel...are people who are actually going to get picked...and before the end of the year...they really are actually going to be able to say...I am a Walt Disney World Mom's Panelist!


Zanna said...

Thanks Rikki!! It's been wonderful to get to know you over the past year - best of luck to you and everyone applying this week!

Brooke said...

Awesome piece! I really like how you and Zanna both highlight how we can all find our niche in the wonderful world of Disney, even if we don't make the Mom's Panel (butihopewedo.) Aaand, I'm already following Zanna, so now I'm following you! Thanks again.

Unknown said...

Zanna: Thank you again so much for taking the time to answer my questions!

Brooke: Thanks for following! :) And best of luck to you! We really all do have a place in the wonderfulness of the online community!