Walt Disney World Moms PanelIt’s that time again! In less than a month – September 13th to be exact – the search will again begin for new members of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel. Those of you familiar with the blog may remember my journey last year, which I chronicled here (and on twitter) pretty much to the point of making everyone around me nauseous with my pixie-dusted self. My only defense is that I was, in fact, very excited and determined to succeed in my goal of being on the panel and the blog hadn’t really taken off yet at that point, so I had a bit of time on my hands in order to wax poetic on the Moms Panel. A LOT. I’m still not sure how I was picked from all the amazing applicants. I have never doubted my Disney vacation planning knowledge or passion, but in meeting other panelists, they all seem to have something incredible that sets them apart. So while I’m not sure what it was that set me apart, I am forever grateful for the opportunities I was given and the friends I have made as a result. This past year really has been life-changing and opened my eyes to so many wonderful things.

Now, onto the point of my post. So you say you want to be on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, eh? Well I’m here to explain how it all works. Of course, the actual process of choosing the applicants is top secret and not something we panelists are involved in, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give you a little info on how things go down.

First, the misconceptions – Most people think you have to a) be a mom and b) have kids to be chosen for the panel. This is simply not true. While the panel has the moniker of “Moms” panel it really is not exclusive to moms at all. Each year up until last year, one dad was chosen with each new panel. Last year, six dads joined the team. While there has not been a panelist without children chosen yet, they are still welcome to apply. The questions we receive on the panel range from what time Fantasmic shows on a certain date, how to make a celebration at Walt Disney World special, recommending hotels or restaurants, to which attractions are the most enjoyable for certain guests. There are just as many questions that have nothing to do with being a parent per se, as there are questions about how to handle the parks with kids. Bottom line, Disney is looking for knowledge, passion, and the ability to convey those two things clearly as you help guests plan their vacations.  The official qualifications from last year include visiting the WDW resort within the last 12 months along with some other must-haves.

Well, why don’t I let the Pink Princess herself, Walt Disney World Moms Panel and Social Media Manager Laura Spencer share some tips for what they are looking for, in her own words:

  • The competition is VERY stiff. The Walt Disney World Moms Panel website is based on writing, so poor grammar and typos will probably get you eliminated almost immediately. Proofread your applications.
  • Things like calling the Magic Kingdom ‘Disney World’  or the monorail the ‘train’ to the parks are subtle hints to reviewers that let them know your knowledge level.
  • Just be you. It’s not possible to know everything about Disney Parks. Fine dining, Disney architecture and multicultural family travel were my areas of expertise when I applied for the panel, so that’s what I talked about.
  • If your friends and family cannot help themselves from calling YOU for their Disney trip planning advice, somehow show that passion on the application. You have to literally “jump” off of the page to be picked from applicants that seem to get better each year.
  • Do your friends and family recommend you to other people to help them plan their Disney Parks vacations? If you cannot answer ‘yes’ to that question, then perhaps the Walt Disney World Moms Panel isn’t for you.  Current and former panel members have such a high passion for all things Disney, that everyone in their inner and outer circle knows it. Panelists were usually known as the ‘go-to’ person in their communities for Disney trip planning advice before they ever made it onto the panel.

Great words of wisdom. The first year I applied, I tried to fit in as many things as I could to “prove” what I knew and why I “deserved” to be on the panel. I realized that coming from that frame of mind – “I know it all, I SHOULD be on this panel!” is not the way to go about it. I feel, personally, that you must show your true self in your words and show what you DO with all that knowledge you have. There are thousands of Disney experts out there, but do you want them to help plan your vacation? And do they want to help?

As far as the actual process – the Walt Disney World Moms Panel search page will switch over to a form for writing your essay questions, in 100 words or less, on the date applications begin. If you already have a log-in for WaltDisneyWorld.com, simply use that to log-in and begin writing your answers. If you do not, you’ll be able to register before you start. You will then answer three questions, which could be about you, your family, what makes you a great Disney vacation planner, or other topics to help those reading get to know you a little better.

That email you use to register will be where all future communications from the Moms Panel are sent. You will receive a confirmation email that your application has been received. If you do not receive this email, do not panic. It could be lost in your spam folder, or somewhere in space between Disney and your computer. As long as you received the confirmation page on the site where you applied, your application has been received. While Disney cannot guarantee replying to all the applicants that do not make the cut, in the past emails have been sent out thanking you for your time and efforts and inviting you to the Mickey Moms Club.

One word of warning – do not write your answers in a word processor and copy and paste them into the form. Coding and invisible characters can be pasted in, making your answers virtually impossible to read. The form does note this, but it can be easy to miss in the excitement. You want to make sure all your words come across clearly!

If you move on to the second round, there will be another set of three essay questions to answer, most likely looking for specific examples of how you’ve helped others plan successful Disney vacations. I know many people want to know the questions ahead of time to prepare answers and not have to worry about being under pressure to fit it all in, in 100 words or less, under pressure. My view on this is that it doesn’t help. You are then so focused on trying to find the ‘right’ thing to say, you lose yourself in the process and that will be evident to those reading your responses. Let the real you shine through, spontaneously.

The third round then turns to a phone interview. You’ll be asked a few more questions and if you make it to this point, you’ll probably think your replies were horrible when you get off the phone. Pretty much every single panelist I spoke to last year thought they failed the phone interview miserably (myself included!) and obviously, that was not the case! My advice here is to relax, be yourself and try to speak as if you are just talking to a friend about Disney. That’s easy to do right?

As I did last year, I will update this page with information when applications open and as each new round starts. I can’t wait to meet the 2011 panel!

Have you applied in the past? Will you again this year? I’d love to hear from you here and have you keep me posted on how the process goes for you. Wishing all of my friends who joined me on this path last year, as well as those reading this now, the best of luck this year. I hope you will get to receive the exciting message I was honored to be given last year. No matter what happens, be confident in your knowledge and passion for our favorite place – Walt Disney World. Pixie dust to all!

Update: From Laura Spencer at the Mickey Moms Club Illuminations Party, the 2011 Walt Disney World Moms Panel search will begin on September 13 and run for 5 days, until September 17. Best of luck!