An Interview with Jessalynn Medairy
Behind the Scenes at
The International Pole Convention
The International Pole and Exotic Dance Convention is an annual event showcasing pole and exotic dance in its many wonderful form and variations. The convention is a place for pole athletes, pole studio owners, wannabe pole dancers and everyone inbetween to come and learn, play, shop and be entertained, to develop themselves professionally, to network with other in the industry and see some of the world’s finest perform in the flesh!
The first International Pole Convention was held in Washington DC in May, and the 2nd just recently in Palm Beach Florida over a 3 day weekend.
“This year’s pole convention was even more amazing than last year’s – and that’s saying something. And [it’s] all thanks to the amazing, the incomparable Jessalyn Medairy, who spent the entire year preparing for the convention. I don’t know where she learned it, but that woman knows her stuff – she understands the needs of vendors (thank you!) and performers and attendees.
There is something awe-inspiring about the energy Jessalyn is able to create – she understands pole and she understands event planning, and the two skills combine to offer an outrageously fun weekend of performances, seminars, shopping, bonding, and pole jams!”
Jennifer Michelle of PoleSkivvies
After reading that beautiful testimonial I just had to interview this Jessalynn woman – and find out exactly HOW she manages to do it all!
See for yourself below…
So let’s start with you telling us a little about the International Pole Convention. What did it involve this year?
More than 80 performers went on stage this year in either a group performance or solo. The performers are invited to perform on the main stage, supporting their studio, country and their style. There is no competition so they always enjoy putting on their most fun performances at the Convention.
Well, we do host one competitive event and it’s mostly a lot of fun! We call it the ‘Spins & Trix Battle’. Bad Kitty PoleFit Wear has sponsored this event both years. Participants can win the titles of ‘Best Spin’ and ‘Best Trick’; the judges look for good technique, originality and athleticism of the move. As a prize, Bad Kitty Pole Wear gives them a gift card for their website. The battle begins with the Spins category first and guests can come on stage and present their best spin. Following the spins, the Trix category begins and guests can participate by dazzling the judges with their best trick. It brings a lot of audience participation to the stage and gets everyone engaged.
What about workshops?
There were 3 business workshops at this year’s Convention and one of them was FREE to any guests of the Convention. These workshops were geared towards helping studio owners and managers develop strong team building, marketing and management skills. The speakers were from PFA (Pole Fitness Association) and very well educated on these subjects to give these presentations. The guests were given materials to take home and they were able to take a lot of notes on the subject matter.
In 2010, we hosted speakers on grip training, head/hand stands, Pole Dancing in the Olympics, The Growth of Pole, the importance of warming up and cooling down, building a federation, etc.
So, how do you feel the Pole Convention went this year?
I think it was awesome! So many people came up to me and told me they had a great time and that was enough in my book. I give this event an A+. Without the help of family and friends, this would have been extremely tough to pull off.
This is the 2nd annual Pole Convention you have organised. How does this year’s event compare to your first one?
This year had ‘WOW!’ written all over it. It was much more expensive than the first one but it was all worth it. We put a big footprint in the fitness world and got both the media and guests raving about the event. I’m hoping that our guests continue to build on, year after year, and everyone can grow together.
The first Pole Convention was a year I really learned from. It helped me find a direction to take the Pole Convention and it gave me some great event planning experience. I knew exactly what I had to do in order to prepare the next one.
This year, we introduced free workshops with International Pole Stars, introduced other Exotic Fitness classes such as belly dancing, contortion, floor work, headstand/handstand and business classes. We were also in a new city, we had a truss/pole rigging on the stage (Last year, we used 3 X-stages instead of a rigging system as we didn’t have much of a budget) , we added more vendors and had bigger sponsors including Mighty Grip, X-Pole (title Sponsor), Bad Kitty Pole Wear and Pole Pressure.
What does it take to make an event like your Pole Convention run smoothly? Tell us about the whole process – from planning and promotion right through to what goes on behind the scenes at show time!
We start planning about 13 months before the event. We book the date about 11 months out in order to secure the Convention location and it’s a full-time job from there.
There is a 3-person team that searches videos to pick the soloists and Stars. They vote and choose which ones are to be invited, which takes months. We construct the software to purchase passes, organize the location, map out the order of the rooms in the Convention Center, price negotiations and meetings at the location, which also takes months of organization. We organize sponsorship packages, vendor spaces, build workshops, build schedules, build personal itineraries, designate managers, consult designers, speak to engineers about equipment and recruit speakers. All of this would happen over the course of about 5 months.
My mom, Debra, builds the software to bring in the purchases; my dad, Dale, helps engineer the poles and the construction of the rigging; my boyfriend, brother and my brother’s girlfriend help on-site to maintain the organization of the vendors, workshops and theatre. I have an assistant that also helps organize the materials that will go on-site at the Convention and then everything else; I do myself.
This all goes on before the passes go on sale; when passes go on sale, the real fun begins. People race to workshops and get in on all the cool things and then our invoice system goes bonkers. We’re handling computer glitches, system overloads, helping people purchase, answering questions in other languages and sending e-receipts. This all goes on while there is planning still in the background. It takes many months to build the Convention itinerary that guests see in the program.
It’s about a 45-hour work week to host the Convention and then a few months in from the Convention, I’ll work 8-10 hour days, everyday without a break. That’s what it really takes to put on this event, a lot of time and dedication. My team and I work hard to ensure it runs flawlessly.
[When the Convention is on] we use walkie-talkies to communicate on-site and they are the most helpful lines of communication. We have clipboards of itineraries for personal duties and who should appear to teach and perform. Basically, everyone’s blood pressure goes through the roof over the course of the weekend and it takes about 3 weeks to recover from the adrenaline of the weekend!
We build a jaw-dropping event that is extremely organized, positive and it takes all year to plan.
Wow! That sounds like an incredible effort! But your work is clearly paying off, as the International Pole Convention is proving to be a popular event for pole dancers the world over. How do you cope with organising all that? It must be mad behind the scenes!
At the Convention on Friday and Saturday, I felt like I was going to vomit. I could feel the throw up coming up my throat. I was soooo stressed and sooooo nervous that something was going to go wrong. I had prepared so well that I was nervous that something was sure to pop up that wasn’t meant to or a speaker or performer wasn’t going to show.
There is only so much I can control and then it falls into the other person’s hands. I had to keep talking myself out of it. I even remember thinking in my head on Saturday morning, “there’s no way I can do this again. This amount of stress is going to give me a heart attack. I can’t do the Convention again another year!”
Once I talked myself off of that ledge, I calmed myself down and realized that my hard work was going to take shape. Every guest seemed excited and everyone was having an awesome time and the hard work really paid off. I can do this again, no problem. LOL.
How much does it cost to put on an event of this size?
I can’t disclose this, but let’s just say… many many many thousands of dollars.
What is your best advice to people in other countries planning or organising similar events?
What is your favourite thing about running the Pole Convention?
The biggest reward is knowing everyone is having a good time and I really like knowing that I’m doing something that no one else has. This event doesn’t make me any money and I was really hoping it would this year, but call me crazy, it still didn’t happen. My eyes are set on the future, in hopes that the third year around, I’ll be able to see some return on the investment and hard work.
In organising and promoting your event, have you had any negative responses from the public or the media?
None. It’s actually been really great to hear that people have heard of Pole Fitness when I talk to people from other cities. It means their local studios as well as national and international events are really creating an impact. This year we were featured on 27 different TV networks, 3 magazines, 5 newspapers and various website blogs, posts, etc!
What shocked you the most at the Pole Convention this year?
The entire Convention is ‘expect the unexpected’. One specific obstacle I can think of is that the excitement of the Convention gets a lot of people wrapped up which made it sometimes hard to get them to their workshop/performances/speaking seminar on time. There is so much excitement in the air that people lose track of time easily. Our staff has to continually make sure our workshop hosts/performers/speakers be at the right place on time. I’m not really even sure this is an obstacle but I know it’s one task that becomes hard on the staff. Our staff runs all around the Convention all weekend long to ensure everything runs on time. The staffs feet were hurting so bad every night, but they all told me they had a great time and want to help again next year.
What would say was the best thing about the 2011 Pole Convention, for you?
I really enjoy seeing the Group Performances. I think it’s great that groups of people prepare to come to the Convention by building a routine together. I think that is extremely rewarding in itself; a group wants to be a part of this event and their willing to take time out of their schedule to practice to get here.
Are there any plans for a DVD of performances, or for the videos to be available online?
Anyone can purchase a DVD-set of this year’s Convention by going to poleconvention.com and selecting STORE. For pictures, check out www.poleconventionphotos.com
Fantastic. Is there anything else you would like to say?
I enjoy this. I love everything about the Pole Convention.