From the Contest Queen

WOW!  What a trip!  We just got back from a whirlwind weekend in London England.  Craig (my husband) won a trip last month sponsored in Canada by The National Post newspaper and run on their website.  The prize was called The Harry Potter Great Hall Experience.  The prize consisted of a weekend in London and attending a special party held Warner Bros. on the Great Hall set at Leavesden Studios.

The promotion was managed worldwide by Performance Entertainment Ltd.  They ran the sweepstake in 20 countries and there were 150 attendees to the feast.  We were the only Canadians.  It was very well organized.  Our contact at The National Post arranged our airline tickets and the balance was arranged by Performance Entertainment.

Carolyn dressed as Professor Sybil Trelawney
sitting in Albus Dumbledore's chair at the head
table in Hogwart's Great Hall.

Professor Sybil Trelawney

Everyone enjoying dinner in the Great Hall.
The Great Hall

The trip was for four so Craig, myself, Nicole (our daughter) and my mom jetted off to the UK.  We left Toronto at 11:00pm on Thursday December 8th and arrived at 12:30pm on Friday December 9th.  They had arranged for us to be met at the airport.  All the winners and their guests stayed at the Radisson SAS Portman Hotel in the heart of Central London.  Upon our arrival at the hotel, we were given our welcome package which included our itinerary and our passes for the feast.  We got two adjoining rooms which was very convenient.  We spent the balance of the Friday wandering around Oxford Street shopping.  That evening, Nicole was really tired so my mom babysat while Craig and I had dinner out.  (We had spent our honeymoon in London 12 years ago, so it was really romantic.)

Saturday, we did more Christmas shopping and had tea at Fortnum & Mason.  We got back to the hotel early to get ready for the party.  It was a “fancy dress” feast (English for costume or theme party).  Nicole went in a school uniform outfit in Slitheryn colours and I dressed as Professor Sybil Trelawney.  My mom and Craig didn’t have time to put costumes together as we were given very short notice.  It turns out I was the only adult in costume (other than the contest management team) as many countries thought fancy dress meant black tie.

At 5:00pm, we boarded four busses and drove to Leavesden Studios in Watford.  It was about a 90min. drive.  Upon our arrival, we checked our coats and waited outside the doors.  We were greeted by a wizard and ushered in through smoke-effects.  It was very surreal walking through the doors into the Great Hall and being offered a Butterbeer (butterscotch syrup and club soda).  We were the first people, outside of the cast and crew, to visit the set.  Nicole had fallen asleep in her stroller and missed the whole thing.  Thankfully, she woke up in time to have dinner.

To keep us entertained before dinner, they had a make-up artist turning everyone into witches and wizards along with a magician performing close-hand magic.  Once everyone was seated, we were served a really great dinner including rice, roasted vegetables and roasted chicken.  After dinner we got to meet a few of the animal stars of the movies: Crookshank, Fang and Hedwig.  There was music and dancing for another hour before we had to board the busses and head back to our hotel.

We were lucky enough to extend the trip by one day.  On Sunday we visited the London Eye and had fantastic views of London.  Since we had such an early flight back to Toronto, we were up at 4:30am on Monday to make our 9:00am flight.  It took us three days to get over the jetlag.  Of all the prizes, trips and experiences we have won, I have to say this is the best one to-date and the only prize I think that could top this trip would be a brand new car!

This trip and experience are exactly why I encourage people to contest or sweep as a hobby.  You get to do and see things you would not normally get to do in your “real” life.


Tips and Tricks

This story came from Jude in Oklahoma City, OK.

My friend just won a truck with an $11,000 sound system.  I am getting ahead of myself.  At first Terry lost then he won!  Let me explain.  The promotion ran all summer long.  There were three ways to qualify: 1) on the radio, 2) via ballot at live radio remotes and 3) mail-in.  There were 97 qualifiers and only 67 showed up to the final draw.  I showed up too, just incase they were taking any last minute qualifiers (they were not).  Instead of the standard key-turn draw, they had a large pop machine set-up.  They all drew numbers to determine their order and than they pushed a button and the pop came out.  If you got the Sierra Mist can you lost.  If you got the Pepsi can you won the truck.  Terry was number 14 and he didn’t win but he hung around to see what would happen.  It was down to the last two people and the machine malfunctioned.  No more cans would come out.  The sponsors then put everyone’s name in a box and they drew Terry’s name.  He won the truck!!  So here’s my tip: NEVER leave a promotion until the winner has actually been picked.

Have a great tip? Send me your best tips to share with the contesting community. Remember “You Can’t Lose Helping Others Win”.

Your Questions Answered

Do you know where I can find any article on how online sweepstakes are judged, in other words, how they pick the winners?  I would like to share an article at my next sweepstakes group meeting.
Southampton NJ

Hi Diane,
I do not have any articles on the subject but I do have the answer for you from the interviews I conducted with various contest management companies for my book.

Online sweeps are not judged.  The winner is selected by computer using a type of software called a random number generator.  All online entries are tagged with a number.  When it is time to select the winner, the database parameters are input into the computer (the first and last numbers the program can possibly select) and then it is allowed to run.  It will then produce a number and the number is matched to a file.  The file contained all the contact information input for the sweepstake.  The winner is then contacted.  Simple as that.

This is really good news for sweepers and contestors because I have spoken to many that are worried about being flagged by the contest management company and not being allowed to win.  Since the computer is so impersonal, and as long as you follow the rules, you have just as much chance of winning as anyone else.

I know this to be true because most of my entries are online and I won over 125 sweepstakes last year and over 150 this year.  I am definitely a contestor and I have also interviewed most of the Canadian contest management companies for my book so they all know who I am.  If I was “flagged and/or banned” then I certainly would not win as much as I do.  Entering online is my favourite method because it is the easiest and I know the odds are very even because the winner selection is unbiased.

Send me any sweeping or contesting questions you would like answered.

You Can’t Win If You Don’t Enter

I finally received the proof copy of my book from the printer.  It was not acceptable.  I have decided to have a freelance graphic designer do the book layout and formatting to meet my specifications.  It will then be uploaded to the printer.  I will then get one copy to approve before we do the full book run.  I am estimating the new release timeline for the Canadian Edition to be late January/early February.  Once I know the printing of the Canadian Edition is correct, I will begin the research for the American Edition.  I am estimating, with the unexpected delay, the American Edition will now be available Summer 2006.

Keep your eye on this section for future updates on the book’s progress.


Please send all your comments and suggestions to