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Meet the man planning every detail of the RNC

What does it take to put together a national political convention? From the balloon drop to the video displays to the delegates clamoring to participate in democracy, John Yang talks to some of the people behind the big show in Cleveland this year.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So let's now take a look behind the scenes at what it takes to put a convention like this together.

    John Yang is our guide.

  • JOHN YANG:

    People have come to the Republican Convention in Cleveland for many reasons.

  • DELEGATE:

    The number one thing that we need to achieve here at convention is unity.

  • DELEGATE:

    We want to make the party seem more relevant.

  • DELEGATE:

    I'm looking forward to seeing Donald Trump.

  • JOHN YANG:

    The person in charge of making it all happen? Convention executive producer Phil Alongi.

  • PHIL ALONGI, Executive Producer, Republican National Convention:

    Believe it not, this is my 17th political convention.

  • JOHN YANG:

    For 15 of them, he was a top producer for NBC News. Now he's doing it for the Republican Party.

  • PHIL ALONGI:

    I always feel that any opportunity to give voters information and fulfill our responsibility is what we should do. This is a news event and it should be handled by a news person.

  • JOHN YANG:

    Alongi is in charge of planning every detail of the program you'll see on your screens, from the balloon drop, setting up signs, even the audio and video displays inside the hall. He and his team started planning it all in April…of 2015.

    As you go through that period and once you get down to the actual presumptive nominee, are there tweaks and changes you have got to do?

  • PHIL ALONGI:

    Always. We didn't know who the nominee was going to be. We wanted to be able to make them feel they were part of the process and engage.

  • JOHN YANG:

    What sort of personalization did the Trump campaign want?

  • PHIL ALONGI:

    Certainly, the look of the lectern. What we're able to do with this set is achieve, through lighting, through the screens, any kind of mood or whatever.

  • JOHN YANG:

    His favorite features? The two giant video screens on the podium.

  • PHIL ALONGI:

    It's 1,711 square feet of LED screens, something like 10 million pixels.

    The upper screen is a convex screen, so it comes out to you. And the lower screen is a concave, so it draws you in, and so that's what we're hoping. It keeps everything flowing.

  • JOHN YANG:

    Alongi's first position as executive producer for the party was 2012 in Tampa.

    This is a political year unlike any other. How does this compare to the last time?

  • PHIL ALONGI:

    Well, we had Governor Romney earlier in the process, a different candidate, a different type of race.

  • JOHN YANG:

    Delegates we spoke with, each want to came away with something different.

  • DELEGATE:

    I'm going to take away all this memory, all this nice time.

  • DELEGATE:

    Then I feel as a delegate that I made a difference.

  • JOHN YANG:

    For Alongi, the goal is clear.

  • PHIL ALONGI:

    The challenge of working on this event from here is you have to keep 20,000-plus people entertained here and interested, and you have the millions of people that are back home watching.

    Now, I just want to bring whatever I can into that control room and give the people the best show that they can possibly get.

  • JOHN YANG:

    That show starts tonight, as Melania Trump and Republican notables take this stage.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang in Cleveland.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And our coverage will start tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

    Tune in from your car or the couch for our special NPR/"PBS NewsHour" coverage of the Republican National Convention Cleveland — now back to Hari in Washington.

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