2015 conference

Podcast Movement: How to Add Humanity to Your Conference

When done right, conferences are living, breathing events that are as much about the people attending as those speaking. Though most follow a particular formula (workshops, keynotes, promo booths, schedules, etc.) a conference can be far more than “that thing on your calendar you have to go to in a few months”. I’ve previously written about how to get the most out of conference networking, and I was curious how Podcast Movement would be. That’s right, I had the pleasure of attending the world’s largest podcast conference this year, Podcast Movement, all motivated to do after meeting some amazing people at another conference: New Media Expo (NMX). Yes, a conference be got another conference.

In Fort Worth, Texas, 1100 soon-to-be, new, experienced and famous podcasters came together to learn and network around their favoured platform. In a nutshell…it was pretty great.

So how do you create an event in just two years that is considered a resounding success from attendees, speakers and venders? Pretty straightforward: Add that human touch. Bringing in that human element has an amazing impact that brings people together, makes them want to be your brand ambassadors and lets them feel a part of something. Maybe even a “movement”.

What’s Good

  1. Knowing and building your community beforehand – I’m not sure what co-founders Jared Easley and Dan Franks did to ramp up for the first year’s conference but they really worked to create something special before this second one. They created and nurtured a valuable community in their Facebook Group, full of helpful tips, great resources and a bunch of people ready to help anyone who asked for it to get their podcast going. What better way to get buy-in before the conference has even begun? Jared even did an interview for Social Media Examiner on how to be successfully doing build an online community.
  2. Provide opportunities for growth beyond the “kool-aid drinkers” aka adding people that are beyond “podcast famous” – One of the first comments I got about my Podcast Movement photos from non-podcasters was that they were blown away by the keynote speakers. Mark Maron, Aisha Tyler and Serial’s Sarah Koenig are a part of the pop culture consciousness now, not just popular in a small social platform niche. Apologies to John Lee Dumas, Roman Mars and Pat Flynn, but it’s this push to breakthrough to the mainstream that will really help with wide spread adoption. And yes, when you can hear them in your car.
  3. Being present – If you want to build a strong human-friendly event, your leaders/figure-heads/champions have to be present, and accessible. Warm, approachable, and with the philosophy of “community-first” will really help an event’s buy-in because it’s not about buying a ticket to a conference, it becomes about an experience with like minded people. Jared and Dan were all over the place. I think I saw more pictures of Easley with attendees than I did of any of the keynotes. And understand, it wasn’t about Jared or the conference but the badge of honour of being part of this community and what it said about the attendees.
    As Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” And the “why” of being part of a movement is pretty strong.

What could be Better

  1. Let the restaurants in town know you’re coming – This is more of a conference centre thing than Podcast Movement thing but it did impact the experience. The local restaurants didn’t seem to be aware or prepared for all these new temporary residents. Whether it was an almost 2.5 hour wait for lunch (missed two sessions) or a ghost town at 9am on a Saturday, For Worth didn’t seem ready to be a good host. One of the restauranteurs even admitted that there’s no communication between the conference centre and the local small businesses. That’s a helluva missed opportunity.
  2. More time to network and longer lunches – as I mentioned in a previous blog, one of the best values you can get at an event like this is the networking. This conference just didn’t feel like it provided the time. Back to back to back sessions, engaging keynotes and a firm hour for lunch equaled not a lot of social time. Sure there is always time afterwards but giving some breathing room for a bit of organic connection is good too.
  3. Be less awesome – I don’t know if this is a complaint or just a good problem to have. One of the reasons there wasn’t a lot of time is because there was always something I didn’t want to miss. Usually, when I go to a conference, there’s only a few sessions going on and I can skip 1 or 2 to breathe and meet some fellow attendees…not this conference. It was packed with too much to hear, learn and do. It was actually a complaint I heard from a few people. Whether it was to check the vendors, record their own shows or connect with other humans, there was too much FOMO (fear of missing out)

Bottom line, this was a great event that I was more than thrilled to have been a part of. Whether it was making new friends in Julia Turnstall, Nick Loper, Jenna Pangan, Omar Zenhom, Virginia Jimenez, Dean DeVries, Brian Kane, and Kimanzi Constable or reconnected and got to know old friends better: Megan Pangan, Jared Easley, Mike Vardy, Ryan Gray, Nick Seuberling, Addy Saucedo and more.

Podcast Movement really understands the success of their event is based on community and they work to put that first and foremost. The money and success comes from that. Great second year! I look forward to Chicago…

Did you go to Podcast Movement 2015? What did you think? And tell me why you do below….

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