Podcast Movement is now the best podcasting conference by and for podcasters. Here are my reactions and review of the 2015 event in Fort Worth, Texas.
As seems to be the norm with a podcasting conference, it seemed most attendees were thrilled to be at Podcast Movement. I could sense the passion everywhere I went. Everyone wanted to talk and hang out, even late into the night.
One late night, I asked the hotel's front-desk staff if this kind of late-night networking happens with other events. They said it did, but that this group seemed like the most friendly and energetic they've seen.
It seemed that about one third of the attendees had not yet launched their own podcasts. And the attendees were quite diverse in topics as well as professional and hobbyist.
It was great to meet several radio people also attending the podcasting conference, and getting more excited about podcasting.
Talking with other podcasters (or about-to-be podcasters) is my favorite part of conferences like Podcast Movement. This networking is where casual connections are turned into relationships, relationships are deepened, partnerships are formed, and inspiration is shared.
It's great to meet many people who have listened to The Audacity to Podcast for a while. And it's equally great to meet new people who don't know who I am.
Yes, it's possible to be star-struck with podcast “celebrities” like Pat Flynn, John Lee Dumas, Marc Maron, Roman Mars, and more. But it's even more amazing to see many of these people hanging out with the rest of us, having conversations, asking and answering questions, and taking photos together.
Despite how much time I spent talking with people, there were still several people I didn't get to meet in person.
You can probably guess my one big criticism: loud music at “networking” events. Please turn off the music, save the money and don't hire a band! If people want to listen to music, give them headphones and a playlist.
The Podcast Movement keynote sessions were a balanced mix of people who rose from humble beginnings—such as Pat Flynn, Lou Mongello, or John Lee Dumas—as well as “greats” with years of broadcasting and story-telling experience—such as Roman Mars, Sarah Koenig, and Marc Maron.
Each keynote presentation was entertaining, educational, and inspirational. My only criticism was surrounding Sarah Koenig's keynote, which told the story behind Serial. Her presentation was great, but I was disappointed that there wasn't more about podcasting in her presentation or in the questions.
The line-up of sessions at Podcast Movement were so good, that I'm guessing the hardest decision for attendees was which sessions to watch!
The speakers came from a variety of backgrounds (not as entrepreneur-focused as many felt Podcast Movement 2014 was). I heard nothing but praise about every session.
My personal decision was to not attend any sessions, but spend as much time creating and fostering relationships in the hallways.
My own session (“How to Improve Your Podcast's WordPress Website”) was moderately attended. But what's more important is that the attendees were highly engaged.
You don't go to a podcasting conference like Podcast Movement for the vendors. (That's what NAB Show does best!) But this year's vendors showed a true respect for podcasting among professional product and service providers.
There were the usual podcasting vendors: Blubrry, Libsyn, BuzzSprout, Spreaker, WordPress, Ringr, and such. But there were also new vendors who were thrilled at the response they received: Heil, Sennheiser, BSW (Broadcast Supply Worldwide), Aweber, Shure, and more.
At each booth, the vendors were not only friendly, but open and eager to receive feedback and discuss issues podcasters face.
Academy of Podcasters Awards
Podcast Movement 2015 hosted the inaugural Academy of Podcasters (AoP) Awards ceremony. This is a new kind of podcast awards that has quickly established itself as another prestigious event to recognize great podcasters.
Whereas the People's Choice Podcast Awards is about awarding the podcast with the most engaged community (not necessarily the largest), the Academy of Podcasters Awards focuses on curating and awarding unique and high-quality shows, regardless of their audience. Each podcast was rated and reviewed by the academy, putting everyone on equal standing.
The awards ceremony was a thing of beauty and professionalism. I had recently submitted a list of about thirty things the People's Choice Podcast Awards could do better, and nearly every one of those was done or surpassed in the Academy of Podcasters Awards. (I did not directly influence the AoP Awards, but I did contribute to some of the ranking methods.)
The ceremony felt like a hollywood-level production. There were no awkward moments of recognizing a winner and discovering that they were not present to receive their award.
Several veteran podcasters—such as Todd Cochrane, Leo Laporte, and Danny Peña—were honorably inducted into the podcasting hall of fame.
I still believe there's a good place for the People's Choice Podcast Awards (now owned by New Media Expo), but the Academy of Podcasters Awards have stepped up to be a worthy alternative and additional model for recognizing podcasting talent.
Credit to the great team behind Podcast Movement
Dan Franks, Jared Easley, Gary Leland, Mitch Todd, and a great team (whose names I don't know) made Podcast Movement great! The event was well planned, marketed, and executed. From small details—like a custom hotel keycard— to snagging some of the biggest names in podcasting, this team has done an incredible job!
This year, I was extra impressed that none of these gentlemen appeared on stage. They were great “servant leaders” who didn't care about being recognized by everyone, but were focused on making Podcast Movement an incredible time for everyone.
This was only Podcast Movement's second conference, and it already doubled in size. I'm eager for Podcast Movement 2016 in Chicago, July 6–8 (even though it will probably be significantly more expensive).
I once recommended New Media Expo over Podcast Movement, but I'm changing that now. If you can make it to only one conference this year, make it Podcast Movement! I hope to see you in Chicago for Podcast Movement 2016! (When I have a coupon code, it will probably be “noodle” to save on your registration.)
Are these conferences worth it?
Ultimately, the question of attending may come down to one of your own affordability. But I don't think the value of such conferences can be denied.
For example, you could hire me to consult or coach you in podcasting and receive several hours of training for the cost of the conference. Or, you can spend the same money to be trained by several professionals across multiple days and get to network with hundreds (and someday thousands) of other podcasters.
Is it worth it? TOTALLY!
Thank you for the podcast reviews!
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