A week ago, the thought of flying would have sent shivers down my spine, but that all changed at Podfest 2023. Despite traversing much of the US, I hadn’t taken to the skies in 31 years. But when I set my intentions for 2023, I knew it was time to face my fear head-on, and what better place to do so than at Podfest Multimedia Expo 2023? This annual conference, now in its ninth year, is the ultimate gathering for podcasters of all levels and a driving force for inspiration and growth for content creators. Held at the stunning Renaissance at SeaWorld, Podfest 2023 was a four-day extravaganza of educational sessions, panels, networking events, and, of course, fun. It was incredible to see attendees from around the globe, and the energy was palpable. It was thrilling to see how the podcasting community came together to support each other, learn, and grow. With a roster of speakers, workshops, and panels, there was something for everyone.
Podfest offered three tracks to provide value for beginners, intermediate content creators, and professionals. One of the greatest things about the experience was access to the Whova app, which eliminated the constant need to refer to a printed schedule and allowed all attendees to exchange contact information and foster opportunities to meet in person. At the Creator Pass level, I attended many talks covering the areas of podcast engagement, monetization, promotion, and production. Podfest officially began Thursday evening and it was wonderful to connect and network with creatives in the bar area, which was at a central point inside the atrium.
Friday morning, I awoke bright and early to attend the keynote sessions. As soon as I entered the room, I knew the weekend was going to be unforgettable. The ceremony was fantastically emceed by Elijah Desmond, aka DJ Smiles. Keynote speakers included Salisha and Andrew Wiess (who are part of the Podfest team), Todd Cochrane (Blubrry Podcasting), Tom Fox (the Compliance Podcast Network), Jessica Kupferman and Tiphany Kane (of She Podcasts), and Katie Krimitsos (of the Women’s Meditation Network), who gave a radiant presentation, leading with the famous Robert Frost poem, ‘The Road Not Taken.’ Each keynote speech was enlightening and inspiring and set the tone for a valuable weekend
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, then you’ve heard of ChatGPT. So, it was no surprise to see that morning that Larry Roberts of Red Hat Media and Podcast Ph.D. had a room full of curious podcasters eager to learn how to use the tool. Roberts gave a fantastic talk, covering the history of AI, best practices, as well as ethical concerns. The most significant takeaway from Roberts’ session was how the technology can be used to optimize show notes and create poignant episode titles and be a powerful writing assistant that can save a talented writer significant time and allow them to create a larger body of work. Roberts demonstrated how ChatGPT can be incorporated into their podcasting workflow to enhance productivity and creativity. Attendees saw how technology could improve their workflow, freeing them from mundane tasks and allowing them to focus on more creative aspects. For many podcasters, Roberts’ presentation was an eye-opener and gave them an appetite to try out ChatGPT. It was clear that ChatGPT is revolutionary to the way podcasters work. Many in the audience left the room feeling inspired and ready to take their podcasts to the next level with the help of this incredible technology.
Another session I enjoyed was ‘Growing Your Podcast With the Power of Social Audio’, featuring speakers such as Jodi Krangle, Marc Ronick, and Jaime Leganeur aka ‘Producer Jemmy’. I especially looked forward to their talk because I have seen the power of social audio working firsthand, thanks to the speakers. Each of the speakers hosts their own live audio spaces on the Clubhouse app on a regular basis and is constantly providing value to audio-on-demand platforms. It was surreal to look around and see the people whose voices I allow into my ears every day, in person. The cherry on top was also connecting with a few folks from Marc Ronick’s Empowered Podcasting Club who had decided to take the leap and sojourn to Podfest. It was riveting to finally meet the people behind the voices I hear every day and indulge in their stories and ultimately become friends.
As a local podcaster, it was especially important to me to attend ‘How To Become An Influential Local Podcaster’ by Mike Ham of Greetings From The Garden State. Mike travels the state of New Jersey showcasing local business owners, artists, and musicians. His talk opened with a brilliantly imagined nod to ‘The Sopranos‘ in video form, and Mike did an excellent demonstration of why local podcasting is such a fulfilling genre to pursue. His presentation included many clips of him recording his guests on location at sports arenas and even bustling diners. This left me feeling even more inspired and eager to try out a different approach in my local podcast. I have a lot of respect and admiration for Mike because he is doing the work to show podcasters that most times you don’t need to have a global reach to encounter prolific people and in turn, give back to your roots.
Aside from attending many fantastic educational sessions, another one of my intentions for the weekend was to nurture the connections made online and also form new connections with those I met at Podfest. On the first day of the event, I received a message on the event’s app “Whova” from a woman also from my hometown of Panama City, Florida. She left many years ago for college and currently resides in Orlando. We were finally able to meet up on Saturday and it turned out we had much more in common than I expected. Ashley Cisneros Mejia is also a freelance writer who is working to help women monetize their writing talents, and she shared with me that she is looking forward to starting her own podcast. A few moments after meeting, we were joined by a gentleman who turned out to be Dave Finnegan. It was a joy to meet Dave and learn that he wrote two books on juggling and that he’s currently promoting his latest release “Green Actioneers: Family Action Guide,” which is an activity book teaching the whole family how to go green. At that moment, it felt like the stars aligned, and we were able to come together as writers and enjoy each other’s stories and insights.
By Saturday evening, folks were ready to party and celebrate the art of podcasting. Little did I know, some were extremely talented dancers. The ballroom became a massive dance floor, and it was so much fun to see everyone let their hair down and bust a move. Being the introvert that I am, I was able to enjoy myself near the ballroom, but then I heard a familiar voice from the past. It was the voice of William Hung of American Idol fame, proudly giving his signature performance of the Ricky Martin hit “She Bangs.” Hung lit up the room and it was surely a moment that will go down in Podfest history.
Sunday was the last day of Podfest and was a bittersweet ending to a magnificent weekend. I packed my suitcase, checked into my flight home, and took my last Uber back to the Renaissance for the gratitude ceremony. After giving a brief history of Podfest getting its start in an IHOP meeting room, the founder and chief creative officer, Chris Krimitsos , took the stage and thanked the sponsors, the attendees, and his team. Then, he humbly turned to the crowd and said, “If anyone would like to come up to the stage and express what you are grateful for, please form a line. You may be tempted to thank me, but really, I’d like to hear about something you experienced here at the event that helped you.” At his request, a line formed on either side of the stage, and several members of the podcasting family took their turn expressing their appreciation for the value they received and how their limiting beliefs had been diminished. Some were joyous, and some allowed themselves to be vulnerable. Happy tears flowed like a river throughout the room. Then the hugs came. Podfest was a wonderful event that provided an opportunity for people of diverse backgrounds to come together to learn, network, and grow in the field of podcasting. My first flight and adventure to Podfest will be one that I always remember with a warm heart, and I can’t wait to experience it again. Special thanks to Chris Krimitsos and everyone on the Podfest team for inviting the Jamwich to cover our first live podcasting event! In 2024, Podfest will be celebrating its tenth year by bringing content creators together. Join us at Podfest 2024 and make your voice matter! Stay updated by following Podfest online to find out where it will be held and secure your ticket today. Let’s come together and create a powerful impact and celebrate our love of podcasting!