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How Was Podcast Movement Virtual?

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There’s nothing like attending live Podcast Movement conventions. Among the many benefits of the show is interacting with so may people excited about the medium, from the experienced podcaster to the beginner. With COVID still altering regular life as we know it, Podcast Movement, like every other live event, went virtual. We checked in with PM’s Dan Franks to see how it went.

PBJ: How different was this for you and your team to organize compared to a live event? Dan Franks: I’d say while the workload was balanced differently, it was not dramatically reduced, which was surprising to us. From the outside looking in, it seems like the overall time commitment would be less, but that was definitely not the case. The difference was just in where those hours went. The biggest time commitment was on the pre-production side. Since we decided early on that we were going to do every session and event live, that meant we were committing to weeks and weeks of tech checks, rehearsals, and Zoom calls…usually multiple connections per session. Luckily we had an amazing production team assembled, with close to 15 people who were very hands on in the weeks leading up to the event, and then during the event itself.

PBJ: Getting together live is huge for podcasters. How do you believe not being able to get together is affecting podcasters and the industry? Dan Franks: I think it’s mainly from the motivation and encouragement standpoint when it comes to the podcasters themselves. The content that is taught each year at the event can largely be found online, either through free or paid resources. So the education and training is not suddenly gone because events are. However that feeling of comradery and helping one another is really what is just at a completely different level virtually.

For the industry, what we kept hearing from the professionals we work with is that Podcast Movement is their one time a year when they can knock out twelve months worth of meetings and connections in a several day period, and that was a void that simply cannot be filled virtually. Industry professionals can literally show up to Podcast Movement any given year and meet with their podcasters, advertisers, ad agencies, platforms, competitors, customers, coworkers from across the country…and the list goes on…all in one place. It’s really something that we pride ourselves on when we’re able to bring so many different groups together, and again, it’s just not something that can be recreated in a virtual environment.

What’s the long-term impact? Dan Franks: I think as soon as people feel safe gathering again, there will be more interest and excitement to get back together than we’ve ever had. I don’t think that suddenly we’ve discovered some alternative to replace gathering in-person. I’ve spoken to so many podcasters and professionals who have told me this, and it seemed like doing the event virtually over the last two weeks made those folks even more anxious to get back together again. And when the world gets to that point, we’ll be ready to facilitate that!

PBJ: How was attendance to virtual PM compared to a live event? Dan Franks: It was actually comparable in terms of numbers when it comes to registrations. The biggest difference is with the in-person event, several thousand sign up, and about 90% of those people end up at the event, and usually stay for most of it. We normally see about 10% attrition at our in-person events in terms of sign-ups vs attendance.

For the virtual event, while the sign ups were similar, the fact is that people try to work it into their normal routine, as opposed to when they’d travel to a location away from home and be fully dedicated to the event. So it’s simply impossible for them to fully commit to everything at the virtual event like they would if they were in-person. That’s not to say that only a small number of registrants participated, quite the contrary. We had about 85% of registrants who were fairly active on our event platform (we assume the other 15% were mainly in it for the post-event recordings), meaning they were going to sessions, visiting exhibitor pages, and engaging in the full platform. But where in-person attendees would be doing everything from morning keynotes to evening parties, all four days, instead we saw folks who were either more active for the morning sessions, or for the afternoon sessions and parties, but not so much both.

PBJ: What were the top three highlights of the show this year? Dan Franks: The first was definitely the enthusiasm we saw in the chat rooms during the sessions and networking events. While the in-person connection was not there, the excitement from attendees to learn about podcasting, continue their education, and make meaningful connections seemed to be at an all-time high.

The second had to have been the amazing keynotes we hosted. From a media and business mogul like Mark Cuban, to podcast powerhouses like Manoush Zomorodi, Misha Euceph, and Pat Flynn, to the voices behind the top daily news podcasts, the variety and quality of information shared was something that would have been hard to bring together if we were doing it in-person.

The third really has to be how proud I am of the team for having pulled the event off with very few issues to speak of. It was a very ambitious vision I put in front of them: to try and do a two week long event, with nearly 150 different sessions and activities, all live, sometimes with 3-4 different live things going on at once…it was not an easy undertaking! But they hit it out of the park, and I really felt like we raised the bar for large virtual conferences going forward.

PBJ: Are you planning to do a live event in 2021 or is it too soon? Dan Franks: We announced the 2021 dates and location a few months back (August 3-6 in Nashville at Gaylord Opryland), and opened registration exclusively to PM Virtual attendees last week. Our public on-sale will open the week of Thanksgiving later this month. As of now, we fully intend on this event taking place. As with everything in the world right now, there are a lot of variables outside of our control, but our commitment is that if we feel like we can safely host the event next August, we’ll be ready to host the best Podcast Movement yet. We can’t wait to get back together with our Podcast Movement family.

If you missed Podcast Movement virtual, session recordings are available for purchase HERE.

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