Deciding to attend a conference during a world wide pandemic is pretty ballsy. Or, just crazy. A post about attending Podcast Movement or any in person event for the next couple of years would be incomplete and disingenuous without addressing the spiky elephant in the room. I am vaccinated but leaving my state to go to Nashville, Tennessee where Podcast Movement 2021 was hosted did cause me some sleepless nights and anxiety. Ironically, the last time I left my state was to attend Podcast Movement 2019 in Orlando, Florida.
But, real talk, I was beginning to feel that the longer I stayed home the more difficult it would be to eventually leave. So, I took a calculated risk and with mask in hand made my way to Nashville, Tennessee. I’m happy to say that my travel experience was super chill (I was worried about that too) and that I had an incredible time attending Podcast Movement 2021. The following review will cover the following:
- A brief recap of my podcast movement attendance history
- Podcast Movement
- Event and content/programming
- Conference space
- Overall vibe
- What could be improved
- Nashville as the Host City
- Would I attend again?
- Bonus: How to Afford the Event
My Podcast Movement Attendance History
This would be my fourth time attending Podcast Movement. I had the pleasure of attending during the previous years.
- Podcast Movement Chicago 2016-I also ended up on a podcast with Kevin Smith and several of my personal finance nerd friends.
- Chicago was a challenging event due to massive protests being held in the city. It was very difficult for me to relax and be in the moment when I agreed with what people were protesting against. I didn’t really understand what I was doing with my show(s) but was having fun learning the ins-and-outs of the podcasting process.
- Podcast Movement Anaheim 2017
- I feel like I was understanding podcasting more in 2017 and had a better idea of what I was trying to do with my show. I still didn’t really have a fleshed out funnel or products that I was selling on my show.
- Podcast Movement Orlando 2019
- Myself and Jalesa Ann Harrison host of My Money Mogul Podcast presented a talk about marketing (?) We were rudely interrupted by a fire alarm and the entire building was evacuated. We continued running our talk outside in the second tier of hell level of heat that is Orlando in August and finished presenting to a standing room only audience. It’s at this time that I’m really understanding my business funnel, how a podcast can elevate a brand and more.
- Podcast Movement Nashville 2021
- At this point I’m just excited to leave my state and have no idea what to expect of my first in-person event since 2019. A lot has changed and there was a lot to consider before attending. Read on.
Podcast Movement (PM) 2021 Event and Content
For those of you who are new to Podcast Movement, it is a 4 day event filled with panels, keynotes, sessions and parties. This year felt a lot like previous years except that some attendees were wearing masks. Other than that, I still felt that the same energy and excitement that I associate with this event. To be candid, I was relieved that this was the case.
I loved seeing long-time friends in person, falling into our old rhythms and geeking out about all things podcasting. I loved meeting the founders of Afros and Audio, members of the iHeart team and dancing to Questlove’s DJ set. Legit.
The content ranged from monetization, metrics, building community and more. The puppies in the Expo Hall and the iHeart Radio espresso bar were two of my favorite experiences outside of the content.
I was excited to see numerous panels covering all types of topics specific to building audiences and covering the Spanish language diaspora. That was really cool and a smart nod to the growth of podcasting outside of English language content.
Building community also stood out in the content shared throughout the event. In fact, there were two panels I really enjoyed.
- Build your own table-which included the co-Creators of Afros and Audio. The emphasis was on creating sustainable eco-systems that encourage POC content creators to thrive.
- Making Money through Membership Panel-In fact, because of this panel I reconsidered creating a monthly membership and am pleased to report that people have begun signing up for it.
And the Lemonade team’s founder story was so unique and inspiring. They proved that you can create impactful mission driven content and thoughtfully build a business around it.
The panelists and individual speakers also were a wonderful mix of different types of people, areas of interest and expertise. Having participated on more than one speaker’s committee in the past, I know that the Podcast Movement team was very thoughtful about the content and the presenters who shared their expertise. I felt that the diversity of the podcasting community was thoughtfully shared and given the opportunity to shine in front of the podcasting community.
Gaylord Opryland Conference Center
Wow, oh wow, oh wow. The Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center is insane. It’s massive. There is a literal lazy river that runs through it. It was the largest hotel that I’ve stayed at and rivaled hotels in Las Vegas. I opted to stay in my own room and I wasn’t disappointed. Like many venues across the US, the hotel was impacted by staffing shortages but I didn’t notice it and I think that the staff did a wonderful job of being patient with the attendees. The attendees also did a wonderful job of managing expectations and being patient with the staff.
Like all convention centers, the event footprint was pretty wide. This was ideal for 2021 where not feeling crowded or in too close proximity with a lot of other people was a key part of managing attendee nerves.
The rooms were set up like you would expect and the conference staff and volunteers were very helpful. This year I opted to volunteer at the event and had a great time meeting attendees and experts outside of the normal the typical attendee experience.
About the Gaylord Opryland, there were different restaurants, the Opryland building was directly behind the hotel and there was even a mall adjacent to it for people who shop when they travel. There was even a prince and princess roaming around the center. They were so cute.
Overall Vibe of the Event
I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of attendee mood. My hope was that if people were willing to travel outside of their state to attend an event that they would be on their best behavior.
The mood was jovial, joyous and really the energy from that week really lifted my spirits. I had no idea how low my energy had gotten until I was surrounded by a whole bunch of podcast geeks who “got” what I was working on.
I truly enjoyed meeting so many amazing members of the podcasting community. I was lifted up energetically and I still am feeling the impact of that energy lift almost a month later.
What Could Be Improved
No event is perfect. I run events and feedback is a key part of how to improve things for the next year. I will never offer the same breakfast bar twice in a row again. That said, there were a few things that I thought could be tweaked for 2022 and I share my observations with the goal of helping Podcast Movement become even more incredible than it already is.
- I would love to see a call for monetization strategies that DO NOT include looking for sponsorships. I attended a panel where it was brought up that most media (pay per click, etc.) companies won’t really work with podcasters until they hit around 10,000 a month on average. It’s my view that the majority of podcasters attending likely aren’t at that point yet. For podcasters with smaller platforms sharing more nuanced content would be of service to them.
- Host official topic specific meetups. One of the most challenging aspects of Podcast Movement is both its strength and weakness. The diversity in podcast topics. This is a huge strength. Unfortunately, without designated content specific meetups, it’s very difficult to get in front of a large number of people in my space for the following:
- To pitch as a guest. I’m looking for shows that compliment my expertise. I love meeting all the attendees but there is an inherent randomness in what they’re podcasting about so I’m unable to pitch at the level that I would like to.
- Find topic appropriate guests. Same observation stated above.
- How to host these meetups? Offer 3 a day so that they don’t overlap. Here are some suggestions:
- Pop Culture-Any topic that falls under that interest area
- Business/Personal Finance/Entrepreneurship/Real Estate
- Wellness-Healthcare, mental health, fitness, etc.
- Travel and location based shows
- Food-Gluten-Free, Vegan, all the food.
- Random-Let the podcasters self-identify for this option
- I would love to have the diversity content better incorporated into the main content distribution areas. Most of the panel conversations were held in a couple of rooms that were off the beaten path. I would have liked for that content to be held where the monetization/industry/etc. tracks were being held. I know that the Podcast Movement team cares about facilitating these conversations. Hosting them where they did inadvertently gave a different
- Panels should be given guidance to allow attendee questions and build that into their presentation time. If they’re unwilling to allow questions….maybe those sessions could be pre-recorded?
Nashville, Tennessee ROCKS!
I have visited 45 of the United States and when I say that Nashville is an incredible city-I mean it. The people are so nice and the city is absolutely lovely. Here’s the thing, I’m not a huge fan of country music. I like some artists, but I’m not obsessed. In fact, I wasn’t really sure what Nashville would have for me besides great food and the Parthenon. If you haven’t visited the life-sized replica of the Parthenon in Nashville-you must visit. There’s even a 42 foot golden statue of Athena inside. Apparently, it’s the largest indoor statue in the US.
Downtown Nashville and that surprising row of country bars feels like if Las Vegas and New Orleans had a small fat and happy baby. Nashville has experienced a ton of growth and development in the past ten years and it shows. There is an incredible energy there and I strongly recommend visiting when you’re comfortable.
Would I Attend Podcast Movement Again?
Hell, yes, I absolutely would! Podcast Movement has cultivated a wonderful community filled with people sharing their stories and interests. I know that the leadership team truly cares about the community that they’ve been building and the people in it.
What I love about this event is that each year it’s even better than the year before. Running events is hard work, especially during a pandemic. QUESTLOVE was the DJ for one of our parties! Can you freaking believe it? I left with actionable items, connections that I hope I can sustain moving forward and I renewed excitement and validation around the power of podcasting. If you’re considering attending Podcast Movement or one of its smaller Evolutions events I highly recommend it.
Bonus: How to Afford the Event
Are you thinking about attending Podcast Movement but maybe your cash is a little tight? Or, are you nervous to spend a ton of money on an event that you’re unsure about? I have some suggestions that may help you manage the expenses.
- Early-bird tickets rock and are an incredible value. Before you purchase one do review the details specific to what happens if you’re unable to attend and ticket transfers.
- Room with another Podcast Movement attendee-This works if you’re the type of person who is easy going and has stayed in hostels before. Or, maybe you have siblings and are used to sharing a space. Having a roommate will typically cut your out of pocket expenses in half because accommodation tends to be the most expensive part of attending events.
- Stay in a hostel-I actually am a huge fan of hostels. Depending on the host city staying at a hostel could be a great way to cut your expenses. Do think through the logistics. If you have to Uber back and forth all day long, that will impact your savings.
- Pitch a compelling talk or panel-You may receive a discounted or free ticket while sharing your expertise and growing your brand.
- Volunteer-It takes A LOT of hands to run events successfully. Podcast Movement has an incredible roster of paid staff and volunteers who make the magic happen.
- Side-hustle-We have a year until next Podcast Movement. Open up a Qube Money account and save your money. Qube Money is a digital envelope app paired with a Visa. It’s a great way to keep your money organized. Always have several bank accounts btw LOL!
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