My experience at Podcast Movement could not have been more different. Obviously, the experience of attending a previous conference was helpful, I had an idea of what to expect. But more importantly, this time I had friends that I had made at NMX and had kept up with. Ramona Rice and Mark Asquith and I had been communicating regularly since April and enjoy each other’s company. That feeling of belonging is an underrated feeling. It gives you a basis of strength and confidence from which to move forward.
With that in mind I was also feeling more ambitious at PM15 than I was at NMX. I had been talking to Nick Seuberling who had started listening to the show and knew he was interested in doing something together. I remembered watching people do live shows at the previous conference and knew that this would be a chance to do our first show on location. I decided to go big or go home :-)
We worked out the details and everybody agreed. The show was set, Corey and Nick vs. Ramona and Jay live at PM15. In addition I had an idea for a massive cross-promotion effort for as many people as would participate. Since we do a trivia show the plan was to do short form interviews that allowed podcasters to promote their show and then ask them a few trivia questions so that it would make sense for my show. I bought a H4N recorder and had some buttons printed up to add a “prize” and a visual that might drum up further awareness.
When Thursday finally rolled around it was time to fly to Texas and I was ready to shoot for the moon. But first things first, I was going to be in Dallas–Ft Worth, there was no way I was doing this trip without visiting the Ballpark in Arlington. I arranged to meet with Ramona, Mark and his friend Lev on Thursday at the hotel and we all piled in the truck to head out to see the Rangers and Yankees. We weren’t disappointed. We saw some awesome offense, awesome defense and even an inside the park home run. Well…they saw the inside the parker, I had just walked out onto the concourse and I missed it. Very disappointing! On the way back to the hotel we hit a 7-11 and introduced the Brits to the concept of Slurpees.
We were scheduled to record the live show at 4:30 but there were some problems and we didn’t get rolling until 4:45 or so. Jay, Nick, Ramona and Corey were all wonderful to work with but we had multiple technical difficulties. Such is the risk with recording on location. That being said, we had plenty of people come check out what we were doing. The most important thing I learned from the recording is that I need to make sure I have multiple sets of questions with different difficulty levels. It became apparent that I had made the show overly challenging and I wish I could have made adjustments on the fly. Still I’m thrilled to have done a show with 4 of the best sports podcasters in the business.
The first keynote on Saturday was another knockout by Pat Flynn. Pat is a wonderful speaker. The thing that impresses me most about him though is that he’s a real guy. He’s the kind of guy who laughs at himself and shares his own struggles which reminds you that you can push past your own struggles and be successful too.
The other sessions passed in a blur of notes and insights. I tweeted like crazy and worked on getting the TW Challenge interviews off the ground throughout the day. They started off a little rocky because I wasn’t hand picking the questions; I was just using whatever was next on the page. After a couple of rough ones in the early going (My apologies to Ramona and Steve!) I eased up and starting hand picking questions based on how well the person was doing. The sentiment became very predictable, people started off nervous, settled down and finally when it was over they realized that they had actually had fun.
Saturday was topped off by a massive party at the Stockyards. We had busses to and from the event and I didn’t want to be inside of my own head so I decided to drink…a lot. The atmosphere was excellent and the amount of cowboy crossdressing can’t be overstated. One neat thing was that I found as I was introducing the show many people had already heard of it either from my tweets or from different ways I had tried to engage the community. That was a great sign for me.
I’ll share two fun stories from the night. Let’s start with Marc Maron trying to snuggle. Yeah that’s right, I said it. I saw Maron and being pleasantly unencumbered by sobriety I decided that I needed to introduce myself. So I walked up, said hello and was trying to tell him a little about my show when a sweet, sight-impaired woman showed up and started talking to him. I wasn’t about to be a jerk to a blind lady so I let her go first. Maron looked like he had one thing on his mind, taking some pictures and escaping to the bar. He tried to extricate himself by leaning into my side and saying something about a picture. I pulled back. I really don’t have any use for a picture with the guy. I’m more of a handshake kind of guy. The blind lady moved in again, still talking. Then the lady talked about taking a picture and I watched as Maron looked at her and tried to figure out how a blind lady was going to take a selfie. I was giggling on the inside but after a few seconds I volunteered to take the picture of them together for her sake. After that Maron moved in for another snuggle against my side and I pulled back and said something along the lines of “dude, I’m not really interested in a picture” before we both decided to move along. I have to admit, I didn’t realize quite how funny that whole scene was until I sat down and started writing it.
Pod on Pod is a podcast review show that reviewed Rob’s show and gave it a low rating which was partially based on the fact that they didn’t care much about the reality TV the show focuses on. Apparently Rob mentioned it on his show and his legion of loyal fans leapt to the defense of the show. They headed over to iTunes in droves and gave Pod on Pod 47 unique 1 star reviews. It’s important to note that this wasn’t something Rob asked his people to do, they just did what they felt they needed to do.
I’d met Joel and Josh from Pod on Pod Friday and hit it off great so we were already friends by the time the party started on Saturday. Things were going smoothly when my friend Ramona showed me a card. It was a business card in the format of a Trivial Pursuit game card and it belonged to none other than Rob Cesternino. I was already 3 sheets to the wind but I knew one thing for sure – if Rob likes Trivial Pursuit then he will probably like Trivial Warfare so I needed to meet him. I worked my way through the party and finally found him in a relatively quiet corner. I introduced myself and the show, we had a nice talk and I left satisfied that I’d fulfilled my mission for the night.
Then I run into Josh and mention that I had just talked to Rob. That’s when inspiration hit. I don’t remember exactly who had the idea but it was probably Josh, he was full of good ideas this weekend. The idea was simple, I wanted to try and get Joel and Rob to go head to head on an episode of Trivial Warfare. It would be a grudge-match of sorts but also a chance to show that the whole incident was water under the bridge and that there were no hard feelings. My mind lit up like a torch with the idea and as soon as Joel walked up it took about 3 seconds to explain it to him before his eyes lit up and we set off to find Rob together.
I should take a minute to explain why this is an appealing idea for my friends reading this who aren’t podcasters. One of the things that podcasters work the hardest to accomplish is to make people aware of their shows. We don’t count on everybody liking our shows, but we know that the people who don’t hear it will never have the chance to like it. One of the smartest ways to make new people aware of a show is through cross promotion. The best way to achieve this is by having guests on your show. You promote their show for them while they are guesting and then they promote your show in return when they tell people about their guest appearance on the show. This is one of the reasons that interview shows are one of the more popular formats, it lends itself to natural cross promotion opportunities.
Pod on Pod has been around much longer than Trivial Warfare and almost certainly has more listeners but I’d imagine we’re in the same basic ball park. Rob on the other hand isn’t in that ballpark. If our ballpark is the backyard in The Sandlot with the giant dog then Rob’s ballpark is Yankee Stadium with the $30 hot dogs. If Rob agreed to do the show then there is a chance that thousands of people who already like listening to podcasts will give the show a chance. So you might wonder to yourself why Rob would even consider doing the show. There are a couple of reasons that I can think of. First, we do have a pretty compelling game and anybody who likes game shows or playing trivia games is probably going to enjoy themselves. Secondly, I speculate that Rob is a lot like the other top names in our industry. He’s guy who is happy to be doing this for a living and sees many of us working very hard on it without the notoriety or success. As a result he’s willing to lend a helping hand when he can.
I’d like to say that I thought of all of that when I was heading his way with Joel from Pod on Pod in tow, but actually the only thing going through my head (other than a tsunami of shiner bock) was one simple thought – THIS IS GONNA BE AWESOME!
So Joel and I find Rob and pitch the idea to him. He’s grinning as he looks at me and thinks about it. I’ve just gone from a one-time acquaintance that might have a show worth checking out to someone asking him for some of his valuable time. He made it clear that he has other priorities right now and that it can’t be done immediately because he’s wrapped up with a project for a number of weeks, but he’s not saying no. I make it clear that I respect his time and that we’ll make it as convenient as possible. Finally he answers – it’s a yes!
Honestly, I don’t think my feet hit the ground for the rest of the night. I ended up drinking some more, having a great conversation with Colin, played dress up with Mark and ran out of business cards after starting the night with a pocket full of them. It was good day.
The Sunday sessions were great but what was really neat was that the TW Challenge really caught on. I got Pat Flynn to participate early in the day. He was about to turn me down but then I told him that he would be the first person to say no. He’s too nice to be that guy so he agreed to do it (Sorry Pat!). Truthfully the reason he didn’t want to do it was worried about getting stumped, but then he managed to answer 3 out of 5 right and ended up having fun :-). John Lee Dumas, another luminary, also took the challenge that morning. This allowed me to let people know that if they took the challenge they would be appearing on the same show as John and Pat. That’s when the floodgates opened. At the end of the day I ended up missing my final session because did I 8 challenges back to back in the hallway. I’m thrilled with the turnout and I can’t wait to edit everything when I get the time in a couple of weeks.
As a conference comes to a close there is always a feeling of sadness knowing that you’ll be parting ways with all of your new friends the next day. Sunday was the last day spending time with folks and a great group of us gathered together to make the most of it at dinner. I enjoyed spending that evening with Shimeka, Claire, Daniel, Ramona, Colin, Tony, Danielle, Mark and Lev. I had two great conversations that night. The first was with Daniel on the way to the restaurant. I was late to leave and he had waited for me so we were walking a good distance behind the group. I don’t know exactly what it is about Daniel, but it just felt like we had instantaneous chemistry. Maybe he’s just a cool guy who is like that with everyone he meets. I don’t know, but I do look forward to keeping in touch with him in the future.
As I sat in the airport the next day I reflected on just how much I appreciate the podcasting community. This was my second big conference with them and in that short time I’ve made more new and interesting friends than I have in the previous few years combined. That’s not even counting all of the interesting acquaintances and potential business partners to consider for the future. The community is so welcoming and as a group we know that we are all working hard and striving for something that is likely out of our reach. As a result we are all very open to helping and to being helped and it creates a kind of natural relationship that defies description.
I also want to take a minute here to thank Ramona Rice for everything she did this weekend. My friend Ramona is a true extravert and she continually met new people and made new connections all throughout the weekend. The cool thing is that it was almost like she was my designated extravert buddy and she was continually introducing me to new people. My trip wouldn’t have been the same without you RR. Thanks :-)
I had delayed making a decision about going to the conference for months. I don’t think I have to do that anymore. I’ve already reserved my spot for 2016. Podcast Movement is the place that I want to be.
Thanks to everyone who was a part of it.