Whether you’re hitting up a local meetup with fewer than 10 people, or you’re joining Podcast Movement with its 4k+ attendance rate, there is a specific joy that comes from talking with fellow podcasters in person at a podcast conference. Podcast conferences usually have content and events that are tailored to everyone who partakes in the medium, from hobbyists and first-timers to life-long podcasters, industry professionals, and more! With so many people and new opportunities crammed into one event (be it one day or a week-long adventure), it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
With that in mind, welcome to Podbean’s Pod-Con Bootcamp!
What to expect from a podcast conference
If you’ve never been to a podcast conference before (or it’s been a while since you last attended one!), remember that they’re all going to function in much the same way. Before the conference starts, be sure to check out the promotional materials to double check what kind of experience they’re offering for their con goers. Their sites will tell you the layout of the conference, who you can expect to see, what panels or workshops are available, and much more! It’s also worth reaching out to previous attendees to ask about their experiences and recommendations.
For the sake of this post, we’re going to cover the general type of conference such as Podcast Movement or Podfest. Your conference is typically going to be broken down into vendor booths, event/panel stages, and common areas.
Vendor booths are where you’re going to meet folks from places like podcast hosting companies (like Podbean!), microphone vendors, podcast production services, and much more! Their booths will contain information on services they provide, as well as representatives of the company that you can speak to personally. The booths will be packed in a bit, and numbered in a way that makes them easy to locate on your convention map. Quite a few cons that you visit will feature games or incentives for visiting booths and speaking with folks throughout the event, so be sure to check the con’s promotional material for information.
Event and panel stages will either be in the main, biggest room, or in smaller rooms spread out throughout the convention center. These are where different live panels, interviews, and Q&As take place, and are the main draw of any conference. Conferences can be amazing resources to get information, insight, and more from leading names in your industry, and they’re presented on these stages/panels. There will usually be one large main stage with several smaller stages, and multiple panels will be running at the same time. It’s imperative to double-check the conference schedule and plan out your trip so that you don’t miss the key panels and sessions you want to see.
Common areas are vital because this is often where you’ll find food, electrical outlets, and places to sit and chat with fellow attendees. It’s important to make sure that your devices are charged (especially your phone!), and the common areas let you talk with people in a semi-private way while still being a public setting.
Packing for your podcast conference trip
Depending on how long you intend to stay, there are different ways to pack and different things you should bring. But here are the essentials:
- Note-taking supplies: Having something on hand to take notes is of the utmost importance. Whether you go digital with a notes app or analogue with a notebook and pen, the ability to take notes is important to have in such a fast-paced environment. You never know when someone is going to drop some good information, a vendor that you want to visit, or contact info for someone. Even if you have an amazing memory, writing information down frees you up to focus your attention on what’s happening in the moment.
- A water bottle: You don’t realize how dehydrated you get after talking to people until you’re desperately hunting for a water fountain. Bringing a water bottle from home (or your hotel room) lets you start off your day hydrated, and gives you something to refill throughout the day. You can locate the water refill stations and the conference may have snacks and drinks, but carrying a water bottle is highly recommended to keep hydrated with the busy schedule you’re likely to have.
- Headphones: During your convention adventure, there will come a point where you want some quiet time, or want to disengage from your surroundings. Headphones are instrumental in this, as they both provide a different form of stimulation and easily let others know that you don’t want to be approached. They’re handy if you need to take calls, just want some silence, or decide to check out some of the new podcasts you discover.
- Business cards: Having a business card lets you share your podcast info in a quick and portable format. If you plan on heavily networking during your conference adventure, invest in business cards.
- A place to put business cards: Handing out business cards means that you’re going to be receiving business cards in return. Designate a specific pocket of your backpack for business cards to go so that you don’t lose them.
If you plan on staying for multiple days, there are some extra things you should consider packing:
- Painkillers and bandaids: You never know what’s going to happen while you’re out and about at a conference. If you’re prone to headaches, or worried about your feet hurting after walking around on the convention floor all day, painkillers are a must. And we’ll always suggest bandaids as you never know when you’ll be struck by blisters or a rogue papercut. You can also make a new friend when you help someone out who needs these items!
- A book or activity unrelated to podcasting: When the conference day is done and you want to wind down, bringing something you enjoy like a book is always recommended. These activities are also great for taking brain-breaks during the con day itself.
Tips for your first time walking the podcast conference floor:
- Dress for success! There’s really no such thing as being overdressed or underdressed, but remember that first impressions matter. You can’t go wrong with a nice shirt and jeans with or without a blazer. If you have a shirt for your podcast or other podcast wear, you make yourself quickly identifiable with your show. If you aren’t sure what to wear, you can check out past photos from the conference or ask around to get a feel for the “vibe”. Most podcast conferences are fairly casual and you’ll find a wide range of styles. Regardless of what outfit you go for, we definitely recommend shoes you’re comfortable walking around in.
- Make your way to the different vendor booths, but make sure you’ve mapped out your time so you don’t miss important panels and educational events. It can be easy to spend a lot of time with vendors and that can be valuable, but you may want to set alarms/reminders so you don’t miss events you wanted to attend. Also, don’t just go to vendors you know or assume a certain vendor does not have any information you need. Vendors often offer diverse services and add new products all the time. ey love meeting people and may help you form connections in surprising ways. If you are checking out a vendor and not finding it valuable, you can politely step away.
- Scope out the goodies in your welcome bag. This is where you’re going to find your convention map as well as your conference schedule. There will be other goodies, like keychains or stickers among other things, but the most important things will be the convention materials.
- Beyond the usual convention fare with panels, demonstrations, and booths, some conferences feature group parties, get-togethers, and other podcast events. Sometimes they’ll be open-invite for the entire con to function as networking events, sometimes they’ll be specifically for groups like podcast editors, women podcasters (such as the ShePodcasts meetups), or customers and guests of a certain provider. These are also great places to meet up and connect with people, but keep your own personal boundaries and energy levels in mind. If you’re introverted or nervous about attending, bring a friend along to help break the ice. Make sure that you plan out when you’re going, your transportation (in the case of off-site events), and how long you think you might stay. The events are definitely one of the highlights of these conferences, but it can be easy to overdo it.
Podcast Conference Etiquette and Safety Tips
- Respect personal space and boundaries. A podcast con brings together creators from all corners of the internet with different interests, priorities, and personalities. If someone’s engaged in another conversation, or sitting on their own with a book or wearing headphones, it may not be the best time to approach them.
- Follow the 1-2-3 rule. This is a general conference tip to keep you at your best throughout the con: take 1 shower, eat 2 meals, and get at least 3 hours of sleep each day. (And keep in mind that these are the absolute bare minimum and more of a fun way of remembering your needs – depending on your energy levels and personal preference, you probably require additional meals, snacks, and especially sleep.) Even if you’re spending most of your day sitting at panels, conferences are a high-energy activity. It’s important to take care of yourself, especially if you’re traveling.
- Keep safety in mind. As fun as it would be to record a podcast with your new podcasting friend, don’t immediately go to someone’s room to record an episode if you’ve never hung out with them before. Know what your boundaries are before you go to the con, and avoid people that push you past those boundaries.
Post-Podcast Conference Follow-Up
During the podcast conference, you’re going to meet a lot of people and take in a lot of information, creating a lot of momentum for yourself in regards to your podcasting. It can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time, leading to great discussions and plans that you can’t follow up on because you lost someone’s info, or have so many cards that you don’t know who is who. Following up post-con once everyone’s traveled back home and are ready to get back into their usual routine is definitely a good move to make, but here are some tips to help you strategize the best way to keep your info straight:
- Before you go to the conference, check out who’s going to be there and plan out who you want to visit and make contact with.
- When you take a card, or take info from a booth, jot down what you spoke about and what you want to follow up on.
- As you attend the panels and talks, remember to take notes in a critical way; if a particular topic doesn’t apply to you, don’t worry about jotting it down. Instead, keep your goals in mind and keep your notes organized by how they help you reach said goals.
- When the con is over, set aside some time to organize your notes and any contact info you’ve collected so you can reach out for further discussion. If a topic is important enough for you to reach out immediately, email them while you’re still at the conference, or ask if they’re available to sit down for a coffee and chat.
- Conferences are leveraging a lot of virtual components, such as an app or a virtual booth you can visit and get info from. Utilize these features to search for information as well, or for who you can contact if you don’t find the specific info you’re looking for.
Ready to go?
We are too! Just like you, the Podbean team is packing up and getting ready to visit our favorite podcast conferences so we can chat with the podcast community. Check out our Twitter and Instagram to see what conference we’re heading to next, as well as what kind of fun goodies you can expect to find at our booth!