Over a month ago now at the beginning of March, Craft Brew Geek and I had the opportunity to attend the Podfest Multimedia Expo, the largest indie podcast conference in the world. While it was a bit of a scary experience to travel and attend when the coronavirus was just starting to make waves in the United States (which wasn’t aided by an over 4 hour delay at the airport for our flight back home), it was still a great conference even if it was plagued by a poor venue and questionable organization.
The sessions at Podfest covered a wide range of topics. Interested in video? Audio drama? Traditional podcasting? Marketing? The technical aspects of recording and audio engineering? There was something there for you to get some value. The organization of it all was pretty clunky, though. The first day of the conference was dedicated to a sub-conference called “Vidfest”, and that required a different pass than the “standard” pass. So while you could arrive for the first day to check in and get your badge, there was nothing for you to attend.
The second day focused on break-out sessions. These were also broken out into different categories, access to which once again was dependent upon the type of pass you had purchased. This resulted in a lot of people with the general attendance pass being limited to a small number of breakout sessions that were being conducted in rooms without nearly enough seating; many sessions I had to stand and people were spilling out of the doors into the hallways. After a break for lunch, we decided to pick a room that seemed to have the most promising sessions for the remainder of the day, get there early to snag seats in the back, and simply NEVER leave to avoid giving them up.
The third day felt like what should have been the first day; the entire morning was dedicated to the keynote… which we may have arrived a little early for if the photo above is an indication that we had literally the entire room to ourselves for about 30 minutes. The afternoon had more breakout sessions, though at this point everything was open to all attendees. While the rooms were still more crowded than I would’ve liked, it wasn’t quite as bad as the day prior. The last day followed this and just had a morning of breakout sessions.
Overall it was a fun experience, even with the looming specter of COVID-19 hanging over everything. I learned a few things I was able to use to help in my own podcasts, with good timing considering how we’ve switched to remote recording for both the Unusually Pink Podcast and the Same Shade of Difference Podcast while everyone is self-quarantining.
One of the big benefits of the event was that it was held in Orlando, which has plenty of things to do. I can only hope future events pick a venue with much more space (a complaint the organizers made known they were already well aware of by the time of the keynote.) Craft Brew Geek and I spent our first day patrolling the area for cool street art. While some of my favorites we came across are above, be sure to follow his Instagram account so see everything we saw on this trip and more.
Being the professionals that we are, Craft Brew Geek and I selected our hotel not for proximity to the conference (we had about a 30 minutes drive to get there each day), but for proximity to breweries in the area. It’s important to have priorities. We visited many cool places, including Dead Lizard, RockPit, Hourglass, Crooked Can, and Ten10. They were all terrific places, though RockPit was my favorite of the trip. They had amazing beer, terrific service, great WiFi, and excellent food from the barbeque joint next door. We spent about 6 hours sitting there drinking, eating, and working on the day we arrived in Orlando. We were able to put up stickers both there and at Dead Lizard. Ten10 is worthy of note for not only having excellent beer and food, but for being the first brewery I’ve ever seen to block VPN access on their WiFi. I even got to satisfy my taste for liquor by enjoying Delaney’s Tavern’s take on the Old Fashioned: a New Fashioned.
One of the coolest experiences of the trip happened at Dead Lizard, though, where we took over a table and set up all of our equipment to record a podcast on-location. It was a fun time, and it showed us that our travel podcast setup works pretty nicely… even if the microphone stands are entirely too heavy. The TSA apparently agreed since they had to open my bag and see what the hell I had in it.
On the whole, I definitely had an enjoyable trip. I learned plenty of new things at the event, got to see the sights in Orlando, had an opportunity to catch up with some family I rarely see, and (of course) drink a LOT of great beer. I’m also glad I was able to go on a trip immediately preceding the current lockdown as a means of holding off the cabin fever we’re all currently experiencing.