Is it weird for me to hope that podcasting conferences never go back to normal?
I know that sounds like a heretical statement. And I also realize you may feel quite differently, are sick of all the restrictions you’ve been living under, and are really looking forward to podcasting conferences the way they used to be.
And I agree with almost everything about that sentiment. ‘Cept that last bit.
Virtual Lessons For In-Person Events
I could do without barely-competent but terribly-enthusiastic presenters doling out bad advice from the stage. I know it’s hard for conference organizers to vet every speaker. And by no means am I saying that Zoom-based events, Clubhouse rooms, or other virtual events are free from such problems. Quite the contrary.
But many who find it easy to bail on a bad virtual room will suffer through a bad conference session if only not to make a scene or embarrass the presenter by walking out. Yeah… screw that. The Law of Two Feet has always applied, but we’ve had a year or more to put that in practice, So perhaps we’ll all feel a bit more empowered to walk away when we’re not getting what we need from a session.
I don’t relish enduring finicky house sound systems that make it hard to hear the presenter, panelists, or audience members who have questions. And I’m dreading showing up five minutes before my own talk is scheduled to begin to figure out if it’s a hand-held mic, lavalier, or lectern mic that I’ll be saddled with.
No such problems—as attendee or presenter—when I’m in using my mic in my studio or when I’m listening through my earbuds via my phone. Yes, problems with internet connectivity and other tech snafus are still quite common. But we are talking about a podcast conference, so I’d expect a certain level of competency. On both sides.
And I’m not looking forward to presenters who, rather than looking at and engaging with members of the audience, turn around and talk directly at (often because they’re reading from) their word-packed PowerPoint slides.
Again, virtual tech is far from perfect here, as screen-sharing still is often more alchemy than science. Also, no visuals in audio-only group events means no slides at all. But there’s a lesson there. Perhaps presenters are learning that the slides are there to reinforce the talk with at-a-glance factoids and supporting imagery.
I think that many of us spent almost all of 2020 lamenting what a poor simulacrum virtual events were. But we really didn’t have a choice, so we adapted. And now in 2021, many of us are seeing the benefits from those adaptations. We’re not living in the new normal. We’re living in the new different. And many of us don’t want to go back.
But I Still Want To Hang Out With You IRL!
I miss the physicality of in-person events. I miss seeing faces in 3D. I miss in-the-flesh greetings. Maybe hugs and handshakes will be overtaken by elbow-bumps or whatever less-infectious greeting rituals gain dominance. I’m fine with whatever it is. I just want to do it.
I miss the hallway conversations. I miss holding court at a booth in the back of the hotel bar. I miss almost being late to my speaking session because I was deep into a conversation with someone I just met in the green room and lost track of time. I miss planning out which meetings I would attend and then abandoning those plans in favor of a three-hour lunch with like-minded podcasters.
I can’t help but wonder how our lived experiences of the last year or so will change our expectations of future in-person experiences. Will they be the same? No, of course they won’t.
The New Different Podcast Conferences
Hopefully, smart conference organizers will recognize our new different expectations and make a blended in-person and virtual experience like we’ve never seen before.
Maybe there’s a way to get live feeds running for each and every session that both look and sound great!
Maybe that leads to fewer concurrent sessions, where in-person, on-stage, in-real-time talks are done in one or two rooms, with “breakout” sessions occurring (and recorded) only in virtual spaces.
Maybe the “drop-in” paradigm is fully embraced, with an entire track determined on-the-fly, with a nod back to the “unconference” format that was the darling of the aughts, modernized to meet current expectations.
Maybe there’s a way of enabling public live chats for every session. I watch a lot of live videos on YouTube and often the live chat is every bit as meaningful as the live event itself. How can we bring that into the podcasting conference world?
These are the kinds of questions I hope every podcast conference organizer is thinking about. Because it’s not just a brave new world waiting for us out there. It’s a brave new different world, and I do not think we’re going to accept the way things were when we meet up again at a podcast conference.
If you’ve been approached by a podcast conference organizer, send them a link to this article and ask what they’re doing to ensure their conference is ready for the new different world in which we’ll soon emerge.
And if you personally get value out of the content I bring to you four days a week, you can show me your support at BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra, where you can buy me a virtual coffee.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.
Podcast Pontifications is written and narrated by Evo Terra. He’s on a mission to make podcasting better. Allie Press proofed the copy, corrected the transcript, and edited the video. Podcast Pontifications is a production of Simpler Media.