Jennifer Crawford founded DC Podfest in 2015 after five years of podcasting. Her goal was to serve the community of audio creators in Washington, DC. The event takes place every November and is limited to just 200 participants.
As the founder of a similarly-small, boutique podcasting event, I was curious about DC Podfest, so I talked to her about the event and how it's evolved since 2015.
Why is podcasting important?
Podcasting is important because it's an unrestricted tool for intimate, efficient, mass communication. There are so many voices that have been silenced, or minimized, and now they have a microphone, and the ability to reach people around the world. People are changing the world through their podcasts.
There are such tremendous opportunities for long-form journalism, storytelling, and education in addition to social/political change and of course, just pure entertainment.
What makes DC Podfest different from other podcasting events?
DC Podfest is unique in a number of ways. We make an effort to include plenty of interactive, bonus programming in addition to great sessions, and impactful speakers. This fosters a great deal of collaboration, connection, and creativity.
DC Podfest was designed to be intimate, with no more than 200 tickets being sold each year. Because of this, attendees don’t experience the overwhelm that can happen at larger conferences. It also allows attendees to receive plenty of personalized attention from speakers and other conference guests.
Who is DC Podfest designed for?
DC Podfest is for the dedicated, passionate podcaster who takes the craft of podcasting seriously. Our attendees recognize and respect the potential impact of creating and distributing great audio content to impact social change, political influence, activism, and influence. Monetization often plays a secondary role for these content creators.
What has changed about podcasting (and podcasting events) since you founded DC Podfest?
In 2015, there weren’t many podcasting conferences and I felt we needed one in the DC Metro area. Podcast Movement and PodFest Multimedia Expo (both great conferences) were just getting started.
A lot has changed since 2015, and now there are a lot of podcasting conferences – of all sizes. These podcasting conferences are even niching down to focus on specific types of podcasts. This change delivers a challenge for us to remain relevant, and produce an event that remains unique while still providing great value to attendees.
It isn’t enough for an event to just be in a big city – I don’t want us to depend on geography to fill the conference. We want to produce a podcasting event that is worth traveling to. We are constantly reinventing our approach to DC Podfest as well as the event itself and it's been a lot of fun figuring it out from year-to-year.
What can people who attend DC Podfest expect to walk away with?
Attendees of DC Podfest will walk away with a lot of tangible knowledge that will help them create better audio content, and grow their podcast audiences. They will also walk away being part of a real community.
Attendees will meet a wide range of people who are enthusiastic about learning and connecting with other podcasters. Just connecting with people who understand your passion and challenges is a powerful experience. Beyond that, those connections often lead to collaborations, support, and creative partnerships.
How can attendees get the most out of DC Podfest?
DC Podfest kicks off with our "Pod People Party." This immediately gets attendees connected with each other before programming starts the following day. By attending the kick-off, you're immediately be introduced to other podcasters whom you'll "know" and see throughout the event.
One of our top priorities is to get podcasters connected with each other, so the following morning, also before the main conference programming starts, we have a second networking event we call "Podcasters & Pancakes Sunshine Social."
Beyond connecting with other podcasters, I think it is important for DC Podfest attendees to balance sessions with other available activities, such as getting one-on-one advice in Expert Alley, or recording a podcast in the PRX Garage Pop-Up Recording Lounge, or getting featured on Podbean’s audio live stream. Those who want to pitch their podcasts may do so to the talent scouts from Ampire Media.
Do you have advice for somebody wanting to organize a podcasting event?
This question could be a book. I recommend testing your concept with a sell-out point of 30-50 attendees for a one-day event. That way, you keep your venue costs down, and you can see how your event is received – what worked, what didn’t. You can also micro-test your event with Meetups while growing a base community of attendees.
You can take that intel from your initial event(s) and be confident producing a larger event. With that said, I think it's important to speak to a specific audience. And by knowing what they need, you can create an event that will attract and delight them.
You need plenty of lead time, especially if you're creating an event from scratch. It takes time to get a logo, branding, website, and social media assets created.
You need to pay close attention to your costs and revenue streams, so you can make your event profitable. Your primary revenue streams will be ticket sales and sponsors.
Make sure to start reaching out to sponsors as soon as you have a date, venue, and an online presence. Keep in mind that you are not begging for money, but selling an opportunity to partner with your event, and for them to get in front of their ideal audience.
Not every sponsor is a good fit for your event. They have to serve your audience, and you have to serve theirs. This year, I turned down sponsorships from a timeshare company and Verizon Fios because they were a terrible fit for our event.
MORE ON JENNIFER CRAWFORD:
Jennifer started her first business at the age of 19 with $75, and grew it to a million-dollar company. She currently owns two companies: Sparent, a virtual agency staffed entirely by stay-at-home moms, and recently launched PowHer Box, a localized subscription box filled with products and services from women-owned businesses. She is the founder and manager of The Improv Imps, an improv troupe that has performed regularly in the Washington, DC area since 2010. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia with her husband Thor, and their 150 lb rescue Mastiff, Meatball.