So I've now been podcasting for a year, and very much still consider myself a noob. I listened to podcasts for probably two years before finally pulling the trigger and getting this one started. One of the things that kept me off the stage for so long was the audio side of things. Other than singing in a few "productions" in grammar school, I have no experience with any musical type things. Audibly, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a mandolin and a clarinet, I think. So I had to teach myself a bunch of audio-technical stuff, in addition to the tech behind podcasting itself, before starting. Oddly enough, it seems to work.
So in this last year, I've learned a lot more, some of it marketing (again not in my personal history), some of it technical (ok, I pick that up quick because it's my nature) and most of it patience (and anyone that knows me understands I am very much so). I've tried to get involved in the online community (blogs, social sites, forums and more), to spread the word about the podcast, but most importantly, to learn much more from those immersed in it. Last September I attended the unconference, PodCamp Philly, but I could only go for one day. I was amazed at the friendliness and energy level of the few people that I was able to speak with. I made a few connections and learned more about what I needed for the future of my show.
Soon after, I heard that the New Media Expo would be moving to Las Vegas for it's 2008 iteration. One of the reasons stated was that Vegas would give the conference more credibility, rather than Ontario, California, where it was held previously. The online buzz and early interest seemed pretty high, and back in October or November I decided I wanted to go to this year's Expo. A few months ago, the date was announced, and registration opened. I then had to weigh the costs ($300 for early registration) of attending the sessions to just having access to the show floor (free). Despite wanting to see a number of session speakers, I decided that this year I would hold back and only go to the (free) exhibit floor, as I heard that other podcasters were doing the same. A majority of sessions seemed to be geared toward the "Corporate" side of podcasting, plus the whole idea of the "hallway meetings" that were being touted appealed to me quite a bit.
My wife, Maureen, and I had never been to Vegas, so we were making a small vacation out of it as well. Plus back in June we started her podcast, so she was now more interested in attending the Expo with me. I'll talk about our vacation part of it in a later post.
Well, the New Media Expo 2008 started off with a bang. We both woke and went to the opening keynote, presented by Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV. Talk about high energy! Gary presented a keynote unlike any I've seen before... he was honest, blunt and confident. That combination I'm sure put off some people in attendance, but, for me, resulted in one of the best I've seen (in person or recorded). I have to honestly say that he nailed it, and I feel that I learned 80% more about podcasting and what I do, than I did before. It was worth the trip just for that.
So when it was over, we went into the exhibit hall, to see who was there, run into people I wanted to run into, pick up some schwag and mostly, learn. The initial plan was to walk the whole floor and make some mental notes as to who we wanted to go back and talk to in more depth a little later. We were done walking the floor (even with stopping quickly at a few booths) in about ten minutes. At this point, we both wondered how we were going to fill up two and a half days. Now I've been to a few conventions before, and the floors took the better part of a day to walk and talk. Needless to say, I was surprised, and I'm sure Maureen was considering just hitting the pool at this point.
Well, we went back in, and walked around the hall as two unknown podcasters. We did get to talk to a bunch of exhibitors, and we were able to see Leo Laporte doing his live show, TWiT Live, which was very cool, as I've been watching him since the early TechTV days. Each day I stopped by and was able to watch him talk with plenty of folks, all streaming live on the Net via Stickam.
At the Expo, I was able to see Kent Nichols of one of my favorites, Ask A Ninja, plus Veronica Belmont, C. C. Chapman, Brad P, Trucker Tom, iJustine, Geoff Smith, Michael Geoghegan, Seth Harwood, and Felicia Day. From being plugged in and being a podcast / internet listener that I am, it was definitely cool to see these folks in person.
On the show floor I was able to have some very good chats with Todd Cochrane, Paul Colligan and THE Drew Olanoff. Drew took the time between a few interviews and asked what my show was about, and actually took the time to answer a few of my questions honestly and with thought. Before he had to rush off to do an interview at an adjacent booth (which I think I was keeping him from), he invited me to an event in Philly the end of this month, and offered to sit down and talk again at a later time. To me, that was great stuff... he is the epitome of what this is all about; about the community, about helping.
Another very good thing that happened on Thursday evening was meeting up with and talking with Gary Puckett, who was at his fourth NME. Gary was more than happy to share some of his experiences and anecdotes from some of the podcasters/interviewers in his network. We just ran into him at the Hilton restaurant, Hacienda Margarita, and we talked for a couple hours.
So the meetups were very minimal, for me at least, despite trying to via twitter a few times. Two different times we were at another part of the strip hanging out when I saw a tweet about a meet up, and when we were over in that area, those we went to find had moved on to somewhere else. It was tough, too, because I don't watch many video podcasts, so recognizing people was kind of limited to what I know from their twitter avatars. lol
That brings me to the negative aspect of the show, and it directly has to do with whether you attended the paid sessions or not. I have to believe that if I went to the sessions, I'd have more opportunity to interact with people. Walking the show floor was very tough because it was so small. You can only talk to the exhibitors you want to so many times, and walk around the four aisles so many times before you start looking like a stalker, and the LVCC Security is summoned. I think it was just too separated and spread out. It's tough to jump into a conversation with someone who is literally in the middle of talking with someone else. The opposite is also in effect here, because the exhibit floor was rather small, people could literally be in and out of there within an hour. If you didn't happen to be in there when someone you wanted to run into was there, you were out of luck. I know I missed several people that I really wanted to see, such as Scott Johnson, Jason Van Orden and Norbert Davis to name a few.
The last thing that I was surprised that wasn't there were the parties! Granted this has nothing to do with the organizers, at all. I remember hearing about a number of parties and big get-togethers last year, and was psyched for it this year. There was only the Coverville 500 Concert. Granted I read in twitter that evening that it was awesome, but we missed most of it. Long story short, our helicopter trip to the Grand Canyon was moved from that morning to the evening. The jaunt was breathtaking... but at the expense of missing most of the concert and only getting to see Richard Cheese perform. He was funny and definitely entertaining, but I heard so many good things about the other artists.
So even though I made a few contacts there, and had some great conversations, the 2008 New Media Expo just didn't live up to the hype, whether it was publicized or my own hype. Again, I learned a lot, mainly because of Gary Vaynerchuk, Drew Olanoff and Todd Cochrane, but I expected more in the way of "experience" if that makes sense. I don't regret going, and if anyone asks, I'll happily give my suggestions for improvement. I really feel I missed out on much more simply by not paying for, and attending, the Sessions.
At this point, though, I'm really looking forward to going to PodCamp Philly in a few weeks. I can only go on Saturday and have to skip Sunday because of the first Eagles game. But the local aspect, and the smaller, more intimate locale, will surely lend to the community atmosphere that something like this needs.
Will I go to New Media Expo 2009? I'd really like to, but we'll see, both financially and logistically, if it will happen. I still commend the Bourquin brothers for pulling something like this together, as I am sure the headaches can outweigh the positives for them.