An Inside Look at Podfest with Chris Krimitsos (#12)

podfest chris krimitsos
In this episode, Chief Creative Officer of Podfest Chris Krimitsos gives us the behind the scenes scoop on how the conference came to be, and what the future holds for both podcasting and his company.

Getting Your Message Out There

Ashley 00:13
Hey everyone, Ashley here with RSS.com. Today we’re chatting with Chris Krimitsos, the chief creative officer at Podfest. Enjoy the show.

Ashley 00:23
Thank you so much for being on the show. I’m so excited to have you here. I can’t wait to talk all about Podfest. So can you do us a favor and introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Chris 00:33
Yeah, Chris Krimitsos here. I am the Chief Creative Officer of Podfest, and we are the longest running in person continuous event since COVID, because we were very fortunate to have a big event right before the lockdowns. We’ve organized an amazing community of creators, majority of them are podcasters, and we do have a smaller community of video creators and Vidfest of YouTubers and Tick Talkers and stuff like that.

Breaking a World Record

Ashley 01:01
Now and you guys also – didn’t you break a Guinness World Record, during the pandemic?

Chris 01:05
Yeah, we set a Guinness World Record, and then we broke a Guinness World Record because the pandemic went longer than we all thought. So it was like, hey, we got another do, let’s keep at it, and we had over 5003 people attend virtually over a week’s time. The second time around, we had over 500 hundred something speakers, 12 languages spoken in, taught in, it was incredible. We were uniting the world, with podcasting. It was pretty awesome.

How Did Podfest Get Started?

Ashley 01:33
It is very awesome, and I’ve seen some of the free classes that you guys have on your website occasionally. So tell me, let’s go way back – way back into the you know, when you first began, tell me a little bit about your podcasting journey and how you started, how you got into this medium, and how you finally founded Podfest.

Chris 01:51
So I mean, I used to produce TV shows on terrestrial through public access. So we used to do live TV shows serialized, you know, business shows, and then one was a political debate show. It was a lot of fun. Then in August of 2013, we hosted a meet up about podcasting, and I got bitten by the bug. I went home, told my wife, I’m starting a podcast. She said she’s starting a podcast, and we couldn’t both do it because we were doing so many events at the time, that she started her podcast because women rock, and I became her marketing manager.

Chris 02:27
And it kind of dovetails perfectly into how Podfest was born. I would go all over the state helping people start their podcast, and I would use my wife as a case study, so it helped highlight her podcast. Then after doing that, all these people said, what do we do now? You help to start a podcast, and that’s how Podfest was founded with 100 people in 2015. Since then, we’ve doubled year over year, when we moved it to Orlando, that really was our inflection point of internationalizing the conference. So the last big in person event we had was 2020.

Chris 03:01
We had over 2000 attendees. Last year, we did a much smaller engagement just to keep things safe, and we had literally an arena, the Amalie arena, where the Tampa Bay Lightning played to host Podfest origins, since we brought it back to the source for one year only. But this year, we’re excited, we’re going full force in Orlando, and we’re, I mean, we don’t want to jinx ourselves, but it looks like we’ll be over 3000 attendees. So it’s pretty amazing.

Community is the Key to a Full-Fledge Conference

Ashley 03:27
Wow. So how did you like – whenever you first started with the in-person conference – how did you start getting people interested in it and drum up enough attendees to make it a full-fledged conference?

Chris 03:38
In the beginning it was easy because no one knew anything about podcasting. So it was a hot topic. So then we got 100 people the next year. We said we should invite all of our friends like Jessica Kupferman (CEO and Co-Founder of She Podcasts), and all these other amazing people from all over the country and they flew in. Then, when we moved it to Orlando that really helped us grow. So what we’ve always focused on is our community and their needs. So for instance, our closing keynote is the community itself, we close it out with a gratitude ceremony where people will tell us what they’re grateful for upon the main stage.

Chris 04:09
We have a hands-on experiential learning hall that we added this time around. So we have three tracks where you can learn any editing software like how to use Canva. So literally, you bring your laptop in and thanks to the podcast editors for helping us put that together, Mark Dill and Steve Stewart. Then we’re going to have a job fair for our companies that are in a trade show that could hire people with these specialized skills as well as the podcasters that need to add teammates. So we’re always thinking about how can we create value for our community and that’s what we’re always doing is adding that value back and then we have 10 tracks. We’ll have over 500 speakers at Podfest in May. We also created the first ever Amazon Live Conference for Amazon Live Creators and we found that a lot of video streamers all want to start Podcasts. That’s a really great synergy for Podfest.

Virtual Pass with "The Best Of"

Ashley 05:01
Now is the conference also going to be virtual as well, this year?

Chris 05:04
We will have a virtual pass. The virtual track, the way it works is we actually have a room at Podfest that is set up, and we take some of “the best of” on the floor, and we invite those presenters to come up and they will teach through the laptop. Which is more conducive to virtual learning, and then people could join virtually. We think that’s going to be a much better learning environment. So it’s gonna be interesting. So we’re not just streaming what’s in the room, we’re going to take someone they’re gonna be on their laptop showing and talk to you virtually chatting with you in real time. So we have a room dedicated for the virtual component.

Ashley 05:36
Wow. I mean, that sounds like a lot of work.

Chris 05:39
It’s a lot of work, we always ask ourselves “how would we want the information delivered?” I think that’s why we attract creators from all over the world that feel heard, because we listen to their feedback, and we make sure that we deliver it in the way that they want.

Chris’s Favorite Podfest Experience

Ashley 05:57
Do you have a favorite experience that you’ve had at your conferences?

Chris 06:02
I mean, the gratitude ceremony. I don’t know if there’s anything else like that. Hearing people’s [gratitudes]. I remember last year or two years ago, time flies. I remember Maxwell Ivey – he’s The Blind Blogger. I remember him going up during the gratitude ceremony and saying [something]. We give out a treasure map. It’s a physical piece of paper that you could get signed by the exhibitors.

Chris 06:24
This year, I think we had virtual and physical, but anyways, I forget that he cannot see. So how is he going to get it signed? And what happened was each and every exhibitor took him by the hand to the next exhibitor, and his entire treasure map got signed. He shared this up at the gratitude ceremony at Podfest. Everybody’s his friend, and everybody took care of him. To me, that’s the ethos of our entire community.

Podcasting is a Beautiful Thing

Ashley 06:45
It really is. I mean, that’s one of the most fascinating things to me about the podcasting community. With so many other industries, it seems like everyone’s like trying to hold what they’re doing, like behind the curtain. You don’t want to tell anybody because if you give away your secrets, then you either need to charge for them, or everybody’s going to try to outdo you, but it seems like with podcasting, everyone seems to want to help everybody else, and there’s something so beautiful about that. It seems like with your conference, you definitely add to that. So why should people attend? Why should they come to Podfest?

Why People Should Come to Podfest

Chris 07:23
Well, if they’re looking to grow and collaborate with creators, in the podcasting sphere, I would say it’s a great opportunity to meet other creators to understand that we live in a collaborative economy. So it’s your showing to add value not to take value, and that’s the Podfest mantra. So if you’re coming from that space, then I highly recommend you show up.

Chris 07:46
If you’re looking for a conference where you want to take something and run away, it’s not the Podfest way. So anyone that’s looking to collaborate, learn, share, be part of an amazing community, show up any day of the week, we welcome you with open arms. Podfest truly is a community. We have beginner tracks; we have like 10 different tracks. I mean, and then we have industry, B2B, and all different kinds of niches. So if you’re looking to create and learn, come to Podfest, we’d love to have you and be part of our pod fam.

The Podcasting Experts You Need and Want

Ashley 08:16
Now in your pod fam, do you welcome people that don’t even have a podcast yet?

Chris 08:20
Yeah, that’s our beginner track, we help people, we get their feet set up, we literally even have a booth this year. Where we give you pointers on the trade show floor of how to start your podcast, and if you’ve just started as well, what to look at to grow your podcast. So we also have a YouTube review channel because some podcasters tried to do YouTube and they don’t do it as well as they should. So we actually have experienced YouTubers sitting there, and they’ll do a free YouTube review of your channel.

Ashley 08:46
That’s amazing. Wow. So you can actually, like get hands on from the experts.

Chris 08:51
Hands on from the people themselves will have a county link for them to schedule. We have a media row for creators that want to create in real time on the podcast show floor, and like I said, any company that’s looking to add team members, we will have – think of it as a job fair, but not really it’s more of a dance, but there’ll be areas where you could post op and meet with these people, and well private rooms for people to hold meetings to get to know one another.

What Does the Future Hold for Podcasting?

Ashley 10:35
So now, with all of that in mind, what do you see for the future of podcasting? Because just right now, in the last couple of years, there’s been so many changes. I mean, we’ve got podcasting 2.0 coming out, we’ve got people, like you said, trying to do YouTube with podcasting. What do you see for the future of the medium?

Chris 10:55
Well, for one, more money is going to come into the medium at a level that people I don’t think they even can fathom, because podcasting when we started, I mean, you remember this, we’re like if we had $10 million spent for the year and we’re so excited, oh, next year, it’s gonna be 20 or 50.

Chris 11:08
So now we’re in the billions. Finally, I think it was like 2 billion this past year, but it’s gonna start going to 5, 6, 7. So the reason why I mentioned that that money will float into the ecosystem and allow people to afford teams as they grow their podcasts. That’s one that’s a big shift because it professionalizes a lot of independence, okay, and we love that.

Chris 11:29
The other is web three, web three is the blockchain and all the innovations that we hear terms like NFT. Basically, you’re going to see people owning their content at a much higher level, and the individuals have more rights, creative rights. I think that’s going to be a fine foundational shift, we actually have an entire web three track at Podfest, teaching people with these tools are just to get used to them. But I think as you see that it is as foundational as RSS.

Chris 12:00
But web three is really going to be the big one. I don’t think we know how that’s going to shape up right now, because the plumbing is still being put into web three. For the next two or three years, we’re gonna see things that we can only imagine. Dave Jackson is doing a presentation on how to add through the Lightning Network, Bitcoin payment onto your podcast. That to me is an exciting presentation.

Billions of Dollars, Will it Help or Hurt?

Ashley 12:22
That’s wild, like, wow. I mean, that’s something that you wouldn’t have even, like, considered a few years ago. But I’m curious, you said that thing about the billions of dollars coming into the medium. Do you think that that helps or hurts the independent little podcaster, who’s just starting out with just their microphone and a podcast host?

Chris 12:44
I think it helps because you have to realize podcasting for a long time had no monetization, and the reason why YouTube is whatever, seventy times bigger than the podcasting universe, is they allow creators to make a little bit of money and half the time, we’re not talking a lot of money, $18 here, $100 there. Podmatch has some monetization capabilities for people using their service. Obviously, the Spotify universe is adding, kind of following the YouTube model in some ways. To me, it helps the independent sometimes know that they’re on the right track if they get 50 or $100, and it reaffirms that they could multiply.

Chris 13:21
A friend of mine always said on the internet, it’s hard to multiply zeros, but you could always multiply one. So I think that’s a foundational shift. Are there going to be networks? Absolutely. Does that mean an independent might be able to join a network and get both benefits? Absolutely. So I think it’s good for the entire scene, and you know, independence is a loose term.

Chris 13:39
I mean, my wife has a meditation network. But she’s an independent. And there’s tons of people like her out there, there’s no need for them to join networks. But when and if the time comes for them to join, that money is going to flow through the podcasting ecosystem in many different ways. So it’s a win all around, I think.

The Naysayers and Celebrities

Ashley 13:56
I guess the question would be, then what do you say to the naysayers who are like, well, as the celebrities take over this medium? We don’t matter anymore.

Chris 14:05
I mean, I don’t think that’s true. A lot of these celebrities, they suck at podcasting, these deals. It’s true, now that I’ve been around a bit in this space, you see, like, I don’t know, so and so from the Jersey Shore gets a podcast and it doesn’t exist a year later, or the first lady gets a podcast, you really have to have like a love for this medium to show up to it.

Chris 14:27
So they can give the celebrities tons of money. Some of them will do well, absolutely. Comedians tend to do well because they need to talk to their audience directly. But yeah, and don’t forget these celebrities, they’ve worked their butts off for 10-20 years building a brand. Now, are they going to build a podcast – it doesn’t guarantee anything. What it guarantees is they’ll probably start at a higher-level download than you, but it doesn’t guarantee that they’ll last, and the majority of them podfade. They take the money. They barely release one or two episodes from the Spotify deals, so I wouldn’t worry about that. I would say, stay in your lane. Focus on what the consumer wants. What your audience wants. Focus on your search engine optimization, your graphics, what your logo looks like, your messaging, your sound design, and you’ll be fine.

What Does a Beginning Podcaster Need?

Ashley 15:12
So what would you say to the person who’s considering starting? Do they need a specific niche? Do they need a certain amount of equipment? What do they need to get going?

Chris 15:20
So I think a good mic would be great. So a dynamic microphone. We all use different ones. But I would just say there’s a lot of great ones – Audio Technica, Heil, some are more than others. Start wherever you want budget wise, but you could start under $100, for a really decent mic to start podcasting.

Chris 15:39
The next thing I would say I would spend more time researching, before you get started on your niche, your title, your art, I can’t tell you how many people I see with cheap artwork, and they don’t realize that that’s the first thing I see. Therefore, I might not even click on your cover, and then what are the words? Do they mean something? So I remember once someone told me that the name of their show was their literal name, and I said, what do you do?

Chris 16:04
They said event planning and go I don’t get that from seeing, you know, Susie Show, and I go who told you I was good. All my friends. I mean, talk to experts in the space. They’re there. They’re great. School of Podcasting is a great resource. I remember the person saying, if I called it an event planning show, there’s a lot of event planning podcasts, and I said, maybe there’s a reason for it, and maybe you could find a niche within that event planning niche. So like you said, niche down a little bit and find your audience.

Podcasting Journey Regrets

Ashley 16:31
Now, do you have any regrets with your own podcasting journey?

Chris 16:34
So I’m a hobbyist. So I started the story jam theater podcast. Those are still up there. We create a podcast on the messenger. So I do have The Kid Friendly Network. We’re restarting it up right now, and I have a producer that creates that content. I’m a perfectionist. I suffer from the perfectionist gene. I wrote Start Ugly really for me.

Chris 16:58
Regrets, I wouldn’t say have any regrets. I would just say, I wish I could innovate a little quicker than I do on some things. But my burden to bear, my love I should say, is doing these events. For whatever reason, I’m a glutton for punishment, I love doing events. So that’s where I think I could serve as a home for the medium. And, that’s where I really have put my efforts in excelling. To make sure that independents have a voice. They have a home. And, to make sure that they don’t get lost in the noise as this industry grows. That’s pretty much my mission.

How Often Do Podfest Expo Events Happen?

Ashley 17:31
I love that. I love that. So with your Podfest Expo, when is it, and how often do you have these events?

Chris 17:39
So Podfest Expo is pretty much every year. This year, it’s May 26, to the 29th. However, traditionally, we’re usually on the first weekend of March. It’s a four-day event this year. We will have like I said, I believe I’m positive about 2000 people, but we might get as many as 3000 attendees. We do it once a year, and we also do Podglobal, which is a full virtual event now every year. That’s the one that we’ve earned now two Guinness World Records.

Chris 18:07
I think we’ll retire the record books. We’ll just do the events without the records because it creates a lot of extra work for us. But that’ll be in September every year, and we’re excited to – you’ll hear it here first, Ashley. As we get bigger, and the sponsors bless us with some additional money, we will be doing events in the UK – where we don’t want – I know it’s gonna sound very weird, we’re not looking to make money. We’re just looking to break even and see if we get scholarships on podcasts to come out with us to do almost like a foreign exchange in different countries.

Ashley 18:40
Oh, wow. That sounds really cool.

Chris 18:42
We were going to do Japan, but COVID lasted too long. We had it all planned out earlier this year.

Ashley 18:47
Yeah, I’m sure that I can speak for everybody listening to this and everyone around the world. We’re all over COVID Definitely. So where can people find you online?

Chris 18:59
Podfestexpo.com if you’re looking for my name, it’s Chris Krimitsos, it’s a long Greek name. I’m sure that Google will re-spell it for you, but you can find me on all the socials. I’m on Facebook a lot, and you could catch me there, but the Podfest Expo team and I manage those accounts actively.

Ashley 19:16
Yes. And it’s very active. Absolutely. Now. So we’ll definitely leave all the links below. But before I let you go, I’ve got to ask you one question I ask everybody. What is one question I did not ask you that you really wish I had?

Chris 19:29
Um. Probably something about my wife. Like, we’re a power, well not a power couple, but how we support each other. So we are a podcasting couple. I’m on the event side, she has a podcasting network, and I would just say, if I were to be asked what have I learned from my wife because she’s an inspiration. I’ve learned that mindset is everything. I remember she started her network with one show, and she kept expanding her mindset and now she’s up to five shows on the network. It’s been amazing to watch her grow something that helps women the world over through her Women’s Meditation Network.

Ashley 20:04
Oh, God, that is so sweet. I love that. That’s what you wanted the question to be because that is just, I’m sure everybody listening to this is just giving it AWE!

Chris 20:14
She’s amazing, and I learned so much from her. I’m not an operational minded person. I’m more the excitable entrepreneur on the cutting edge. But, I’ve learned so much on how to run operations from her and to watch her systemize her podcast to support women all over the world. It’s been pretty amazing.

Ashley 20:30
Well, that’s fantastic. Well, Chris, I just want to say thank you again so much for being here with me today, and I’ll leave all the links below and I just really appreciate your time.

Chris 20:40
Thank you, Ashley. I appreciate you.

Ashley 20:43
Well, my fellow podcasters I hope you enjoyed everything that Chris had to share with us. To learn more about how to launch and grow your own podcast, head over to RSS.com. You can start your show for free and get your first episode on us. Thanks for tuning in.

Where to Find Chris Online

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