Podfest Global SummitSuccess story with Whova
After transitioning to virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Podfest Global Summit worked with Whova to bring podcasters together for networking opportunities and industry collaboration. In addition to facilitating thousands of networking and engagement actions through the Whova app, the Podfest Global Summit 2020 attracted a record-setting audience and brought unprecedented value to their sponsors with increased opportunities for visibility.
About Podfest Global Summit 2020
The Podfest Global Summit is a yearly event put on by the Podfest Multimedia Expo, focused on creating community interaction and networking opportunities for podcast creators. However, like many other events, their initial plan to put on an in-person conference were suddenly put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic.
They decided to leverage Whova’s virtual features to hold the conference online in August 2020, reaching unprecedented levels of attendance and interaction, and even winning the Guinness World Record for Largest Virtual Podcasting Conference. The conference ended up with over 5,000 attendees, coming from 45 states, 48 countries, with 3 major languages spoken throughout the event.
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Satisfying interaction and engagement in a digital format
Podcasters may be used to the virtual world, but attending an entire event online was still a big leap. Organizer Chris Krimitsos was actually especially concerned about getting enough engagement and networking opportunities for this reason; saying “My group of people shows up physically once a year because they’re virtual 24/7 after that, so the physical event is more valuable to them. I know they live virtually, but would they show up virtually?”
Because of this, Chris and the other Podfest organizers knew they would have to make sure they took virtual engagement to the next level and find new ways to provide that same valuable in-person community without a physical space.
Attendees used the Community Board to network and learn from each other with event-wide discussions
With the digital format, organizers saw a new opportunity: expanding their reach to plan a conference wasn’t just bigger than anything they had ever done before, but would also achieve a new world record for virtual podcasting conference attendance.
However, while the virtual format would allow more attendees to come from all over, they still had plenty of work ahead of them. Not only was virtual a newer format that many attendees still weren’t sure about, but Podfest also targets a more niche audience as an event meant for podcast creators, not listeners. They would need to find ways to both reach more attendees and make them feel confident that attending a virtual conference would be a worthwhile investment.
Securing and maintaining strong relationships with sponsors
Sponsors had always been an important part of the event, but this year would present some unique challenges. The Podfest organizers needed to do more than just get sponsors on board for this event; they wanted to make sure this event would be just as valuable to sponsors as ever to maintain strong, beneficial relationships in the years to come.
Facilitating engagement with networking tools and the Community Board
While attendees weren’t going to be able to be in the same space, that didn’t mean they couldn’t connect in other ways! Chris and the other organizers’ strategy was to start encouraging engagement in Whova before the event even began. Chris maintains that “excitement is at its peak right before the event”, so interaction with attendees through everything from social media to video calls was critical in bringing that same energy into the event. And with Whova’s in-app networking features, all they had to do was inform attendees of the features and open the app a few weeks early, and it was easy to start engaging well in advance.
In addition to networking sessions already scheduled by the organizers, Podfest attendees used Whova’s virtual meet-up function to hold hundreds of video meet-ups before and throughout the event. Attendees created virtual meet-ups for those in the same area as them, people who podcasted about similar topics, and also held general “coffee talks” throughout the week for all attendees to hop into the video call and get to know each other.
The rest of Whova’s Community Board was also especially active throughout the event. Attendees used the Community Board to create discussion threads on industry topics and would even reach out through one thread to come on as guests for each other’s podcasts. In addition to the Community Board, the organizers also encourage engagement with the Photo Contest feature, incentivizing attendees to share photos to compete for the most likes and an eventual prize.
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Creating “micro-cons” with Whova’s session tracks
In order to attract more attendees, Podfest Global managed to create a very broad appeal while simultaneously targeting specific groups of podcasters. Already a large conference with hundreds of sessions, the organizers worked with interested creators to create a number of tracks — such as a podcast editors track, military creator track, and more — that would have a specific appeal to many different audiences and cast a wider net for attendees.
With Whova, you can categorize sessions by these tracks, making it easy for attendees to find what they’re looking for, and even sell tickets specifically mapped to one particular track. Chris calls this strategy of combining many specific tracks into one larger event, the “micro-con effect”, and it successfully attracted thousands of podcasters of all kinds to the event.
Tiering tickets with different levels of access through Whova registration
Podfest also employed another strategy to attract attendees: letting their event market itself. The organizers used Whova’s tiered ticketing to provide different levels of access to certain sessions and days of the event. The most basic ticket was completely free — and gave access to all of the event’s content except a final, paid day where they would feature their best content.
By that point, many of the previously non-paying attendees were interested enough in the upcoming content that they elected to pay for the premium sessions. These weren’t the only tiers, though; they also created ticket tiers on multiple levels for access to exclusive networking opportunities and strategy sessions that interested even more attendees.
Prioritizing sponsors visibility with in-app company banners and booths
As one of the main ways they were able to put on the conference, Chris also made featuring sponsors a major priority by taking advantage of Whova’s opportunities for sponsor visibility. Sponsors were each given their own digital booth where they could feature company videos and other materials and engage directly with attendees through a chat sidebar and embedded livestreams. Organizers could also further visibility for high-tier sponsors with in-app banners so attendees could view the sponsors’ names and logos on both web and mobile.
On top of giving them these new opportunities for visibility, Podfest created even more connections between attendees and sponsors by gamifying sponsor promotion. If attendees referred sponsors to someone who would be interested, they could report these actions through a survey created with Whova. Podfest then made sure to give a prize to every single attendee who participated. Not only was this type of engagement and promotion a massive benefit for the sponsors, but the benefits were so strong sponsors also provided the prizes themselves, making it cost-effective and beneficial for both sponsors and organizers!
Podfest increased sponsor visibility with company banners featured throughout the app