Written by Tanya Chedrawy

The first Atlantic Podcast Summit took place May 2 – 4 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The first of its kind in this region, the two and a half days delivered knowledge and insight regardless of where you are in the podcasting process.

Over the course of the summit, all facets of podcast production—from idea to implementation were covered. It included a pitch competition, keynotes, panel discussions and fireside chats, a live Sickboy Podcast show and a master class in technical production. The following are highlights of the weekend based on my experience and from my perspective as being new to the world of podcasting.

Friday evening was the podcast pitch competition that ushered in the information-packed weekend. Six pitch ideas were chosen and each were presented in front of an expert panel of judges. My pitch idea was chosen as one of these six.

The competition was hosted at the award-winning Carleton restaurant and live-music venue in downtown Halifax. The pitch competitors were generously given the opportunity to meet with one of the panel judges, Eric Nuzum, early in the evening and well before having to get on stage. He is currently a media consultant and a star in the podcasting world. He has created iconic podcasts that have generated millions of downloads! 

He gave us a run down of what we needed to touch on and what we should avoid in order to deliver a successful pitch. What he conveyed during that hour are the fundamentals of podcasting that I will impart to you. If you have a podcast idea, you need to think of four critical questions. First, what is your story? You have to know what this is. Ideally, you should be able to convey your story clearly and concisely in 30 seconds or less. “Podcasting is a means to tell a story and build a community.” –Tracy Kaplan, Head of Creator Partnerships, Patreon.

Second, who is your audience? Guess what? “Everyone” is NOT the answer. It will make any podcasting expert cringe and runaway from you. Seriously! Who are you speaking to and why?

Third, why are you the best person to tell this story? What is it that is unique to only you that no one else can bring to this story you want to tell? Finally, how will you land your ending? In other words, what is it that you want your audience to do after hearing your podcast? Do you want them to take action? Think about it.

While I admit pitching was a nerve-wracking experience-I can’t express enough that if you have a podcast idea percolating, I strongly encourage you to apply for next year! I pushed through the nerves and fear and did it anyway. It was worth it. While I didn’t win the competition, the feedback and encouragement I received was gold. Someone is giving you instant feedback through an expert lens and wouldn’t you want to know if you have a viable idea? It has fueled me to keep forging ahead and get my podcast out into the ether. Well, the Atlantic Region is a good start, but you know what I mean. 😉

Overall, the entire weekend offered up golden nuggets of insider information, dispelled myths, and served as a source of profound inspiration.

For example, Jeff Ulster from the Podcast Exchange offered up interesting demographic information regarding Canadian podcast listeners. One statistic stood out, in the 18-54 category, entertainment, storytelling and curiosity are the main reasons for listening to podcasts.

Or, if you’ve ever wondered how long your podcast should be, according to Eric Nuzum, “Your podcast is as long as it needs to be and not a minute longer.”

In “The Art of the Interview” fireside chat, the hilarious and candid Stephanie Domet, formally the host of Main Street on CBC Radio One served up her wealth of experience and knowledge. As hosts of podcasts, we are a “proxy for our listeners” and our job is to bring “heart, curiosity and passion” to the interview and to “make a beautiful and generous space for our listener.”

I will leave you with this one last emotional note. In the ‘Art of the Narrative Podcast’ session, panel guests Veronica Simmonds (CBC) and Mira Burt-Wintonich (CBC) underscored for me the power of audio. Mira shared episodes of her Love Me podcasts that she co-creates and edits. In one episode, a woman is shaving her head while speaking to her child. We hear the piercing sounds of the razor juxtaposed with the trickling of the water. The woman has cancer but we never hear those words, it is implied through sound. This hit me straight in the solar plexus. It was the beauty and pain of the human experience communicated through audio.

In summary, the weekend was a sobering truth in the reality of podcasting. One of the pronounced threads communicated to us throughout is that producing a successful podcast that people want to listen to is plain old-fashioned, hard work.

As one panelist remarked, “Be passionate and love what you are putting into the world.” You just can’t go wrong with that advice.

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