How I Became Besties with American Idol's William Hung
This week I was transported to what seemed to be an alternate Universe. The event that I met my husband at VIRTUALLY was here in the flesh, live and in color and happening for four whole days in Orlando, Florida. It kind of felt like the movie Ready Player One where you’re so engulfed in the metaverse and it’s just a whole different life, except that coming to this event was in PERSON; it was REAL life, and there was an overwhelming sense of love and community.
For four days, we stayed at probably one of the best hotels I’ve ever experienced. It had everything! A HUGE atrium with beautiful glass ceilings that let the natural light flood the entire lobby. A handful of good restaurants to choose from. I liked to get my steps in walking around each floor because I could see in to the lobby and watch the playoff game on the big screen at the bar downstairs as I made my rounds. One lap is about one football field. There was a gym, a coffee shop, a pool, a couple jacuzzis. Oh, and GLASS elevators, so that when you go up, you can still see everything that’s happening in the lobby. I’m the kind of girl who HAS to go outside every single day. I don’t care if it’s 5 degrees or 200 degrees outside. I have to spend time out in the open. In this hotel, I literally forgot to step outside for a couple of days. I had everything I needed inside, including sunlight!
My intention for this conference (by the way it’s called Podfest), was to be a fly on the wall, to sit in on as many sessions as possible and take lots of notes so that I could up my game for my own podcast, Black Hair in the Big Leagues. I wanted to see what my husband has been up to planning this event throughout the year. He works remotely all year except when the actual event is taking place. I missed the in-person event last year so now was my chance to take it all in. I expected to fly under the radar and quietly get to watch Andrew in action.
I’m not sure how this happened, but by the time the first event on the Event Schedule rolled around, I somehow was MCing the entire thing for 3 hours. Instead of being that quiet fly I talked about it, I was the FIRST face that a lot of attendees saw. And after that morning, I instantly became someone that people recognized and felt comfortable giving feedback to. When someone was lost or had questions, if I was nearby, you better believe they came right up to me looking for answers. If there was a tech problem in the room that I was about to attend, they asked ME for help.
This is HILARIOUS because I didn’t know the answers to anything. ANYTHING.
I didn’t know where anything was. I had no clue how to fix tech issues. I was not the HR department. HOWEVER…. During Andrew’s orientation two days before all the guests arrived, I brought him a cup of water and heard a snippet of where 5 of the rooms were. Which helped me to read the map that I had in my pocket. When someone came to me with grievances or to compliment the process, I always seemed to have a notepad in my hand and an extra pen hiding in my hair. And the most magnificent timing happened when there was technical difficulties, the speaker and MC were in a time crunch (one minute til GO time) and so I called my husband who called the techie who showed up all in 30 seconds…and FIXED it in seconds. I have to admit, THAT was awesome.
One thing led to another and the next thing I knew I was giving a short keynote alongside my husband, Andrew.
I have to say, Podfest feels like a family. It feels like it’s my family. I felt so welcomed and so thrown in to everything quickly. But it also felt really natural and like it made sense—even if it didn’t make sense. It felt so weird and cool for so many people who I’d never met to have watched my wedding virtually. To know who I was and be so excited about my love story to Andrew who they’ve known and loved for God knows how long. There was just an overwhelming sense of love. That’s the most succinct way I can put it!
My actual takeaways from this expo exceeded my expectations. Do you guys remember William Hung from American Idol? It turns out he’s an amazing speaker. Seriously….AMAZING. We are texting buddies now #humblebrag LOL. And getting to hear him speak had me welling up with tears. (On the last night of the event, he gave us a snippet of his famous "She Bang She Bang" performance, and everyone LOST THEIR MINDS.) I found about 5 people who I am EXCITED to have come on my podcast (William is one of them), I was asked to be on about 12 or more podcasts, and was also approached to start a new show for something that sounds SO freaking cool. What I’m getting at: WAY more opportunities to collaborate than I could have imagined. As far as the speakers go: I sat in on some really great eye opening sessions. And there were two in particular that straight up changed my life.
I’m not sure if I’m just drinking the cool-aid or what, but I am HERE FOR IT. I am here for the inspiration, the encouragement of the village, and the insight from professionals who are a few steps ahead of me (or in many cases LIGHT YEARS ahead of me). I am HERE for being in the most all consuming, geeky, fun bubble of friendships and new knowledge.
Podfest was so freaking fun. Being here totally makes sense that I met my husband at this thing, albeit virtually in the middle of a pandemic. And also, to end this week and not have COVID *chef’s kiss* sounds like a success to me. Oh, and I don’t mean to brag, but there was a dance competition at the closing party, and Yours Truly tied for first. (That was not supposed to happen LOL! I walked in the room to drop something off. The next thing I know I am in the middle of the dance floor. Seven rounds later, I emerged victorious with very numb feet. LOL)
When it was all said and done and after everyone’s gone home, it’s just me and Andrew still here at the resort. We spent the most magical day at Disneyworld’s EPCOT. We rode rides and walked around the world. We had the best dinner at the Coral Reef restaurant which has a view of the nation’s second largest salt water aquarium, and then made it just in time to kiss under the fireworks.
This week felt like love.
The founder of Podfest, Chris Krimitsos closes out his events with a Gratitude Ceremony. For about an hour, everyone who wants to has a few moments to get onstage and share what touched their heart. If you didn’t already feel on top of the world, that ceremony in itself blows the roof off the building. The very final keynote speaker of the event, his name is Wally Green and he’s one of the World’s best ping pong players and has quite a story, closed with this: “It is not our job to change the world. It’s our job to plant the seeds.” I am feeling so inspired to go back out into the world, do my part and plant the seeds.
Feeling a lot of gratitude for a life-changing week. I see why there are so many Podfest repeat offenders. I will be one of them. We are home safe and sound now, but I already can’t wait to go back next year.
P.S. For those of you who didn't make it and want to listen to the audio recordings, go here! My favorites were:
Bernadette Joy's talk titled 'FLOW Your Worth: 4 Steps to Making $10K a Month Without Ads'
Master Sri Akarshana: "3 Secrets to Viral Hack Your Message to Millions"
and Nicole Walker's 'Pitch Deck Essentials for Marketing Your Podcast'