After a 10-month verification process by Guinness World Records adjudicators, Tampa-based Podfest recently received the news it broke its own record for the largest attendance of a virtual podcasting conference.
Established in 2013, Podfest is a tight-knit community of people passionate about sharing their voices and various messages through audio and video. After holding its first meetup at a local IHOP, organizers now throw a large, annual conference, usually in Orlando to accommodate travelers.
Podfest’s title of world record holder began with a global tragedy – the Covid pandemic. Just days after a Podfest Expo brought 2,000 people to the Orlando World Marriot in March of 2020, the state went into lockdowns. Chris Krimitsos, founder of Podfest, said organizers went from the highest of highs to wondering what they would do next.
Not long after, Krimitsos watched a children’s show with his daughter about a koala that tries to put on a promotion. A pipe bursts, flooding the theater, and the koala loses everything. Although the theater is in ruins and the koala faces foreclosure, he does enough remodeling to put on one last show. The show is wildly successful, leading to newfound funding to save the theater.
“I’m tearing up because as a promoter, all my peers have lost everything they worked for,” said Krimitsos. “As I’m watching that, I thought I have to do something to bring my community together and keep going.”
He would keep going into the record books.
Krimitsos decided to organize a global, virtual event. To humor a friend, he called up the folks at Guinness who, to Krimitsos’ surprise, said they would love to create a record for attendance of a virtual podcasting conference.
The caveat was the attendance record was for podcasters, not fans. Additionally, organizers had to register 5,000 content creators before Guinness would even consider certification.
“I thought it was going to be easy,” Krimitsos admitted. “And we almost didn’t make it. We made it by three.”
While elated with the new title of Guinness World Record holder, Podfest organizers looked forward to meeting in person the following March. However, Covid had other ideas, and it was no safer to hold a large conference in 2021 than it was in 2020. In light of the ongoing pandemic and not satisfied with narrowly setting the record with 5,003 podcasters, Krimitsos and his team went to work on topping the previous virtual conference.
Podfest doubled the number of speakers in 2021, from 300 to 600. A truly global event, podcasts streamed in 12 different languages.
“I’m talking from Albanian to Bulgarian – some really esoteric stuff,” said Krimitsos. “And we brought the world together again.”
While Podfest set the record on March 5, 2021, Guinness did not certify the results until last week. The official final tally for last year’s virtual conference was 5,816 podcasters. After a vague email to the Podfest community regarding an announcement, Krimitsos shared the news with 138 people he considers family through a Zoom call on Tuesday.
“So, this little group that started here in Tampa Bay set two Guinness World Records,” said Krimitsos. “But here’s the really cool kicker: the difference between the first record we set and the second record, 813 people – the area code of Tampa. I can’t even make this stuff up – it’s like it was meant to be.”
Krimitsos likened the stringent certification process to a proctology exam. He relayed that many people in the industry thought the first record was a fluke and dismissed a bunch of Florida independent podcasters trying to bring the world together. After a second record that added 813 people and took 10 months to verify, Krimitsos said there is no denying Podfest’s impact.
“It’s been amazing,” he added. “And we are literally creating this new world of independent content creators.”
As a privately owned entity, Krimitsos said Podfest focuses on the independents and creators, without any corporate interests. He said people who genuinely love what they do comprise Podfest, which gives it a different feel. Krimitsos credits that passion for taking the conference from its humble beginnings in 2013, when just 13 people attended a meeting, to setting world records.
Krimitsos plans to host at least one virtual conference a year to ensure people from around the world can participate. However, his attention and excitement are now on the return of Podfest’s first full, in-person event since the pandemic began. Held at the Hilton Orlando Resort May 26-29, Krimitsos expects 2,000 people to attend.
While setting a record for an in-person event has crossed his mind, Krimitsos said that was never his goal for Podfest.
“My true dream is to make every individual that comes through our door know that they’re special and their work is special,” said Krimitsos. “And be able to cater to people the world over at this conference that happens once a year in Florida.”
To learn more about Podfest, visit its website here.