Long-time listener, first-time attendee… to a public radio conference

I just got back from my first public radio conference! The Public Media Development and Membership Conference (aka “the PMDMC”). This is the annual conference that talks about the revenue side of public radio and television. PBS and NPR are the major players and there are sessions on topics like how to transition one-time donors into monthly donors.

After being there for 5 minutes, I realized this was my first time at a non-tech conference. (My more familiar stomping grounds are SXSW, ACM’s CHI and CSCW, Forrester’s CX Forum, and IBM’s THINK.) So….. I had a lot of observations about the cultural norms — probably all “no-duh’s” if you’re in public media, but I found the culture of the conference SO different I can’t help but observe:

  • Several of the keynotes and big presentations had no slides. Like…. the presenter just… talked! When they wanted to show you something, it was highly-produced video or audio. I was completely surprised by the lack of visuals. During the tracked sessions there were slides, but they were all basic. Turns out people in radio communicate by audio. (my first no-duh moment.)
  • The conference was 70% women. And the conference leadership, keynote speakers, and session presenters were at least 50% women. Definitely no all-male panels here! One can come up with all kinds of explanations, but I want to simply marvel at what that felt like.
  • A detailed observation: very few high heels — so many women, yet so many flat, structured shoes. My heels stayed in my hotel room and my plantar fasciitis thanks you, PMDMC.
  • No tech demos. The exhibit hall was filled with retailers displaying sample merchandise you can put your station logo onto. This made the exhibit hall so much fun to check out. (Hello, Science Friday beaker mug!) And yes, there were lots and lots and lots of tote bags.







I had many great conversations at the conference about innovation in public radio and potential future collaborations. I got really energized by how many stations are innovating and itching to experiment more. My favorite moment was bonding with the head of KQED’s innovation lab, Umbreen Bhatti, over the fact that there is no such thing as an “innovation lab of one” and yet we’re both doing it.

Best handout at PMDMC? The BizLab postcard, of course!