My Takeaway from the Podcasters’ Paradise Cruise

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WARNING: This is an epic 2,300 word post about my firsthand experience as a crew member aboard the Podcasters’ Paradise Cruise. It’s not a quick read but there’s a little vulnerability, hilarity and a major lesson you will take away that can be universally applied to your life, relationships and business. Read on reda!

Would I be good enough?

Am I way out of my league for doing this?

Before I hit I-95 to head south, the insecurities had already started to creep in. These types of opportunities don’t just happen. Getting the chance to learn from the top podcasters’ in the industry… really getting to dig into their strategies and tactics in a small group setting… It just doesn’t happen. That alone makes it worth it.

I decided I was going to put my best foot forward and leave my baggage at home.

Uber of the Seas

The Kickoff

The first night kicked off with a cocktail mixer in one of the ship’s private lounges. I walked in and was greeted with a hug and big smile from Kate Erickson. I had beaten the rest of the crew there so I decided to head back to the room and settle my nerves.

You would have thought I was a high school girl preparing for prom. “Should I wear shorts or pants?” “It’s a cruise but are flip flops acceptable for this occasion?” I finally settled for a V-neck, jeans, chucks and my go-to vest.

As I walked back into the lounge, I could hear that things had picked up. The room was packed and the other cruisers were mingling amongst the speakers. I was met once again with another welcoming smile from Rachael Easley. She politely asked my name then handed me a badge and t-shirt. My armpits started sweating profusely and I quickly scanned the room for a familiar face.

My mom and I with the guardians of kings

“Hey Vernon! Have you met Bill?”

It was Kate and she was introducing me to her dad. A few attendees had brought their family and significant others along (I brought ma dukes as a birthday gift). We chatted for a while about Bill’s military service and duty in Panama. Once I was a little bit more comfortable and finally ready to start making my rounds, we raised our beverages for a toast and kept it moving.

I saw Chase and immediately bro-hugged it out. It wasn’t so awkward after I reminded him I brought us a round of beers at The Saucer in Ft. Worth at Podcast Movement 14’

Side note: You should definitely be at Podcast Movement Chicago in 2016. It’s the biggest, baddest podcast event in the U.S. and I’m sure people who were on this boat will be there. And no, I don’t get a commission or have an affiliate link. 

Now in full stride, I started striking up convos with anyone within eyesight and worked the room – that’s my code for pretending I know everyone I meet without actually knowing them. I met other cruisers from as far away as London and Switzerland to Texas and Kansas. And of course my own back yard – South Florida, Jacksonville and Tampa.

Conference Day 1

Are you not entertained?

I almost had a similar prom girl moment but then eventually said to hell with it… I’m on a boat! The conference venue was an intimate classroom setup for about 40 or so attendees. There was a chill vibe in the air that I’m sure everyone could appreciate. None of the stuffy stuff you typically get at biz conferences.

Chase hopped on the mic and immediately had the crowd in tears. Donald brought the Reggae vibes with a Bob Marley inspired presentation – dreadlocks and guitar included. He shared Danny Pina’s story (check out this article on GamerTag radio) and a conversation they both had on why word of mouth promotion is one of the biggest missed opportunities for podcasters.

Click-To-Tweet: “It’s not my community; it’s the community I get the privilege to serve.” – Chris Brogan 

Kate shared her experience creating systems and opened the doors to some of the processes she’s personally created for Kate’s Take. Josh and Jill from Screw The Nine To Five revealed “The Octopus” and showed how they drive traffic from their podcast to a Facebook community and sales funnel.

Things wrapped up with Brogan sharing his timeless Yoda-like wisdom and an actionable 3-5-1K GTD style framework. A gem for ADD types like myself!

Meet MC Checkoff, The Karaoke Master

Checkoff = guy with Cowboy hat!
Checkoff = guy with Cowboy hat!

There were designated days for group activities and this was one of the most memorable nights on the ship. None of it would have been possible without the MC of all MC’s, Tom, who we’ll refer to as checkoff for the purposes of the podcast cruise and this article. This guy had the chops to laugh along and add value to our experience on the ship.

The podcast crew serenaded like a bunch of bosses that night! We held it down with everything from classic rock and Sir. Mix-A-Lot to Garth Brooks! The crowd loved every minute of it. Ducker and Dr. Tom stole the show that night without question. The whole crew would return here to close things out for the Grande Finale.

The Tween Time

Island view

A photo posted by Vernon Foster II (@vernon_foster) on

It wasn’t all business as usual and by the time we pulled into Labadee, Haiti the tranquillo vibes had officially set in. I made my way to beach to get some much-needed R&R with ma dukes. Some of the crew headed to the top deck and others boarded the catamaran for a private island snorkel trip (peep the video at the end of this article).

This type of scenario would play out over the next few days with similar choose-your-own-adventure activities and excursions in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. On most nights, the podcast crew would formally or informally reconvene at shows or dinner and chat about life and business.

From attending and hosting events, I’ve learned that this is one of the best times to get to know what people are all about. Outside the conference walls – that’s where the deals get done and lasting relationships are made. You get to connect with people on a different level because everyone lets their hair down and there’s no need to put on a façade or have an ego.

We on a BOAT!!

I got to learn about Omar’s experience teaching in Dubai and his recent engagement to Nicole, his partner in awesomeness. Dan shared stories about his post-high school wrestling career over a round of Old Fashions. I found out that Nico and I have both lived in Guatemala and mutually agree that Antigua is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Alex revealed a project he’s secretly working on to mashup the podcast industry. Conversations like this become the norm for the rest of the time I was aboard the ship.

Dr. Tom showing off the moves!
Dr. Tom showing off the moves!

On a few occasions I worked the dance floor until I was a drenched, sweaty mess with help from Jared, Dr. Tom and Ryan. One night the whole crew started a soul train line mid ship. No joke! Even random shippers and Royal Caribbean employees hopped in the mix. My mom did too.

Click-To-Tweet: “Outside the conference walls – that’s where the deals get done and lasting relationships are made.” – Vernon Foster II

Did I mention Flo-Rida was on board? OK, so maybe it wasn’t the rapper, but it was one hell of a show! A full hour-long session equipped with two instructors, boards and a 35mph wave of dead. We surfed and boogie boarded under the Caribbean moonlight until our tired, cold bodies couldn’t take anymore.

Hang in there Chase!

Conference Day 2

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Stop. Ducker time!

For the second and final conference day we were back in the classroom. Andrew kicked things off with the infamous carrot story and followed up with a live Mixergy style pre-interview with John. Andrew has a reputation for going for the jugular and John was no exception.

I won’t leak the details, as the actual interview hasn’t dropped on Mixergy yet, but the one thing I did appreciate was John being open about some of his shortcomings and fears. I told John later on that a lot of people hate on him because he puts off a superhuman persona without any blemishes and that being in a position of vulnerability humanized his success.

100% USDA Approved

Omar and Nicole dropped the science on pivoting from People Who Know Their Sh*t to creating $100 MBA and why the first minute of your show is probably the single most important aspect to telling listeners why you deserve their Share of Ear.

Click-T0-Tweet: “Hey yoo! Adreannnnnnn!! I’m going in the closet to pound the meat!” – Rocky 

Tim served up the ConversionCast webinar model and follow-up sequence that Lead Pages has used to crush it and Ducker closed things out before we broke off into mastermind groups. He emphasized creating genuine relationships, honing your personal brand online and shifting to the P2P (Person-To-Person) mindset.

The Mastermind

Our power house mastermind!

The mastermind session was one of my favorite parts of the conference. Not only was it conveniently located in Dog and Badger (the best cocktail saloon aboard the ship), but six of us attendees really got to open up and share challenges facing our current businesses and podcasts.

Click-To- Tweet: “Business: it’s not about products or services; it’s about people.” – Chris Ducker

Joel and Pei from ReLaunch were part of our group round table discussion (some high caliber people here you dig??). We got a solid hour for each attendee to jump in the “hot seat.” Afterwards, Donald and Kate followed up with our group to provide individual feedback. We all took away one action item that we could immediately use to improve or podcasts and business models.

Bye-Bye-Bye

Things came full circle as we wrapped up the final night with karaoke. Brogan was frantically searching the listings for a Hip-Hop tune, Ryan snagged a Backstreet Boys classic (hints the title) and before long there was a stacked lineup of cruisers set to perform. It’s show time babyyyy!   

The night didn’t disappoint and once again the podcast crew stole the show. The Backstreet Trio, Andrew’s solo with the wifey listening in via cell and a b2b Rapper’s Delight set with yours truly and JLD.

As the night came to a close we hugged it out and said our goodbyes. Having spent six days in an intimate setting, it felt like I was leaving family because by the end of the cruise that’s what we had become; family.

The podcast crew owning the stage!

The Takeaway  

Before I boarded the boat, I decided to set aside my expectations and preconceived notions. As I prepared to meet the other cruisers on the first night, my insecurities started to creep back in. I thought I would feel out of place. I thought these people were bigger, faster, crushing their life and business and didn’t face any of the challenges I did.

What I soon realized was that we’re all in the same boat (had to use that line!). At the end of the day no matter how glorious we sound behind the mic or cool we look on the Internet, we all have doubts, we all have challenges, and we all have setbacks.

There’s never a point when you’ve “made it” in anything you do. And if that’s ever your mentality, you’re going to stagnate and become obsolete. Everyone in the masterminds took something away they could use to improve their podcast or business. Even speakers were frantically scribbling notes on what they could change and implement

Click-To-Tweet: “At the end of the day no matter how glorious we sound behind the mic or cool we look on the Internet, we all have doubts, we all have challenges, and we all have setbacks.” – Vernon Foster II 

While I’m sure there will be another cruise in the cards down the road, getting the opportunity to be part of the first voyage was something special. The universe and the stars aligned to create a magical experience. I’m honored to have shared it with such incredible humans.

Special thanks to John, Kate, Jared and Dan for putting together and hosting such a kick a** event! I know for sure that Dan missed a few meals with the crew to make sure things ran smoothly on the backend. Kate also did a phenomenal job welcoming all us attendees on and off the boat. Shouts to my extended podcast cruise fam!  

See you next year!

With love,

Vernon

As promised, here’s the epic aftermovie from Matt and Alyssa of Re-Peet Productions

P.S. Here’s combined list of the podcast from the attendees who were a part of the Podcasters’ Paradise cruise. I recommend checking them out and seeing how they make waves in the podcast industry in 2016. Some great talent!

There are a few missing from the list that will be launching in the new year as well. 

P.S.S What was the last event you attended? Did you have any similar anxieties or doubts about the people you were going to meet and hang out with? I want to hear your story in the comments.

You can also check out Kate’s recap of what went down and some notes from the speakers. 

Photo & video credits: Matt and Alyssa of Re-Peet Productions, Renee Groskreutz, J-Easley and ma dukes.

  • Wow, what a great article Vernon! Was a BLAST hanging out and getting to know you and your ON FIRE dance moves. PP Cruise II here we come!

    • Thanks dude! Look forward to catching up in SD. Will be back for round 2.

  • Great writeup Vernon! Brought back lots of memories from the cruise. Great meeting you and talking with you. Will look forward to doing it again in the near future. Hopefully PM16.

    • Benny! Thank you my man. Great to have you in the mastermind. You should come hang for a CF podcasters meet up.

  • Vernon, what an incredible recap! Just WOW. I loved reading this and reliving the amazing time we all had on board. And I couldn’t agree with you more: we grew one heck of a family on board that cruise, and I’ll never forget that. Grateful you and ma were on board 😉

    • Kate, thank you guys for having me! I’m very grateful for the opportunity.

  • Baahahaha “pound the meat”!!

    Loved meeting you, homie!!

  • Vernon, this is such an amazing summary of the week. Your mom is so awesome. You are now my new favorite dude! Also, thank you for this podcast list. Now they are all in on easy to reference list. You rock!

    • I appreciate your kind words and letting me highjack the photo of Chase! It turned out to be a sweet gif. Hope to connect in Chi town for #PM. 🙂

  • Natalie Christine

    I so appreciate you sharing the vulnerability as well as the awesomeness. You’re too real. So excited about our chat!

    • Ahhh thanks Nat! You got me super inspired today. Cuba 2016?? I’m there!!