Walking into the narrow room to the back of the IHOP in Tampa, I began to question if I should be there. As I walked into the building a minute earlier- with planes flying over arriving and departing from the airport across the street, I smugly questioned why a legitimate meetup would be scheduled here.
But I knew the guy who ran it and I trusted him. He had a reputation as someone that’s always looking to give, bringing people together and creating things with immense value. And because of our connection and his reputation, I drove seventy five minutes north from Bradenton to attend the monthly Florida Podcasters Association meetup.
Once inside that room, I saw a dozen or so podcasters already eating, talking and laughing. The room seemed tiny. Is this really where the meetups take place? To the right was a guy involved in a different conversation. He was as unassuming as the building. Baseball cap on, unshaven, t-shirt and jeans type of guy. If I didn’t know him- and if I was looking to connect only with the flashy rock stars in the room- I would have intentionally not chosen him to speak with.
But I did know him. He is Chris Krimitsos, and Chris is the epitome of The Wealth of Connection. In fact, one of my regrets after publishing the book is that he wasn’t in it. The more that I study this, examine it and write about it, the more obvious it becomes as to who are the genuine ones who do connection out of generosity and building community as opposed to those who are using it to pull you in simply to sell you something.
And it’s not like Krimitsos doesn’t have something to sell or offer. What’s remarkable to those who underestimate him- because of his disinterest in attempting to impress you with his style- is how successful he and his wife Katie are. What he has is a great understanding of the concept that I mentioned in a podcast last week about the idea of connection before transaction.
Nine years earlier- in that same little room in the back of the IHOP, Krimitsos took the lead in bringing people together in this new, misunderstood world of podcasting. Every month, on the second Tuesday, that meeting has taken place for nearly a decade (aside from the Covid-19 times). At those meetings, he leads like he is. Generous and helpful. If you don’t look closely, you might not see it. But the success is in the subtleties. He never misses an opportunity to share someone else’s success. If a person has written a book, created something that can be helpful to others, it doesn’t get overlooked. As I observe, you can see him quietly looking around noticing what he can do to connect or promote others.
It’s the kind of subtlety that is easily underestimated. I believe that’s because it’s relatively untraceable. For the numbers people, you can’t put an ROI on it. And there is no immediate value that you might see from it. So it’s incredibly easy to overlook doing it. I’m much better off telling you about me, I believe, because at the moment there is a higher likelihood that I’ll get a faster sale, another download or just a little bit more attention on myself.
Yet in this little IHOP room in Tampa, the seeds were planted. It was about a common bond- podcasting. It was about community. And it was about helpfulness. In 2014, a workshop led to the idea of creating a real conference. The following year, the first Podfest Expo was launched. Each subsequent year, the conference grew. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t a part of that growth. Our family traveled every winter and I was never able to make it.
So many of my friends did. And I found it fascinating what I would hear about when I asked why they liked it. They said that this event- unlike many others- felt like family. It was like old friends getting together. The community aspect was valued. And just about every one of them mentioned Chris by name. You couldn’t hear about Podfest Expo without tying it back to Chris and his unique ability to create community in a special and unique way.
Even though the conference kept getting bigger and bigger- to the point where they were essentially the last conference happening before Covid shut the world down- Krimitsos never got too big and busy for the little IHOP group where it all started. It would be easy to understand him saying that they have moved on from that, they have grown too much and they can’t continue with the small group. It would be understandable for him to say that his focus is on the big conference. That’s what most would do.
In fact, Podfest Expo 2022 just wrapped up in Orlando yesterday. And for the first time, I got to be a part of it and the magic that comes with it. And even though it gets bigger each year, the family and community vibe is still there to the core. You can tell because, as they attract newer and newer attendees, so many of the people who have been around from the beginning and still happily attending.
Yet as Krimitsos gets a breather after putting on his event of the year, next Tuesday evening, he will be back inside of that little room at IHOP, with our intimate group of podcasters, continuing the monthly tradition that started it all.
His example gave me a great lesson in thinking about how strong our roots are. It’s easy to get excited about the next thing. The fresh thing. The new idea that has no baggage- yet. But are there roots grown? And if so, how deep are they? And, if they have roots, how well are those roots being taken care of? How often are they watered? How consistently are they nourished? It’s the roots that allow everything else to grow. If they are neglected, they die. If they are abused, they weaken. But if they are cared for- in ways where you see no immediate value- the potential for growth- healthy growth like something like Podfest Expo– is unlimited.