by Bob Walters | February 01, 2007

The original definition of a podcast was a broadcast of a digital presentation to an Apple iPod. The term now has taken on a much broader meaning and is generally referred to as any content that can be downloaded or streamed over the Internet in a digital format.

The difference between podcasts and traditional downloads is that podcasts are downloaded and saved automatically for playback at any time on your computer or portable audio player.

Uses for Planners

With the proliferation of iPods, MP3 players and phones that let users view or listen to podcasts, the number of ways to capitalize on this technology is almost unlimited. Indeed, when it comes to meetings, podcasting can play a role at every stage, from an initial announcement of an event through postconference communications.

The easiest way to determine what aspects of the event to podcast is to think of your meeting as a newspaper: What headlines would you use to attract attendees, and what information would you want them to have at their fingertips?

As a first step, you might convert your marketing brochure to a podcast, complete with a video of the venue, a voice-over describing the benefits of the program and sections on sessions, speakers and activities.

As more information becomes available about different meeting elements, attendees can receive updated podcasts via e-mails or by including them in your own or industry RSS feeds (RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication -- basically a lightweight version of HyperText Markup Language, or HTML -- which is used for formatting web pages, e-mails, online newsletters, etc.).

In the days before the meeting, send updates on the weather forecast and any changes in activities, venues or schedules.

After the meeting, you can condense all presentations and other materials into an RSS feed for the program, and make the podcasts available for a nominal fee for download by attendees who missed a session or want a copy of the content.

The Supplier Angle

Not long ago, the trend was for hotels and destinations to hand out promotional CDs or DVDs to potential clients. Today’s cutting-edge giveaway: a podcast. Think of the various uses: self-guided walking tours of a city, a product demonstration complete with video and audio, indexed instructional materials, and even feeds of live events that can be stored and viewed at a more convenient time.

Another positive aspect of podcasts is that the cost is in the creation, not the delivery. Many people today own an iPod, MP3 player or a digital phone device, so the investment in the tool to view your podcast is in the hands of the receiver.

More Information

There are many sites with a wide range of information on podcasting. Here are a few I recommend: This is a compendium of podcasts, and you can add your own podcast, as well. This is a great resource with plenty of how-to instructions, a good listing of providers to help you in creating podcasts, as well as a directory with outlets for distributing them. This is a podcasting site geared toward meeting planners -- a good source of industry podcasts as well as discussions about the value of podcasts.  As its name implies, this site offers lots of news articles on podcasting, along with a directory where you can search for podcasts or add your own.

Bob Walters,based in Fort Worth, Texas, is founder of Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak Software.