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Terry O'Reilly
Terry O’Reilly, Under the Influence

It’s easy to see (and hear) why the Criminal show has won so many awards. It’s now on my must-listen list. Host Phoebe Judge took advantage of being on a stage with a big screen, and showed forensic photographs and court documents while she spoke and producer Lauren Spohrer did her mixing magic. Still, I could have closed my eyes and enjoyed listening just the same.

I’d met Dan Misener at a workshop years ago. This brilliant young guy has been producing a live event called Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids since 2007. It has since evolved into one of Canada’s most popular podcasts. As you can imagine, hilarity ensued when people trotted up to the stage to read the diaries, camp letters home, and other missives they scribbled as children and young teens. Note to self: Go to one of the live events, held in bars in Toronto.

A panel on the “Secrets of Storytelling” provided food for thought for us podcasters, as well as cool behind-the-scenes glimpses for fans of Lindsay Michael (Podcast Playlist), Phoebe Judge (Criminal), Kaitlyn Sawrey (Science Vs.) and Mira Burt-Wintonick (Love Me). Best advice I heard, from Judge: “Get the host out of the way and let the person tell their story.” Also, “Overdoing emotion is a cheap trick. Don’t tell people how to feel. Let them feel.” All of the panelists emphasized the importance of a good editor; a great show does not happen with a strong host alone.

More wisdom from Judge: “The host is an advocate for the listener. Ask the questions they would want answered. The show is not about me.” Burt-Wintonick advised: “With audio only, the listener has to paint her own picture and put herself in the story. Don’t be heavy-handed.” An understated approach is better.

Thanks to the presenters, I discovered a whole slew of shows (mentioned above) to add to my already bursting-at-the-seams playlist. Conversing with other attendees, I learned of even more shows I need to check out, soon: Guilty Feminist, Politically Reactive, Code Switch, Two Dope Queens, The Imposter and Planet Money.

I heard there were 700 people there that weekend, and based on the success of this outing, I wouldn’t be surprised if the festival grows bigger and better next year.

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