Nebrunner... does your machine have a tray warmer...?
I use the pre-packs.
I use 8oz packs in a 6oz popper.
I turn on the machine.
Open the pre-pack and empty the coconut oil into the kettle.
Let the kettle heat up till I see a little smoke/steam coming off the kettle. My corn will usually start popping within a few minutes of dumping in the corn. The big thing is to let your kettle warm up good and hot before dumping in the corn.
I NEVER close the doors all the way while popping or heating the kettle. My Paragon has a sort of stainless steel bottom flap that comes up and meets the two doors. I swing the flap open and then open the doors about 1/3 of the way. Maybe even a little more than that.
Once popping slows, I dump the kettle and pop another pack if we are having guests.
Stir the popcorn with your scoop. I like to sift out some of the kernels and hulls. I believe this also helps make the popcorn a bit crispier.
I do believe the popcorn tastes better if it sets in the heat for an hour or two, so if you know your gonna watch a movie or two, fire up that machine early.
We don't always have the option of letting popcorn set for an hour or more. In this case, I usually pour out small portions to get everyone by for 20 minutes or so, then go back and serve full servings.
It's an art.
It takes patience.
...and it takes some experience.