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Back to the Future: After a Domain Conference Shakeout T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Shines in 2011 Show on Fort Lauderdale Beach
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By Ron Jackson 

The final business day at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 2011 got underway Tuesday morning (October 18) with another bountiful brunch at the Ritz Carlton Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach. This brunch was special though - it was the 7th Annual T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Awards Brunch that honored companies and individuals who excelled in our industry over the past 12 months. 

Before the awards were handed out there were a couple of other business items to take care of. Those started with me taking the stage to provide an  update on third quarter domain sales which showed a nice improvement over the same quarter a year ago. I will be detailing the stats I shared in our next newsletter that will be out within the next 24 hours (I'll return to this page and add a link to that report as soon as it is published).

A series of two-minute elevator pitches followed my talk, giving attendees a chance to promote their own companies or events. One big project (that was hatched just a few hours earlier at the show) was announced by PPX International Chairman Gregg McNair and veteran domain investor Bob Olea, who also happens to be an experienced commercial airline pilot. 

DN Journal's Ron Jackson giving an 
update on domain aftermarket trends 
Tuesday morning (Oct. 18, 2011)

McNair has been a long time proponent of The Water School, a life saving charitable organization that provides clean water solutions that are helping eradicate water borne diseases in many countries around the world. McNair has organized a number of vision trips to Africa to give others a first hand look at The Water School's good work (including one that is just getting underway as I write this).

While talking about possible future trips with Olea, Bob suggested to McNair that they explore the possibility of getting a major airline sponsor to charter a jet and take a whole planeload of industry supporters to Nairobi to help raise funds and awareness for The Water School. The two wanted to let people know about the idea with hopes of rallying as many as possible around it (dozens have already indicated they would make such a journey).

This would be a huge project that will have a lot of hurdles to get over, but that doesn't frighten either man. If they are able to make it happen, due to the tremendous amount of planning that will be involved, odds are the trip would be scheduled  sometime in 2013. It's a great goal and however it works out it is bound to help raise awareness for a very worthy organization.

Bob Olea (left) and Gregg McNair let the 
crowd  in on an ambitious project they are 
exploring to help The Water School

After the elevator pitches it was time for the morning's main event - presentation of the Annual T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Awards. Nominees and winners were selected by those who have attended the 22  T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conferences held over the past seven years.

Vern Jurovich and Roy Hooper (center), representing InternetTraffic.com, accepted awards from 
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founder Howard Neu (right) for Best 
New Monetizing Solution
and Sponsor of the Year

The first winner announced was for Best New Monetizing Solution. That award went to Frank Schilling's new company, InternetTraffic.com. The company also won a second award as Sponsor of the Year

The company was so busy during the show (presumably signing up new clients) that no one was on hand at brunch to pick up their trophies, but T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founder Howard Neu made sure they got them Tuesday evening when he connected with InternetTraffic team members Vern Jurovich and Roy Hooper

Two award winners were not able to make the trip to Fort Lauderdale Beach - Citrix, who won the We Get It Award and Francois Carrillo, who won a special Best Domain

 News Aggregator award for Domaining.com. The next four award winners are shown below:

Sedo.com CEO Tim Schumacher picked up 
the Best Overall Domain Solution award for 
his company.

Rob Grant of Adirondacks.com (and many 
other sites) won the Developer of the Year 
Award
.

Michael Berkens (with wife Judi) won the Best Domain Blog award for TheDomains.com.

Frank Schilling won the prestigious Domainer of the Year award as voters again showed their appreciation for the way he changed the monetization game with InternetTraffic.com

The awards presentations closed with the announcement of the two new members elected to T.R.A.F.F.I.C.'s Domain Hall of Fame (the top two vote getters each year are added to the Hall).

This year's inductees are DNForum.com owner Adam Dicker and T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founder Howard Neu. Neu follows his fellow show Co-Founder Rick Schwartz into the Hall. 

Others who have previously received the honor were also called to the stage and while there I was given the pleasure of announcing that Adam and Howard had been chosen by their peers as this year's inductees.

After the awards presentations it was time for the day's first panel discussion.

 

New T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Domain Hall of Fame 
members Adam Dicker and Howard Neu.

That wound up being one of the show's best sessions as a panel of experts discussed The Hard Work of Developing a Business Out of a Domain Name. A half dozen men who have done exactly that generously provided the details on the tactics that worked for them.

The Tuesday (Oct. 18) panel on how to develop a domain into a business featured 
(left to right): Warren Royal (Bobbleheads.com), Ari Goldberger (EsqWIRE.com), 
Sean Sullivan
 (Tier 1 Development), Richard Swerdlow (Condos.com and 
Houses.com), plus Joe Melville and Greg Balestrieri (both from Candy.com).

Next up ICM Registry Chairman and CEO Stuart Lawley, who appeared with Frank Schilling in a Monday session, returned to the stage for a solo session in which he talked about why he invested more than $20 million and many years of his life to get the .xxx extension approved by ICANN.

A short break followed, then The T.R.A.F.F.I.C. live domain auction got underway shortly after 2pm with a sizeable crowd on hand for the sale. 

The T.R.A.F.F.I.C. live domain auction gets underway Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Aside from the weather, the auction was the only major disappointment at this year's show. There were high hopes going into the event but the final sales tally came in a good bit lower than expected - approximately $284,000.

No one can do anything about the weather of course, but T.R.A.F.F.I.C. co-founders Rick Schwartz and Howard Neu tried to do something to change the downward spiral live auctions have been in at just about all conferences for several years now. They made a number of changes in the traditional auction process but did not get the results they were looking for. 

Obviously, the bad general economy has a lot to do with that but Schwartz and Neu still think it is possible to reverse the decline by creating a better system for selecting and selling domains.  They said they will continue to make changes aimed at revitalizing the live events that have also been impacted by an explosion of online auctions in recent years. 

Auctioneer Wayne Wheat running the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 2011 live domain auction.

It is a much more competitive environment today than it was during the glory years of live auctions, so this is a nut that won't be easy to crack, but you have to give them credit for trying.

The auction was followed by the show's final business session, a Meeting of the Chiefs that featured eight company leaders who provided valuable advice on running a domain business, as well as commentary on a wide range of industry issues. 

Above: A Meeting of the Chiefs closed the business portion of T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 2011 
late Tuesday afternoon (Oct. 18). The dais featured (left to right): John Ferber
Michael Berkens, Adam Dicker, Michael Gilmour, moderator Howard Neu (standing), 
Ari Goldberger, Larry Fischer, Dr. Chris Hartnett and Scott Richter

At right: DomainHoldings.com Co-Founder John Ferber, who was the subject of our April 2011 Cover Story, comments during the Meeting of the Chiefs

With this session concluding the business portion of T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 2011, the conference would near its close Tuesday evening the same way it had begun - with a pair of social events that gave guests more of the intimate networking opportunities that many value above everything else. That large scale, face to face relationship building is something conferences do that cannot be duplicated elsewhere.

The final evening at Fort Lauderdale Beach began at 8pm with a gathering for coffee and dessert. This was scheduled to run only an hour but everyone was so engaged in their conversations it ran until 10pm. 

Guests gather for coffee & dessert at the Ritz Carlton Tuesday night. 

After the dessert hour (that turned into two), many in the crowd took the elevators a dozen floors higher to join a party that Ari Goldberger and Larry Fischer (two of the most successful domain investors of all time) hosted in their suite near the top of the Ritz. 

A wall to wall crowd filled Ari Goldberger and Larry Fischer's suite
 for their closing night party at T.R.A.F.F.I.C 2011.

The Fischer/Goldberger soiree would later grow so big that hotel staff wound up moving it from the suite to a larger location away from other guest rooms. The Ritz always aims to please and I'm sure their solution kept Ari, Larry and their guests happy as well as the neighbors on their floor!

The next morning the curtain on T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 2011 officially came down with a conference tradition - the Farewell Breakfast that ends the event on a perfect note, sending guests on their way back home with fond memories and a full stomach! 

Above: T.R.A.F.F.I.C. attendees at the Farewell Breakfast Wednesday morning 
(Oct. 19) that officially closed the 2011 show on Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Below: After breakfast, guests would head back to homes scattered all over the world.  
Truc Tran (left) and Reidar Rytter-Fjoeren (right) both came to T.R.A.F.F.I.C. from Norway 
(and met each other for the first time on Fort Lauderdale Beach). They visited with lead 
gen whiz Braden Pollock (center) from California at Wednesday's Farewell Breakfast.  

For those who missed T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 2011, it's not too early to start planning to attend next year's event that will be held October 7-10, 2012 with the Ritz Carlton on Fort Lauderdale Beach again serving as the host venue. If Florida's typical dry, sunny October weather pattern returns in 2012 the Ritz will seem like a brand new venue even to those who were there this year. The rare four-day rainstorm obscured one of the world's most beautiful settings this year but odds favor the Ritz, the ocean and the beach being seen in their full glory next time around.

At the time of this writing, T.R.A.F.F.I.C. organizers were exploring the possibility of adding a May 2012 show in Las Vegas that would return the conference to the popular two-show East/West configuration it used in 2005, a tandem that helped trigger a multi-year boom in the domain business. The game has changed a lot since then, but one thing remains the same - endless opportunities are out there. By bringing the industry's most successful people together under one roof T.R.A.F.F.I.C. continues to play an instrumental role in identifying where those opportunities are now and helping Internet entrepreneurs make the most of them

  *****   

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