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March 25, 2014

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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

By Ron Jackson 

Equilibrium has finally been restored on the domain conference circuit. In the first few years after T.R.A.F.F.I.C. started it all back in the fall of 2004, domain conferences were special events that people often spent an entire year looking forward to. Successful innovators always attract competition though and by 2009 I was crisscrossing the U.S., and even the Atlantic Ocean, to cover six different shows put on by various promoters in just the first six months of that year. 

People started suffering from conference fatigue but the market always corrects itself and after a shakeout that was overdue we are finally back to a welcome landscape featuring just a handful of "can't miss" conferences.

It's no surprise that the originator, Rick Schwartz and Howard Neu's T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conference, has not only survived the cut but, in their 22nd show held October 16-19, 2011 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach, thrived with an event that drew a capacity crowd to a world class venue. 

The Ritz Carlton Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach
hosted T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 2011 (and will host again in Oct. 2012)

Even though the show was hit by an extremely rare four-day October rainstorm (the likes of which many South Florida residents say they have never seen before), the 300+ attendees seemed to barely notice. They still got what they came to Fort Lauderdale to get, underscoring what conference veterans have always known when it comes to what is really important  - it's the people, stupid! And T.R.A.F.F.I.C. once again delivered on that front with a Who's Who (or perhaps I should say a WhoIs Who) of the domain industry gracing the halls and meeting rooms at the Ritz. 

Add in a strong program that Schwartz and Neu spent the past 12 months assembling (this was their only T.R.A.F.F.I.C. show of the year), outstanding social events and an optimistic buzz among a crowd of successful entrepreneurs and you had an atmosphere that even the driving rain could not dampen. 

The conference table has now been reset and our 

future is bright as the world continues to beat a path through the Internet's doors, an ever increasing flow of traffic passing through doors that domain and website owners hold the keys to. 

For those who could not make it to Fort Lauderdale Beach I'm hopeful this article will allow you to share an experience that never fails to pay dividends. While I posted daily photos and highlights from the conference in our Lowdown section as the event unfolded, the jam-packed schedule didn't leave time to include a lot of photos and details that this complete show review will give me time and space to accommodate. If you are interested in seeing the daily reports posted while the show was underway you can see those at the links below (we arrived at the Ritz three days early to do some pre-show reporting that you will find at the first two links):

T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 2011 was supposed to start Sunday morning (Oct. 16) with networking along cabana row overlooking the Atlantic Ocean (the cabanas are shown in the photo below that I snapped on a previous visit to the Ritz last spring). 

Unfortunately that freak marathon rainstorm drove Sunday's activities indoors, so only the early birds who got into town Friday or Saturday had a chance to fully enjoy the cabanas, a unique attraction that helps make T.R.A.F.F.I.C.'s South Florida shows special.

Above: Some of the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. attendees who got into town early hanging
out at the ParkLogic.com cabana: (Left to right) George Hong, Mike O'Connor,
 Judi Berkens (and Bandit), Michael Gilmour, Donny Simonton and Brian Wick.

Below: Susan Lawrence (Above.com) and Germany's Stefan Hansmann enjoying 
a glass of champagne on cabana row before the storms rolled in.  

The T.R.A.F.F.I.C. registration desk also moved from poolside to the indoor conference area where floor to ceiling windows still gave guests a sweeping view of the ocean. Right on schedule at 12 noon, the smiling faces of Barbara Neu and Alina Schwartz were at the desk where they began dispensing show credentials. 

Veteran T.R.A.F.F.I.C. attendee Larry Fischer gets signed in at 
the show's registration desk by Barbara Neu and Alina Schwartz

Right after registration began a networking party got underway in the same area with guests greeting old friends and making news ones, oblivious to what had become a steady downpour outside. 

Victor Pitts, Jason Boshoff (CEO, DomainHoldings.com) and Jason's wife Tosha 
do some catching up Sunday afternoon at the Ritz.

At 4pm those who were making their first trip to a T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conference were treated to a newcomers orientation led by show founders Rick Schwartz and Howard Neu. The session featured an excellent video history of T.R.A.F.F.I.C. that was put together by Danny Pryor

T.R.A.F.F.I.C. newcomers watching a special video detailing 
the show's history and role in shaping today's domain industry. 

By 6pm Sunday just about all of the more than 300 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. attendees had arrived at the Ritz and headed for Sedo's big opening night cocktail party. The pioneering domain company also used the occasion to observe Sedo's 10th anniversary alongside their industry friends and clients. 

(Left to right): T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founder Howard Neu, Sedo Co-Founder & CEO 
Tim Schumacher
, Sedo's Director of Sales (North America) Kathy Nielsen and 
Sedo Marketing Associate Keith White get ready to share a 10th anniversary cake. 

Sedo, whose home base is in Cologne, Germany, brought some of their homeland's unique flavor to their T.R.A.F.F.I.C. party with lovely hostesses dressed in native attire.

Drs. Chris Hartnett and Linda Hartnett with two of Sedo's lovely hostesses. 

Among those enjoying the opening night cocktail party were (left to right): Steven Kaziyev
Ammar Kubba, Amanda Waltz, Tessa Holcomb, Bob Olea, Adam Dicker & Omar Kubba

Also on hand to kick off T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 2011 at Sedo's opening night cocktail party were
(left to right): the ModelStore.coms's Bianka Krausch with Jason Ellin and Chad Folkening.

As they always do, Kamila Sekiewicz (NameDrive.com) & Jenna Wehner (at the
center of the group above) lit up the room with their bright smiles.

The kickoff cocktail party wound down a little after 8pm, but the night was just beginning for many  T.R.A.F.F.I.C. guests who went on to one of several parties, dinners and events that were held Sunday evening. Many of those were hosted by companies that treated clients and friends to a special night out. 

Diana and I had the pleasure of joining Frank Schilling (InternetTraffic.com) for a dinner party that he threw for several dozen friends and business partners at popular Fort Lauderdale Beach restaurant Steak 954. It was truly a memorable night that started with guests being ferried from the Ritz to the restaurant in the biggest limo I've ever seen. In fact, the limo appeared to be longer than the four blocks to Steak 954, so I'm not sure it really needed to move at all! You could enter the back door of the limo at the Ritz, walk through the vehicle, then exit through the front door and find yourself at the restaurant! (OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much).

Howard Neu marvels at the limo Frank Schilling sent to pick up his guests.

Inside the limo, Michael Berkens snapped this photo of Rob Grant
Diana Jackson and Ron Jackson on the ride from the Ritz to Steak 954

Frank Schilling waiting for his friends to arrive at Steak 954 (By the way, 
did anyone get the name of the cologne Frank wears? It seems to work incredibly well!).

Above: Bob Olea, Frank's mentor Gary Chernoff and Gregg McNair at Steak 954.

Below: Frank Schilling surrounded by some of his guests. In the back row (left to right) are 
Kimberly Ann, Ray Neu (peeking over Frank's head), Ilze Kaulins & Marty Kaulins. Front 
center are Rick Schwartz & Monte Cahn, with Barbara Neu & Alina Schwartz to their right. 

Below: Frank Schilling (at far right) told guests how much he appreciate their support for his new domain monetization platform (InternetTraffic.com), an initiative that has shaken up the parking business and led to the new company winning several of the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Awards 
that were handed out two days later (more on that on page 3 of this article).

The full day of social events that T.R.A.F.F.I.C. uses to kickoff their conferences gives guests an opportunity to get to know each other better before everyone starts getting down to business. Since the biggest benefit of attending any conference is building relationships, that has proven to be a master stroke on Schwartz and Neu's part.

The show's business agenda would kick off first thing Monday morning (October 17). For all of the details on that, proceed to Page 2

Coming up on Page 2:
  • T.R.A.F.F.I.C. iPhone App

  • Keynote from Bill Karamouzis 

  • The Impact of New gTLDs

  • Google critic Scott Cleland sounds off

  • T.R.A.F.F.IC. Test Track

  • Frank Schilling & Stuart Lawley Onstage

  • Speed Networking

  • The ICM Registry's Official T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Party

  • and much more...

Photo Credits: In addition to our own photos, many photos in this article came to us courtesy of Barbara Neu (shown seated and surrounded by some of her many friends in the photo above). T.R.A.F.F.I.C. is a big event and having Barbara share her superb photographic eye allows us to cover a lot more conference ground than would be possible otherwise.  Proceed to page 2.

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