Internext: Summer ‘06

Stephen Yagielowicz
I’ll tell you one thing; I’ll take ‘Vegas heat over Miami humidity any day!

Having just returned from a quick trip to the 2006 Internext Expo in Hollywood, Florida, I thought I’d share a few personal observations and surprises with you while they’re still fresh in my head:

On a very personal level, I found the registration process cumbersome, since you have to get your show badge before entering the hotel; a process that wasn’t as smooth as it could have been. Although we had made arrangements for an early arrival coinciding with our “red eye” cross-country flight, we couldn’t check in because the hotel’s computers were down. This was the end of an 18-hour journey for Dawn and I, and I’m sitting in the hotel lobby, pissed off and wanting to go to my room before hitting the show floor. Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough, we were also worried about a possible Hurricane strike at just about the time we were scheduled to fly back home… Fortunately the storm dissipated – and my mood improved as well after a little much-needed rest.

I relate this story because it’s a snapshot of the show experience: for each attendee, every show has challenges; some more, some less. These factors often color how the show is perceived by an individual. If you land the deal of a lifetime, then it’s the best show you ever attended; if you have your laptop stolen – and along with it, your most sensitive and irreplaceable data – then it’s the worst show you’ve ever attended. Having said that, I won’t dwell on comparisons to other shows, but tell you some of the things that I enjoyed about this one:

The show floor featured a nice selection of exhibit booths and a relaxed pace. “Quiet” was the word I heard most often to describe the scene, but that isn’t a bad thing to me. With reasonable crowds wandering the floor, prospects and exhibitors can spend more time with one another, allowing for the building of relationships and closing of deals, rather than the often unproductive “here’s my card, email me next week” approach that larger crowds demand. There’s also the fact to consider that with fewer attendees visiting their booths, principals have more time to interact. Dawn spent much of her time at the ASACP booth and reported a good deal of interest in the organization, saying that for them at least, the show was a success.

A high level of industry politics was underway at this event and in a way that has seldom been as visible. Indeed, much to my surprise, the ‘2257 inspections that I expected to be the hot topic of conversation were not being discussed. Rather, news of the lawsuits between top payment processors CCBill and Epoch was making the rounds. Having at least two competent, stable processors is vital to the success of this industry, so nobody likes to hear of anything that could negatively impact either of these companies. I hope they can work out their differences.

I stopped by the Epoch “Schmooze” party for a cocktail and to socialize with some of the industry’s best in a relaxed atmosphere. Mansion Productions’ Oystein Wright was there, telling me about MPA3’s integration with Epoch’s processing platform to power its affiliate program backend; something I’m sure we’ll hear more about in the near future.

Of course, being an equal-opportunity schmoozer, I wanted to put a dent in CCBill’s humidor and open bar as well, especially since we had a couple of passes from Doug Wicks; and we would have really enjoyed the 2Much.net cruise, too, but opted instead (as did many of the show’s attendees) for the TopBucks dinner.

Transportation to and from the dinner was provided and upon entering the restaurant a naughty young lady poured a shot of Sambuca down my throat. Things didn’t get any easier after this as other nice ladies gave me drinks throughout the evening. With course after course of delicious Greek food served at long tables that were as likely to feature a waiter on top pouring shots of various liquors down diner’s throats or a sexy belly dancer (that seemed to be packing “a little extra”), nobody left there hungry or thirsty.

It’s hard to imagine the thousands of napkins that were tossed around by both “Opa!”-shouting waiters and diners alike, the good times, music, dancing and more that made up this evening unless you were there. There was a Hookah in the corner and an outside patio for getting the night air. All in all, this was the best TopBucks dinner yet. Go to one if you get the chance.

In fact, I’ll have to throw a TopBucks love fest: This is one program that really knows how to treat its affiliates; whether it’s a limo ride from the airport, a massage or their incredible dinner parties and other perks, they lead the way. Kevin is a sharp guy and the operation a class act. Heck, my affiliate manager, LaurieX, is one of my oldest friends in the biz; we worked together in Orlando six years ago, and from babysitting my cat to helping my wife while she was sick in Phoenix, that girl goes out of her way to help people. If you’re looking for a reliable program and affiliate rep that will help you make “Top Bucks” then check ‘em out. You can sign up here.

J.D. Obenberger’s legal program left the audience shouting “Liberty!” while Joan Irvine and a panel comprised of ASACP staff and representatives from other organizations took the next step in the industry’s most important current initiative; a self-labeling program in answer to recent legislation demanding that all adult sites be labeled. A host of seminars, pool-side cabanas, events and activities rounded out the show.

I also made a point of introducing myself to a good number of new contacts; both folks I’ve seen at other shows but never met, as well as to several that were new faces, and enjoyed good conversations with each. It’s so easy to spend all of your time at shows trying to nurture existing relationships to the point where you have no time to establish new ones. This leads to the forming of “cliques” and to fueling the politics.

At a point in our industry where collective action will be required for long-term survival, broadening the contacts between individuals and organizations is vital in order to build relationships and the consensus that can result from them. Industry gatherings are a necessary tool for building those relationships.