It's easy for those who have never been to The Phoenix Forum to dismiss it as "just another regional event, attended by smaller players," but this isn't really the case, as this premiere networking opportunity draws some of the biggest names in the biz. Why? Because instead of the frantic pace of a mega event such as the January Internext Expo, The Phoenix Forum provides a relaxed atmosphere and an easy pace in which business can get done without all of the "distractions" of a larger event.
This year, The Phoenix Forum was held at The Tempe Mission Palms Hotel in Tempe, Arizona; a venue ideally suited to such an event, offering close proximity to the airport, "all over" wireless Internet access, an easy walk to many bars, restaurants and shops in this college town, and a staff that made attendees feel right at home.
While there was no exhibit hall for attendees to wander through, dazed by myriad vendor offerings and a hubbub of noise and confusion, there was a selection of high-quality seminars that featured a wide range of presenters and that went beyond the usual subjects. The live webcast of these seminars made it easy for non-attendees to profit from, and the timing of these presentations made them easy for attendees to take in without using up "the whole day."
The value of this shouldn't be underestimated: by starting at a reasonable hour, and ending at one, all while allowing adequate time for a lunch break in the middle of the day, more people are able to attend, and comprehend, the seminar offerings. The content of several of these seminars was also previously reported on here at XBiz, providing a wrap-up for those unable to attend.
And speaking of lunch, it was a well rounded outdoor buffet offering, provided by the Forum's sponsors. Open bars and snack rooms were available, and the range of complimentary services – along with the free admission provided to those who pre-registered – made the Forum inexpensive and well worth attending.
As with any event, a raft of dinners, parties, and after-hours activities is to be expected, and the Forum was no exception, with something to do whenever you wanted something to do, and quiet distractions for times when easy conversation and networking was best.
I talked to GigaCash Vice President Stephen Bugbee about his thoughts on this year's Forum and one of the most talked about activities, the opening day GigaGolf Networking Event. "Wow what can you say? The team at CCBill did an amazing job with this show," said Bugbee. "They have really set the bar high for future shows. From the minute I got to the airport and saw the smiling face of Andy from the CCBill staff picking me up in a brand new Rolls Royce Phantom and whisking me away to the conference in style, I knew this was going to be a great show. With an impeccable attention to every little detail, this show was the best ever."
Other events included the webmaster dodge ball games which received a sudden influx of onlookers as word spread that "the Lightspeed girls are playing naked dodge ball!" as well as a host of parties targeting the large number of gay site operators and webmasters attending the Forum.
Overall, the balance of activities, seminars, and easy networking in the hotel courtyard and pool areas made this year's Phoenix Forum the best I've attended, and indeed, one of the best webmaster gatherings ever. I'll see you there next year!