Adult Goes Virtual at Adult Entertainment Virtual Convention

Stephen Yagielowicz

LOS ANGELES — The tech-savvy adult entertainment industry broke new ground this past weekend, with its first trade event to be held on the Utherverse's Virtual World Web.

The Adult Entertainment Virtual Convention (AEVC), sponsored by Cam Contacts, XBIZ, VStroker, LokiCash, Girlfriends Films, YNOT, Pornstar Tweet, Sexxxtons.com, Melonson Adult Productions and PleasureRadio.fm, was held in a mixture of the real and virtual worlds, on Feb.24-26.

Hosted by Utherverse’s flagship web property, Red Light Center, this inaugural event brought together a global audience of adult entertainment fans, business owners and independent operators, for an exciting and informative three-day excursion through the possibilities of cyberspace.

Highlights of the event included informative seminars and educational panels, B2B networking sessions, a comedy hour, performer meet-and-greet and live cam sessions, various parties and the Adult Entertainment Virtual Awards — a full roster of work and play, as one might find at any adult event — coupled with exhibitor booths and live sex between sassy 3D avatars.

The event was popular with existing Red Light Center users, such as “working girl” SaphyreRose, who told XBIZ that she wished the event was longer than 12 hours daily and that she was looking forward to attending future virtual events.

“I thought it was absolutely amazing for the sheer fact not everyone on the consumer end or on the business end can be in the same place at the same time,  and what a way to get the connections going other than virtually,” SaphyreRose stated. “It’s a whole 'uther' world, literally, and allows for contacts to be made and for networking to be ongoing."

“I enjoyed the opportunity to meet and network with other adult business industries, and to meet sexy new clients,” SaphyreRose added. “I helped to promote others and also we were promoted as well — we made so many connections!”

Other attendees expressed pleasure over the new connections they made and the boon that the virtual world offers to those facing travel difficulties, schedule conflicts or other limitations imposed by distance or timing.

“I thought the entire weekend was great overall, for myself personally it provided a venue where I was able to ‘meet with’ people I normally would not be able to meet with, as I don't make it out to the ‘real world’ conventions, due to travel issues,” Jason “Loki” Smith told XBIZ. “It is really hard for me to nail down just one thing; I really believe the entire convention was great.”

Smith did, however, echo SaphyreRose’ comments about a 12-hour day being short — especially in a virtual world that spans all time zones, and the need to space events:

“There needed to be ‘real life’ breaks worked into the schedule between the various events. Each of the three days I had to pick some event to skip so I could go make dinner,” Smith stated. “[With the] stacking of events on Sunday, I had to miss a lot of events as they were held two or three at a time. If the days were longer, this could have been worked out without too much overlapping of events.”

These issues are faced by all event managers, whether in the real or virtual world — but regardless of any growing pains, AEVC was, as Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) Executive Director Tim Henning told XBIZ, “a glimpse of the future that many companies should embrace.”

“ASACP was able to have a presence at the inaugural AEVC, due to the generosity of the event’s sponsors,” Henning stated. “We took advantage of this opportunity to make new contacts and to explore the growing world of virtual reality — an arena like others in the adult entertainment industry that can benefit from ASACP’s online child protection technology.”

While this is not the first time that virtual reality has been used for trade events, it is the first major use of the technology in the adult entertainment B2B sphere and beyond.

“We have attended and exhibited at previous mainstream virtual conventions, which we found to have some value, but the interaction between attendees and exhibitors was pretty much limited to the exchange of virtual business cards and chatting while we were in our booth,” Lloyd “Baddog” Brown of PimpsPromo.com, which “photographed” the event, told XBIZ. “The AEVC was significantly more interactive between attendees and the inclusion of seminars, panels and workshops made the event beneficial to attend, as you could listen to the speakers/panelists while doing whatever else you might normally be doing.

“I do not know that virtual conventions will ever replace the face-to-face real life conventions,” Brown added. “But as a supplement to reach those unable to make the journey across the country, it definitely shows potential.”

For exhibitors such as SensualSteals.com, the cost savings and other benefits were significant, especially when considering the event’s broad reach.

“Never having been inside a virtual world, I was impressed beyond belief at the amazing graphics and expansiveness of this world,” Kelly from SensualSteals.com told XBIZ. “The speaking sessions were very informative and the added value was the fact you can connect with colleagues and small companies (that generally don’t attend conventions due to cost) who you would normally not have the ability to meet and network with.

“As a retailer, I loved the fact I could strike up a conversation at the club with potential consumers from all over the world (young and old) and introduce our brand to them,” Kelly added. “Being a small business with a limited marketing budget, it was great that we were able to afford a booth at the cost of only $100 — it allowed us to introduce our company to average consumers and contribute to our brand building efforts without breaking the bank.”

Despite the challenges of the virtual world, such as “bad behavior” resulting from a lack of inhibition in cyberspace (“I’m sure they would not express themselves so freely among their professional colleagues within a live convention… they would be hauled away by security”), SensualSteals.com intends to participate in future events.

“Would I attend future virtual events? Yes, of course!” Kelly stated. “Anytime I can dance for hours in six-inch heels, get drunk with no hangover, and get total head-to-toe makeovers everyday at no cost, I’m there!”

For Wii-controller activated massager marketer Mojowijo, AEVC was the perfect venue at which to launch its innovative new product line. 

“We thought it was very appropriate to do it at a virtual world, given the nature of our product,” Mojowijo’s Steve DuMosch told XBIZ. “It was really exciting for us to be a part of history and we really see the potential of this becoming a regular event and growing in size every year.”

One area the company found appealing was the intimate nature of the event.

“We felt the smaller attendance lent itself to be a better B2B expo rather than a B2C. We met a lot of great people while hanging out there,” DuMosch added. “Also, for the price in money, time and effort, this was definitely worth it. A ‘real’ tradeshow costs 100 times as much.”

DuMosch would have liked more prior experience with the system, however.

“It would have been nice to have a session the day or two before the expo where people could go in the virtual world and do a Q&A session,” DuMosch offered. “They did have helpful staff walking around during the show but [access] ahead of time would have been better.”

The producers of AEVC have reported extremely positive feedback to the event.

“I was very pleased that the feedback from AEVC participants was so overwhelmingly positive,” Red Light Center principal Brian Shuster told XBIZ. “Many industry participants spoke with me directly to tell me how impressed they were with the networking they did and with the business that they generated.”

“Sponsors, exhibitors and attendees all exceeded our expectations,” Shuster adding, noting “with that kind of overwhelming response, the industry can be assured that this show will be repeated every year from now on.”

Utherverse Chief Business Development Officer, Anna Lee, who was instrumental in the event’s success, reinforced Shuster’s assessment of AEVC, explaining that the initial estimates reveal that attendance over the entire course of the weekend was far greater than expected; and that all of the presentations, panels and workshops succeeded in being more insightful, thought provoking and engaging than many presentations held in real life conventions.

The results are driving the company to expand and improve upon the concept.

“With the success of this convention, and the valuable experience gained from its execution, we plan to continue to take the model of virtual conventions and virtual awards ceremonies to the next level,” Lee told XBIZ. “[We] promise that next year will be even bigger, better and more finely tuned then this one.”

“Furthermore, we will continue to develop virtual presences for all of our exhibitors, speakers and sponsors,” Lee added, “so that they may continue to experience the benefits of utilizing the virtual world platform as an enhancement to their current business and marketing efforts.”

One experienced speaker at AEVC that found considerable benefit from the event is Wasteland.com chief Colin Rowntree.

“My overall impression of AEVC was very positive and, at times, inspiring as to how this opens many new doors for B2B networking and marketing with industry people that I would rarely get a chance to meet and work with, on the brick and carpet ‘real life’ trade show circuit,” Rowntree told XBIZ. “I also suspect that there is a nice windfall of B2C by attending and exhibiting, as RLC has a vast number of members that dropped by the show to see what was going on ‘behind the porn producer curtain.’”

As for the seminars, Rowntree found the technology and its possibilities impressive.

“Being a virtual speaker in a virtual theater at a virtual conference filled with virtual attendees?” Rowntree exclaimed. “Who would have thought it even a short five years ago in the adult industry?

AEVC gave Rowntree the opportunity to virtually sit down with Evil Angel’s Christian Mann for the keynote address, enjoying an hour long informal chat about the evolutionary process of the adult industry over the past 30 years — an experience unlike any other, in the veteran moderator’s past…

“After some learning curves of how to dress my avatar so it sort of looked like me and figuring out how to direct ‘Virtual Colin’ to walk up to the stage and sit down in a chair, we were off and running for a great conversation that lasted well into overtime,” Rowntree stated.

“What made this a novel and new experience for me is that the conversation with Christian was taking place by phone, with him in California and me in New Hampshire, a far cry from all of the distractions on stage that typically happen at ‘real-time’ convention seminars,” Rowntree explained. “This enabled both of us to simply dig into the issues as a dialogue, challenge and cajole each other and delve into some fairly complex issues in a candid and honest conversation (pretty much exactly the way that the two of us chat on the phone in real life).”

Rowntree found it beneficial to watch the seminar on his computer from his avatar’s point of view from the stage; a view which includes a small “room chat box,” where he could see the commentary of the audience as the conversation moved from topic to topic. 

“This really had the nice bonus of having a real-time finger on the audience’s pulse to see which issues were resonating with them,” Rowntree added.  “[This helped us] to stay with the hot button issues that people were buzzing about in the audience.”

Rowntree did offer some constructive criticism that could help ease the networking component of future virtual events, commenting on how many adult industry folks had registered under colorful, but non-descriptive names. 

“I was pretty easy to spot as my avatar’s name was ‘Wasteland_Colin,’ but the majority of industry folks I ran into were not using their company brand name in their avatar name, so it was more or less waiting for people to come up to me to chat after they saw my name as there was no easy way to figure out who anyone was from the industry,” Rowntree stated. “I’d also like to see some sort of avatar name color coding for adult industry people so it would be easy to spot the webmasters and producers from the consumers and fans, and approach them for interaction.”

Despite these points, when asked if he’d do it again, Rowntree replied, “Absolutely!”

“I see this virtual B2B platform as ripe for expansion over the next few years,” Rowntree concluded. “Once industry folks get the hang of how to use it for networking and marketing, I anticipate this to continue to grow as a robust and valuable tool.”

For these attendees of the Adult Entertainment Virtual Convention, the future is here.

Future AEVC show dates are pending, stay tuned to XBIZ for details.

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