Subscribe to RSS Feed

10|08|2008 09:34 pm EDT

How to Hold a Domain Conference

by M. Fiol in Categories: Featured

Shows Need to Adapt to Domainers, Not the Other Way Around
So what’s wrong with domain conferences? A lot. For one thing, they look, feel and smell the same way they did two, four, six years ago: the same template, the same ballrooms, the same panels, the same, the same, the same.

But really, what’s the issue? It’s simple: no real domainers. Shows are now comprised almost entirely of vendors selling their wares to each other, the familiar screen names and faces have faded from the scene – unable to muster the energy to eat more conference food, see another panel or even attend another ‘sausage-fest’ domain party.

Even I have grown weary of this broken record. It used to be a good tune, now its Lionel Ritchie belting out ‘Dancing on the Ceiling.’

So the relevant question becomes: how do we get the domainer back? They are the core of the industry and without them, new domainers don’t get the help/connections they need and old-schoolers don’t sell because of a lack of new buyer pools. Both sides lose out on profitable connections.

I think to answer this important question requires looking at what still works or has evolved with the times to better serve domainer’s needs.

For real value, it’s about networking. Domainers have always made their deals not via panels or seminars but up in hotel rooms, the lobby, at the pool and in dance clubs. A lot of it forged in friendships that emerged before the partnership. We have always been competitors so we started out at arm’s length from each other until our friendships and trust solidified.

Unlike almost any other industry, this industry is ‘business’ but it’s also ‘personal’, mostly because the original core was not made up of multi-national corporations but individual, single domainers.

And that means removing conferences from the traditional template of most industries and bringing it down to a personal level. That implies, for example, creating networking opportunities instead of meals and seminars – we want to relax by the pool, not sit in another ‘ballroom’. Create activities that encourage personal connections and help the tight and overworked domainer unwind and relax.

Another still viable aspect of the shows is the high-level keynote-speakers like Steve Forbes and Barbara Corcoran. Again, this is about individual experiences – we can learn most from each other’s stories. And unlike seminars or even panels, it offers substance on a custom level by people who are not trying to sell you anything.

And finally, it’s about the auctions which, with their online systems, actually deter attendance by domainers – better to bid online than raise a paddle and make yourself known. But cutting the system is not the answer. The onus is actually on the market to create new, well-funded buyers – again, lacking because the last generation has not worked to create a new generation. And to date, auctions have done an awful job of trying to attract buyers outside the usual industry veins, the ‘mainstream’ as it were.

As noted in a previous article, Domain Names as Investment Hedge, this down time is a great opportunity to entice new buyers into the market by introducing the idea of domains as investment to the average Main Street investor – live auctions provide a familiar and credible venue.

This is all particularly valid at a time when average people are looking, desperately, for alternatives to traditional systems and gold becomes an overpriced commodity. Domains are global, the Internet is relatively safe and domains have already weathered multiple down slides. It’s like betting on the future, not the past or its shaky credit-based foundations.

To achieve this would require a dedicated, industry-wide PR campaign to mold perception. This should be in conjunction with a series of city-by-city seminars – as used to great effect in real estate investment. Set up a few domain investment centers for the public, create literature and give them the assistance they need to see good returns –should not be too hard to get a 5%-10% return for investors.

Sure, domainers are used to and even expect much higher returns, but the average person would be more than satisfied with far lower numbers – given their current, sad options.

In the end, success of the industry resides in its ability to expand beyond traditional borders and create fresh demand – while adjusting to bring the tried and true domainer back into the fold.

It benefits us all, so get to work and get it done…before it’s too late – for the old and the new.

Tags: , , , , ,


Ammar Kubba

October 8, 2008 @ 10:06 pm EDT

Great post Miguel! I agree with you 100%… we do need to continually evolve as an industry, which requires (at the very least) further opening ourselves up to the outside world and educating the masses to bring in new blood. Stagnation is the enemy.

Rohit Jenveja

October 9, 2008 @ 3:23 am EDT

I’ll keep this brief. If we want to get average Americans to buy/sell domains, are best option is to encourage them to invest in large portfolio companies, like marchex, where full-time domainers are behind the wheel. If we encourage average individuals to do their own domain buying , they’ll probably get burned. It takes a lot of knowledge to find and monetize things appropriately. Not to mention domaining becomes much cheaper at scale.



October 9, 2008 @ 8:14 am EDT

thanks very good

Stephen Douglas

October 9, 2008 @ 8:32 am EDT

Well, my 2005 claim the domain industry was getting incestuous, and endorsed by Ron Jackson, Rick Schwartz and many other domainers, is catching on. Glad to see Big A commenting on this here, since TZ could do a lot by implementing my suggestion of placing domain educational links on parking service landing pages.

Time to expand the market, people. The economic foundation of the world’s investment community is crumbling under the weight of complicated Wall Street, GW Bush endorsed cheating schemes that have put us all into debt without our permission. How many investments can you name that will equal the ROI from a great generic domain name? Does anyone think will sell for less than what it was sold for? Not unless it’s sold to another domainer… *ahem* I don’t see that ever happening.

So who’s going to lead the charge for change? Which deep pocket domain industry company is going to step up to the plate and invest in changing the face of domain values in the business sector forever? Who will claim the crown?

Ammar? You ready to nab the sceptre, robe and throne along with the crown? I think you’d look pretty spiffy, and I’d personally bow to you and address you as “your highness”

Exciting times coming…

Alex Tajirian

October 9, 2008 @ 11:00 am EDT

(1) Your post about lack of newness (processes and rhetoric) and unidirectional thinking in conferences is very accurate. And can be easily extended to other domain name areas such as appraisals/valuations, benefits (corporate and investment) of domain names, direct navigation (only one article is quoted), marketing to Madison Ave., on and on.

Frank has tried successfully to inject new ideas through the Domain Convergence conference. I enjoyed the format, the good food, learned a lot, and I felt being part of a community. Thanks Frank!

(2) Before we can successfully reach beyond our current borders, we need to internally address some of the issues in (1) above.


October 9, 2008 @ 5:07 pm EDT

Price needs to come down…

David Harry

October 9, 2008 @ 5:26 pm EDT

Great article mate…I agree that most conferences today are becoming very predictable and I see the same faces all the time. We aussies travel a great distance and it costs us much more to attend however we do so as we have developed some great business relationships which have in turn ended up as great ‘friendships’ also.

The point is that this past TRAFFIC conference I brought along a new player (business partner) and he really enjoyed himself however one comment he made to me was ‘these guys only want to party’ his impression was that there were a bunch of ‘industry players’ who are attending to just PARTY!! In fairness we did a lot of business but that was and has always been outside in the cafe’s/restaurants etc.

So we make the effort as we have great friends in the industry who also happen to be business partners so will continue to attend these events but will be very deliberate in who we meet and which conference we attend as the aussie dollar has TANKED!!


October 10, 2008 @ 9:27 am EDT

I would say the fee is why I do not hit many shows. I would rather buy a few more names with that money :-)

Frank Michlick

October 10, 2008 @ 1:04 pm EDT

Thanks for the timely article Miguel, as I read it after my conference just ended. I’m actually still not sure, but for DomainConvergence, I think I prefer the term “meeting” or “convention” over “conference”.

While it’s still a little early for me to grasp all the results of the event, I know I personally enjoyed the exchange a smaller event of our size enables. I know there’s always room for improvement, so we’ll be opening sharing our experience and ask for feedback shortly.

Kris Jack

October 11, 2008 @ 8:08 pm EDT

Hi Miguel, Kris from Mad biz here.. yeah.. firstly.. a bloody great article.. hit the nail on the head mate, all my biz has been created thought establishing great relationships, and nearly all the time they are done it is in those kind of places, pools, bars, clubs, or just sitting out in the foyer.. i don’t know about anyone else, but its been at least a couple of years since I have actually gone into a session at a conference.. and we go to them all!!.. Yes, it is a big effort always coming from Australia, but we know it is always worth it, because we just ‘do life’ with those guys we keep doing biz with, and nearly always do more biz on top.. However, I agree that there are too many ‘old crusties’ that dictate what they think a good conference should be and put up all the old, known ways in running a conference… damn it.. us domainers just want to hang out!!.. and lets face it.. i only go to the booths to see what toys i can get for my kids.. and some tshirts for the tech nerds back home.!.. sigh.. will be interesting to see if anyone does anything about it.. Sedo Pro is the next one up I think.. lets see how that goes!.

Stephen Douglas

October 12, 2008 @ 5:53 am EDT

Geez Kris, don’t admit publicly that you only go to domain sponsor booths for the toys, and that you don’t go to the sessions. You’re just revealing your own failings of why you’re not getting anything more from domain conferences then a few beers with pals and toys.

Talk to people at the booths. Make deals there. That’s what these fine sponsors are there for.

Kris Jack

October 12, 2008 @ 7:21 am EDT

lol.. whew! for a loooong second there I thought you were actually serious, hate how sarcasm doesn’t translate too well with text!!….


October 12, 2008 @ 3:29 pm EDT

Kris and Stephen, you are both right – domainers have found their own ways to squeeze benefit from shows. Some find it on panels and in booths, others find it over poker chips and booze.

Point is, it’s a very individualized business and so shows have become as such. My suggestion is to personalize it with poker tourney instead of a seminar or ‘pool booths’ instead of exhibition halls.

Cheers and thanks fr the comments, M.

Adam Strong

October 14, 2008 @ 2:10 pm EDT

I’ve heard from several show sponsors that they’ve pulled out of putting up a booth because it wasn’t worth it. I won’t name names but it’s pretty obvious who they are isn’t it since they don’t have booths now. They tend to ramp up their marketing by bringing in more staff to hit all the parties rather than spending the same amount on a booth and marketing material. I think we’ll see this as trend continue.

Kris Jack

October 15, 2008 @ 3:05 am EDT

Agree Adam, it works because rather than wait for the customers to come to the booth, (which many do not) they can
1. Work the crowds, and meet people that would not have chatted to them otherwise
2. Gain more exposure for their own employees (and they can build relationship much more effectively having a drink with a domainer in a relaxed environment, than over a table where the domainer is already feeling like they have to ‘buy’ something.
3. Said employees will more than likely build better rapport and create better picture / sentiment towards the company they represent as they are more intentional and less confronting in this environment.

Stephen Douglas

October 15, 2008 @ 4:31 am EDT

Make sure the polo shirts have nice big logos on the front and back, and give each staffer a company credit card!

That is a good strategy for a company instead of pushing a booth. A booth is more conducive to “new” attendees, and since most the conferences don’t spend any money outside of our industry, most of us have seen it before. However, I’d still like to see a “solid presence” at a conference in the form of a booth for the real players, a sort of “secured area” for pinpointing deals and clients. There’s a certain psychology behind having a booth.

I know stories of big domain companies hitting conferences by not even buying tickets to attend, but hitting the parties afterwards. Is that fair? That should be a survey question.

Alex Tajirian

October 16, 2008 @ 5:53 pm EDT

A domain name conference is business.


marcia lynn

October 16, 2008 @ 7:55 pm EDT

You pounded that nail straight on, Miguel.


October 16, 2008 @ 8:26 pm EDT

Marcia, I want you and the others back! Not the same without the crew!

Stephen Douglas

October 17, 2008 @ 6:43 am EDT

If anyone here is believing they can rewrite the “conference model” by suggesting everyone just get together and buy drinks for each other or potential clients, I’d like to see their drafts.

Depending on the cost for a booth, or other sponsored items at a conference, how well your company represents itself at the conference WILL have an impact psychologically on everyone who attends, no matter how jaded or cynical you have become from attending many conferences.

The key to conference success for domainers is BRINGING IN OUTSIDE BUSINESS SECTOR PLAYERS. Sorry for yelling. I really wanted to do this in 2007.

Just consider this scenario: A major domain conference is held, but nobody is gathered in a designated space because they’re all out sniffing new customers in other areas. Let’s say just a few media company executives decide to attend (boy, wouldn’t that be a coup). They arrive, and see a disorganized, muddled, and free-wheeling event representing the domain industry and its investors spread thin, disillusioned with the standard conference model, and instead just moseying about hoping to “bump into someone who might be interested in becoming a client”.

Please. Let’s focus on getting organized. Domain Conference producers… PROMOTE YOUR CONFERENCE TO MARKETING DIRECTORS, including the domain auction producers.

Time to stop the whining and start thinking “Professional Image” for the domain industry. (I bet a lot of you will giggle hearing me asking you all to be “professional”. lol)

Seriously, we need to look professional in the business sector, and the standard conference model, marketed to the right demographics, can do this.

Alex Tajirian

October 17, 2008 @ 10:04 am EDT

Format changes:

(1) Q&A is typically held at end of session. Why not have Q submitted by participants before session, A during, and Q2&A2 at end?

(2) Designate session moderators who are responsible for selecting topics and speakers.

(3) Have the speakers

marcia lynn

October 17, 2008 @ 11:47 am EDT

mike, i miss you and everyone else, too!

talking with friends and colleagues is the only reason i’ve gone to
any of the conferences after deanfest and the first traffic.

the conference model being used at domain conferences does not benefit (imo)
anyone but the conference organizers, the sponsors (sometimes), and the
first-time attendee. if they’re going after the first-time attendee, then
they’re right on track…

let me add, i don’t profess to have a better model for repeat attendees.

Frank Michlick

October 17, 2008 @ 12:34 pm EDT

Thanks for the great comments everyone, this will help us as we consider the next DomainConvergence for 2009 :)

I’ve actually dreamed about making conferences more like the DemoCamp/BarCamp or Unconference where basically the attendees also become the presenters, which is a refreshing thought for this industry, but not everyone is quite ready for it either.

As for opening up the conference and directly inviting participants from other industries: I’ve seen that being tried, but it hasn’t quite worked out yet – for example some of the TRAFFIC conferences had people from the marketing industry as speakers.

At our event we actually had quite an open dialogue with some of the parking companies as well as Sam from Impulseleads who gave us some insight into the lead generation business.

Adam Strong

October 17, 2008 @ 3:56 pm EDT

stephen. We’ve seen this “professional model” for a few years. Relatively few from the outside world have any interest is coming to the domain shows. Even when they are invited as panelists etc, there is an obvious disconnect. I think there needs to be focused events for DOMAINERS to do what they do and make the deals that they make. If you want to mingle with the suits go to adtech or SES or pubcon or affiliate summit where they congregate and invade their turf.

Look at DK’s Think Tank or ShoeMoney’s elite retreat if you want examples of get-togethers that seem to work for the attendees and that are relatively unstructured. There have been domainers at those events too.

marcia lynn

October 17, 2008 @ 4:34 pm EDT

“where basically the attendees also become the presenters, which is a refreshing thought for this industry, but not everyone is quite ready for it either.”

frank, this is how the first traffic was; and to date, i think it was
the best of all of them. but that’s JMO. if we were ready for, and
embraced it, in 2004, and i don’t see why ppl wouldn’t be ready for it now.


October 17, 2008 @ 9:54 pm EDT

“Just consider this scenario: A major domain conference is held, but nobody is gathered in a designated space because they

October 17, 2008 @ 11:09 pm EDT

I would like to hear Frank Schilling talk about domains…this is a true genuine guy who tries to help others instead of trying to sell you something to squeeze a dollar out of you.
Where is Frank???…have not heard from him in a long time now…
Invite him to speak and i will definately attend no matter what the price of the conference is…hearing him speak about domains would be priceless!

Alex Tajirian

October 18, 2008 @ 11:54 am EDT

One of the recurring themes is that organizers need to segment the market of attendees. So do the magazines.

Kris Jack

October 19, 2008 @ 7:15 pm EDT

Good point sergio, we fit into both categories, and happy to fit in either way.. I guess the real issue is that in our experience, most domainers aren’t ‘professional businessmen’.. whatever that means.. they haven’t been in corporate life for 15 – 20 yrs.. and for the most part, don’t want to fit into this sort of arena, as they see it as backward / out of their depth.. what they don’t realise is the advantage of being savvy in this area and capitalising on it. I guess the other issue is, where is the bulk of the traffic held?? by ‘unbusinesslike domainers’ ?? would a ‘corportate feel’ conference attract enought domainers?? not sure, would certainly be interesting to find out..

Stephen Douglas

October 21, 2008 @ 8:20 am EDT

Hi Adam, I know your frustration at reaching outside the domain industry to the business sector, especially the ad world and marketing groups. However, that’s not THEIR fault, it’s OUR fault, because regardless of how many conferences we’ve had, they’ve mostly been directed and marketed to domainers. Their budgets haven’t reached $100k in trying to cement a connection in other market areas.

A successful domain conference that can break the barriers between our ragtag industry and traditional business sectors, especially the driving forces behind promoting those business sectors, is a calculated, well-planned and implemented marketing effort by the domain conference producers TO that particular outside business sector they’re wishing to reach. Until that happens, it’s “hi again! how’s Louise and little Bernie” discussions between domainers for the next 10 years, while domains as an appreciable marketing asset languish in limbo.

In my estimation, it would take a dedicated domain company with a marketing/ad budget of $100k minimum to target one segment of an outside industry and pull in heavy rotation domain marketing content on their industry emails/newsites/blogs and direct PR to the top marketing directors in the sector. It can be done, it can be achieved successfully, and it will pay off in huge dividends for the producers, the attendees, and domainers (in association with domain values).

Just takes money and desire to achieve that goal. I guarantee you that this will need to be done within the next two years or we’re all going to be bowling for dollars at our little domainer parties. What if five powerful domainers put up $50,000 each to host an open domain conference that focuses specifically on one outside industry? Educate that industry, invite them in, sell them domains either there or later… but do it.. I’ll put up the first $50k. Who’s on board? Let’s talk pro-growth, and quit musing amongst ourselves.

Man the boats! We’re going to form an army of domainers!


October 21, 2008 @ 5:35 pm EDT

Domains are not going anywhere until they yield a profit in their own right. Which they never will to support high prices.

Quality domains will NEVER become mainstream. A domain simply offers leverage for an idea. I’d say that ANY domain that has a secondary resale value over $50k earns less than 1% from traffic.

I could write loads on this topic… enjoy being a non standard investment and use it to make you some millions… ideas are king on the net.


October 21, 2008 @ 5:38 pm EDT

Oh yes, whats the point of a face to face when the whole internet is predicated on NOT being face to face?

Domain fests will exist, but more as a social gathering to sink a few pints and have a social chat.

Stephen Douglas

October 22, 2008 @ 4:50 am EDT

…and is here to prove that we domainers don’t need a “face to face” with each other because we don’t know who he even as we read his wise remarks!

Remember, can “write loads on this topic”, although we won’t know it because we won’t know who the f**K he is.


October 22, 2008 @ 3:33 pm EDT


lol.. Don

Stephen Douglas

October 24, 2008 @ 4:58 am EDT

Well UFO, I like your candor, especially exposing yourself not to “believe in anything” you say, although you “get a lots to give advice.” Yipes! Hope your clients aren’t reading this, but that’s probably not a worry since you don’t give your real name and your domain handle here is proxied.

As far as advising that “advertising agencies is where to target”, there couldn’t be a worse group of people to target for domain sales unless you presented them with something they could produce a constant yield of revenue from their clients. An ad agency buying a $2 mill domain name for their client, and even selling the domain back to their client for double the investment, would still lose out in just a few years from their ad campaign hourlies. Why should Barnes and Noble worry about online advertising of “” and “” when they own the category killing domains? No matter what they paid for those domains years ago, it’s now moot because those domains are killing it online for B&N at $10 yearly renewal investment on the domain. Ad agencies know this.

Read my post at my blog on this very subject:

On another note, VW is promoting a .ORG in national advertising, the first time I’ve ever seen a .org promoted by a commercial company on a national scale. This pushes the .org to SECOND IN VALUE TO .COM. (heck, I’ve told this to my clients for two years, now it’s out!) The VW domain name is “”. Amazing, eh?

Read my blog post about advertising agencies. Stay alert when watching TV and reading national mags, you’ll notice that the ad agency’s theme is the domain that’s bought and promoted, not the generic description of the client’s prodserv. You’ll see the connection why ad agencies don’t want their clients to own those keyword phrase domains describing their prodserv.


October 24, 2008 @ 4:13 pm EDT


Marketing agencies aren’t expected to buy the domains, they are expected to roll up a domain as part of an advertising approach, and should the corporate buy into the idea then they get the domain and everything that goes with it. You’re not approaching advertising agencies to buy names you are partnering with them.

VW are using the org to test response on that marketing channel, basically a control sample, as their com gets traffic from all over the place.


October 24, 2008 @ 4:15 pm EDT

Nb: With the squeeze on marketing spend we will see more channel testing, with non .com’s.

Stephen Douglas

October 25, 2008 @ 5:24 am EDT

Dear Unnamed person called,

Your secrecy has me out every night staring at the night sky, looking for tasty .org extensions flying in from meteor showers (or ARE they meteors???). I’d buy right now for $20,000.

I’m not talking about “marketing agencies” which are different from ad agencies. The marketing director at a corporation works directly with the ad agencies to educate them on what mood and demographic the company wants to follow with their ads. If P&G wanted to buy a domain called “” and have an ad created around it, I guarantee the ad agency would hop to it and build several campaign ideas around a “super mouthwash”, and try their best to avoid buying the domain name “”. The ad agency would try to get the domain “”. They wouldn’t pay money to get a memorable keyword phrase that quickly brands their client’s product, nor their key campaign push. As I’ve said thousands of times before:


Okay, I’ve said enough on this subject. Learn it, Love it, Live it.


October 25, 2008 @ 4:38 pm EDT

I’d buy the UFO for $20k if I didn’t already own it.

Its entertainment value alone, allowing me to zip around the net and basically beam down superfluous cr*p is reason enough to own it.

Guess one day I’ll have to level my amateur site that I tested my beginner html on… plenty of latent marketing potential in the URL that

Adam Strong

October 25, 2008 @ 10:26 pm EDT

Wow. UFOs and conspiracy theories on this thread and here I thought we were talking about how conferences need a face-lift.


October 26, 2008 @ 10:53 am EDT

With domain conferences, there needs to be less of them.

Too many just thins the market too much, but as I said, if it

Kris Jack

October 26, 2008 @ 12:13 pm EDT

Hmmm have to disagree with you there UFO.. I think the number of domain conferences is just about right at the moment, I agree there could easily be less traffic, but I like the idea of more varied conferences starting up out there.. i.e. Franks in Canada, the Domainver markerter in Germany to name a couple.. I find at every conference I go to, I end up making money from a deal I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do so.. Not to mention staying on top of new technology etc..

Good example is right now I am at the Sedo Pro conference in Nice, and have already closed up a deal and brought on a couple more brokers for some name sales I am doing that I would have otherwise never met.. it is good for me because I get access to a whole European crowd that is new and different…

Stephen Douglas

October 28, 2008 @ 5:24 am EDT

Adam ol buddy, the girls say you’re cute, but you gotta wow them with a conspiracy theory or two to keep them “locked in” lol.

Anyway, most domain conferences, from my experience, are run by people at the top who sometimes act as if they are from another world. This forces them to ask for help at the very last minute so that their “otherworldly” manifestations don’t reveal themselves because they haven’t been able to connect with humans. heh

It’s like the sheep herder who thinks of himself as the guy in power, but needs his dog to do the work. The sheep herder controls the food and knows how to whistle for a command, but the dog rounds up the sheep and brings them home. Then the dog eats dinner, goes to sleep, dreaming about how the hell he got into working for the ‘dumb guy”.

Of course, this is all allegory and again, has nothing really to do with domain conferences… *ahem*


October 28, 2008 @ 5:11 pm EDT

@Kris Jack

Yes, can see your point if your doing the agent networking thing. But there are only going to be so many “agents” in the market that can successfully make a go of it, so unless those conferences gain appeal to a wider cross section then they will either have to become smaller (as may domainers migrate away (I think domains have had their “appeal maximised” and continual growth in “domainers” will not continue) or less of them.

The value of decent domains has also increased to a point where it

Kris Jack

October 29, 2008 @ 8:08 am EDT

Q – “But there are only going to be so many


November 8, 2008 @ 1:21 am EDT is currently for sale and accepting offers. Visit to find out more.


RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply