By Ron Jackson | DnJournal.com
It's hard to stand out in the crowded domain conference field so Patrick Ruddell knew he would have to do something different when he decided he wanted to put together an event of his own. His solution was to stage the first domain conference ever held on a cruise ship - DNCruise - an event that ran Oct. 11-15 aboard the Carnival Imagination.
The boat left the port of Miami on Monday (Oct. 11) with 55 domainers on board with another 25 or so spouses, friends or guests along for the ride. The itinerary called for stops in Key West and Cozumel, Mexico, but Mother Nature had other plans, sending Hurricane Paula our way along with a new port of call. More on that in a moment. The more important thing to know is that the passing storm failed to dampen the spirits of the domainers on DNCruise.
An hour after the ship left Miami under sunny skies, the first conference event, a welcoming cocktail party, got underway in the Illusions Lounge on the 9th deck of the Imagination. Chef Patrick was there to welcome guests with a huge DNCruise ice sculpture serving notice that his was going to be a very cool event.
Below: The networking gets underway early as the first arrivals at the
It didn't take long for the DNCruise registrants to become one big happy family. Everyone dined together at 8:15pm each night. Guests could switch tables each evening so they could spend time with a wider variety of fellow domainers during the four-night cruise.
After dinner every night, the maitre d' and waiters cajoled the diners into closing out the evening with an impromptu song or dance. In the photo at right, the first ladies of ccTLDs; .ME's Natasa Djukanovic (at left) and .CO's Lori Anne Wardi, show one of the waiters how to really cut a rug.
One of the best things about the casual cruise atmosphere is that everyone let their hair down and could feel comfortable just being themselves. It produced a great environment for getting to know each other better than would have been possible in a more formal setting.
Day two of DNCruise opened with the Imagination docking early Tuesday morning under rainy skies in Key West, Florida. It turned out that a much bigger storm was brewing across the Gulf of Mexico in the exact location we were supposed to go next. Shortly after I woke up I got a text message from Michael Castello telling me Hurricane Paula has unexpectedly formed off the Yucatan Peninsula and was headed straight for Cozumel. While the captain kept an eye on the weather reports, some of the domain cruisers, including Michael, decided to go into Key West despite the downpour. My wife, Diana, and I decided to stay onboard but Michael sent me some photos from shore.
Below: Other members of the shore excusion party who joined Micheal Castello
Everyone had to be back onboard by 2:30pm Tuesday. Soon after that, the captain announced that with a hurricane bearing down on Cozumel we were going to turn around and head the opposite direction with Nassau, Bahamas as our new destination.
With the Imagination now headed east, the conference resumed with a networking session Tuesday afternoon. I really liked the way this one was handled. After making some opening comments Chef Patrick (while shedding a few tears of joy at seeing his DNCruise creation come to fruition) introduced the event's sponsors, then had every attendee step to the front of the room, one by one, to introduce themselves and tell the crowd how they got involved with domains.
Time would prevent this from being done at a conference with hundreds of attendees, but it was perfect for a smaller gathering like this because it allowed you to learn something about every single person there. It was especialy interesting to hear how they arrived in this business and why they shared your own passion for domains.
Michael Castello and I had been scheduled to conduct an open forum discussion after the networking session, but since each of us had already spoken at length during the individual introductions we called an audible and opened that time for everyone to chat one on one. Having just heard some remarkable stories many of us wanted to learn more from the people whose accounts particularly intrigued us.
After dinner, Chef Patrick introduced another new wrinkle to the conference game - a Game Night - in which attendees chose up teams and competed head to head in a variety of old school games with a load of cool prizes up for grabs (including a Macbook Pro, Ipods, a free cruise, cash and more).
Game Night turned out to be a big hit with participants who raved about the networking and team building experience. It went over so well that Patrick scheduled a second game session for the final night of the cruise.
Day 3 of DNCruise (Wednesday, Oct. 13) was a Day at Sea (the Imagination would not arrive in the Bahamas until Thursday morning). With the weather still iffy that made it a perfect day for a full round of seminars covering a broad range of domain topics. Craig Snyder, the General Manager of Oversee.net's Registrar and Aftermarket divisions (including Moniker and SnapNames) kicked things off at 10am with a detailed discussion of the Drop Game (covering the stages that expiring domains go through before they become fair game again).
This was the first time I have heard Craig speak at length and it was a revelation. The U.S. Naval Academy graduate did a great job of making a very difficult subject understandable, even for the newcomers in the crowd.
He also showed tremendous grace under fire. The audience peppered him with questions throughout his presentation, something that few speakers can handle well. Questions are normally held until the end so a speaker does not lose his train of thought or have disruptions shatter the presentation into dozens of no longer recognizable pieces.
For Snyder, it seemed to be a piece of cake though. He adroitly addressed every question while still managing to keep the overall presentation on track. A thought that crossed my mind after his session was that everyone who paid $400 to be on the cruise got their money's worth from Craig's valuable session alone. I hope Oversee will utilize his obvious talents at their next DOMAINfest Global conference in February 2011. The industry needs more people like this who can make an arcane subject like domains less of a mystery to the mainstream business world.
The morning continued with three more seminars. Next up was a panel discussion on the rise of ccTLDs.
Batting third in the morning line up was attorney Karen Bernstein, who has clients raving about her expertise on domain and trademark related issues.
She was followed by an all-star panel that covered domain parking and alternate methods of monetization. That session, moderated by Parked.com's Michael Ward, featured (left to right in the photo below) Donny Simonton, (President, Parked.com), Gregg McNair (PPX International) and Dan Warner (CEO, DomainAdvertising.com).
People could drift in and out of the conference sessions to grab a drink or relax on the deck of the Imagination (shown the in the Wednesday photo below), but attendance for the seminars was quite high, likely fueled be the large number of newcomers who were determined to absorb all of the information they could get about how to succeed in the domain business.
After a lunch break it was time to get back down to business with four more seminars Wednesday afternoon. Morgan Linton kicked it off with a talk about website development, his preferred method of monetization. Rick Waters followed with more details about site development and successful SEO practices. Brad Waller, a expert on mobile apps was next with tips on adapting to an increasingly mobile environment.
David Sams, a world class TV producer who helped launch syndicated classics like Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune and the Oprah Winfrey show, closed out the business day with an inspiring talk about online marketing and video. At least, that is how it was listed on the agenda. It was more about dreaming big. It is something Sams has done throughout his life while following one key principle - don't let anyone tell you NO or that something you dream of doing cannot be done.
He pointed out that in the media world, the gatekeepers who used to be in control, have been washed away by the Internet. Now everyone has ready access to low cost worldwide distribtion platforms in domain names.
David's talk provided a fitting end to DNCruise's seminar program. Chef Patrick returned for some closing comments (during which he thanked his wife Zezura for pitching in and helping him pull off a very successful debut event). He and Zezura also surprised five attendees who were celebrating birthdays by rolling out a cake for them, as well as one celebrating the birth of DNCruise.
The business sessions were over, but the fun was just beginning on DNCruise. Gregg McNair, the Executive Chairman of PPX International, saw to that. After dinner McNair, the most energetic person you will ever meet in your life, opened the door to his spacious cabin to all attendees for a late night party that brought day 3 to a rousing close.
Day 4 of DNCruise (Thursday, Oct. 14), a day of leisure, opened when the Imagination docked early that morning in Nassau, Bahamas. Some attendees made the short walk into town to explore Nassau. Others took a taxi ride to the fabulous Atlantis Resort (where the Domain Roundtable conference will be held in March 2011) and others elected to stay on board and enjoy the beautiful day lounging by the pool or enjoying other activities on the Imagination.
Below: Another view from the ship looking at the Atlantis Resort,
Everyone was back onboard by late afternoon when the Imagination departed Nassau for the final leg of the cruise back to Miami. After dinner that evening, attendees enjoyed another Game Night in the last group event on DNCruise 2010.
The Imagination cruised through the Atlantic throughout the night, bringing us back home at 8am Friday (Oct. 15). As we disembarked, we said our final goodbyes to old friends and the many new ones we made during DNCruise. People were already talking about when they could do it again. Chef Patrick undoubtedly already has the wheels in motion. He said he is aiming for a 2011 event that would likely be held next July with the cruise moving to the West Coast for a Los Angeles departure. If you are looking for a new kind of conference experience, DNCruise's maiden voyage showed that you can depend on Patrick and Zezura to deliver it.
(Posted Oct. 16, 2010) To refer others to the post above only you can use this URL:
Anchors Away! Domain Conferences on Land and at Sea Will Bring Domainers From Around the World Together Over the Next 10 Days
A pair of extraordinary domain conferences will be held over the next ten days with domain investors and service providers getting together on both land and sea. The first half of this tropical twin bill - DNCruise - the first domain conference ever held on a cruise ship - gets underway Monday (Oct. 11) when the Carnival Imagination leaves Florida's Port of Miami for a round trip that will include stops in Key West and Cozumel, Mexico.
I will be among those on board and that means I won't have another Lowdown post until after the ship returns Friday (Oct 15). Internet access is very costly on cruise ships (the base rate is 75¢ a minute) so I will likely limit my online activity to checking email while we are at sea. However, I will have conference photos and highlights for you in this column when we return to Miami at the end of the week (that post should be up either late Friday or Saturday morning).
I'll be staying in Miami for the second half of what promises to be a unique doubleheader - T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Miami - which gets underway at the Loews Hotel on South Beach Sunday night (Oct. 17) with a welcoming cocktail party. That event will run through Wednesday morning (Oct. 20).
I've written a lot about this show over the past few weeks, so by now you know that this will be the only T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conference this year that is being staged by the show's co-founders, Rick Schwartz and Howard Neu. They are pulling out all the stops to make this show one to remember. After already landing a U.S. Congressman - Cliff Stearns (R - Florida) - as a featured speaker (the first Congressman to appear at a domain conference), Schwartz, who is known as the Domain King, announced Friday that flamboyant boxing promoter Don King (who is a Miami resident) will also be there to speak.
Putting the colorful and controversial King, who made millions promoting championship bouts involving Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and countless others, in the same room with this industry's colorful and controversial conference promoter, who made millions selling domains names, is the kind of match King would surely appreciate.
I look forward to seeing all of you who will be at one (or both) of these events. For those who can't make it, I'll try to bring you the next best thing to being there - photos and a play by play account covering both events, starting with my next post Lowdown after DNCruise returns to Miami at the end of this week.
This article originally published by www.DNjournal.com