Phoenix Forum: Lower Courtyard Traffic With Better Conversion Ratios

Click here for a gallery of photos from The Phoenix Forum 2017 by JFK/

TEMPE, Ariz.—After the last few days in the desert, it’s safe to say that The Phoenix Forum was a successful show once again, but in a different way than most industry veterans will remember from years past. So much has changed (for the better and the worse) that recapping the show itself is also becoming a bit more complicated.

For starters, the plain fact is that the show is considerably smaller than it was a few years ago. I was told by more than one person that the Mission Palms hotel was not sold out completely. For those of us who recall frantically dialing the hotel reservation office on 2 mobile phones and 3 office lines simultaneously, like it was some kind of radio call-in contest, only to find out the entire hotel was sold out in 25 minutes … that is a bit of a shocker. However as people adapted, the smaller size ended up being profitable.

Instead of shouldering your way through a packed courtyard of half-drunk reps and low-level entourages, attendees were able to find decision makers to engage in meaningful dialogue easily. The result was much lower courtyard traffic with insanely good meeting conversion ratios. Rather than 100 handshakes with people that you knew weren’t going to result in anything, you now end up with 20 meetings that result in actual deals being done on the spot.

Along with the change in size came a significant change in the maturity, age and focus of the people attending. Yes, there was beer pong and naked dodge ball, but the underlying focus on business was much more apparent than at any show in recent memory. This wasn’t the party it used to be, with many heading off to bed by 11 p.m., and for those who came to actually get things done … that was a very good thing.

The entertainment lacked the House of Slam event that Grand Slam Media and provided in previous years or any similar extravaganza. There was a closing party, but it was much smaller and less opulent than the fashion show staged last year. Even the swag at the meet market has become much more conservative, with the best items this year being high-tech lighters from and luggage straps from (rather than the pig noses and toilet seats KennyB used to hand out to people).

The hotel itself has also evolved quite a bit. Naked Dodge Ball was held on a plain gray rooftop terrace where the tennis courts used to be … because the infamous tennis court is no longer there. Instead of a net, show runners adapted by having people hold a line of caution tape across mid court.

Seminars that have always been a strength of the show were informative, but due to the size of the audience most had sporadic attendance leading more than a few people at the show to suggest that a workshop or Ted Talk format might be better suited to the current paradigm.

GFY stepped up to host happy hour once again at Rúla Búla right outside the show entrance, and Eric did a fine job with it, but the nostalgia was palpable for a packed terrace balcony outside of the famous Hooters restaurant that no longer exists.

Among attendees the hot topics were virtual reality porn, potential involvement by federal governments in the U.S. and U.K. to limit free porn online, technological advancements with services like, and a rapidly growing interest in the legal marijuana business sector.

It was easy to find experts in every arena of adult from traffic to billing, hosting and content. In almost every instance you are speaking directly with an owner, top exec or one of the few reps that has been in this business for decades and actually knows what they are doing. There weren’t any empty suits or pretty girls who didn’t quite understand what their own company did as they fumble their way through a drunken sales pitch.

After speaking with dozens of people at the show off the record, I can confirm that the forum was profitable for nearly everyone who attended, but most were done doing deals by Saturday and without the high-profile entertainment of Method Man or some other earth-shaking milestone on the schedule it became a Sunday of seeing old friends and rehashing the past rather than a frantic race to complete unfinished discussions or squeeze in a few more meetings with fresh contacts.

So what’s the true takeaway from the 2017 Phoenix Forum event? The honest appraisal that avoids parroting what some people want to hear? It’s simple: The industry has changed, the Phoenix landscape itself has changed, the age of the participants has changed … but as usual, there are still plenty of smart people in this industry adapting their approach and making serious money as part of what will always be considered a flagship show for anyone who wants to do business in adult online.