FEATURE 200503 - The Road to Mandalay: Internext 2005 And Other 3 Ring Circus Acts

In direct response to the demands of the industry, Internext, the world's largest and most gregariously inclusive Adult Internet trade event, moved to the other end of the Strip into the newer and amazingly more expansive Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino and its cavernous convention facility. Reactions to the move have run the gamut, as they always have, but after all the criticisms have receded into the dim mists of chat board memory, history will record that this show succeeded in providing a comfortable, accessible, amenable and private environment in which to do business.

Yes, registration lines the first day were interminable, and the huge hall dwarfed the booths and seemed to shrink show floor foot traffic, but the move itself proves that Internext is determined to evolve with the needs of the industry, and next year will surely be different still. In truth, the event needs of this portion of Adult are not unlike a malicious worm that ever morphs into something that demands a new solution. This year’s was the Road to Mandalay!

A Three-Ring Circus of Sorts

In a very real way, Las Vegas Internext 2005 had three main components, three areas that, taken as a whole, created a sort of three-ring erotic circus business environment. First, of course, there was the show floor itself, the center ring, which by all accounts was less engaging, without as many flashy promotions or cars being given away as in years past, but which certainly provided a more business-friendly setting. If in the end that’s a good or bad thing is in the eye of the exhibitor, and it also became quickly clear that one man’s boring floor was another’s goldmine.

“I thought the show went great,” said SilverCash CEO Mike Price. “Some people came up to me and said they thought the show was small. I actually thought it seemed normal and the only reason it appeared small was because of less big 40x40-style booths. Overall, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more booths total. We had a good time and did some good business and continued to strengthen and build current relationships.”

According to Sex.com owner Gary Kremen, “It was an excellent show for us – a good crowd with lots of decision makers.”

DJ Airek, operations director of VideoPass, a third-year exhibitor veteran of the winter show, echoed that sentiment, saying, "I think this was a great show, especially for companies that are still growing and trying to make their mark on the industry. Since the last show I went to, this one was a real eye opener for me. Even though the show floor space is smaller and more condensed, the business atmosphere was extremely heightened. Compared to past shows I've attended, I could definitely see the change in the amount of business that gets done on the show floor.”

And according to Anh Tran, founder of WantedList.com, which exhibited this year at AEE but only attended Internet, “Other than the ridiculously long line the first day of the show or the difficulties of getting passes to the good parties, the show was great for us. Because new revenue models are always being developed, Internext provides a great medium for bright minds to come together to discuss, extend, or even acquire these new business ideas.”

Second, there were the 20 seminars, up from 12, spread over the three days of the show, divided into thematic tracks and sporting an enhanced look and organization, as well as a number of engaging new topics. Several people “complained” at the end of the first day that they’d not put a foot onto the show floor because the quality of the seminars had kept them from it. That’s not a desirable end result, to be sure, and some schedule tweaking is obviously in order, but it is also a mixed blessing in that it is the result of successful seminars for both attendees and panelists.

"The seminars were very good;” said Ben Jelloun, CEO of InterClimax. “I was glad to be a speaker in one of them. It gave me a chance to let people know how their traffic will convert with specialty billing solutions. A lot of Webmasters did not know their traffic would not convert big time with credit cards. This was the first seminar I've been involved with in this industry, and the experience was great.”

And third, there was what we called The Smokers Gauntlet, the Lobby of Death, or the Great Hall of Second Hand Smoke, where hundreds of people were constantly hanging out, smoking, kicking back, and doing some serious networking. One fellow we ran into the second day told us that he’d met everyone he’d planned to meet in that hall before he even got to the doors to the exhibit hall! Is that a regretful thing, like the seminars? That’s hard to answer for everyone, since people’s needs and expectations varied so greatly, but a lot of substantial businesses were visible and in play on the show floor, and even if a lot of networking was being done elsewhere, most of the feedback was that the floor served them well, and as usual most companies took the changes in stride and made the most of them.

“I really enjoyed the show,” said WEGCash.com and G3X.com director of marketing Cory Hedgepeth. “For starters, I think the transition from The Venetian to Mandalay Bay was a healthy one. The consistent gatherings down at the Island Lounge were extremely beneficial to business and we, of course, enjoyed throwing our Cristal for All party. I’m really looking forward to the summer [Internext] in Florida.”

"I have been going to the show for the last seven years,” added Ben from InterClimax, “and what I noticed this year is that it's becoming more organized and more of the European flavor. We've seen more new companies on the floor, which is good for the business, and most of them had new ideas.”

Even so, a handful of companies, like Adult.com and its video production equivalent, Cinemaplay, were especially inconvenienced because they had booths at both Adult shows. “Having the shows split between two different hotels and with overlapping days made the logistics a little more difficult for our company,” said Adult.com director of marketing Eric Matis. “But we worked it out, and I was able to traverse back and forth fairly easily and meet with tons of people new and known.”

There didn’t seem to be as many parties this year, but a few, like the Jungle Bash, made up for the apparent dearth with its sheer size and ambition, and the abovementioned centrally-situated Island Lounge served as the designated watering hole, complete with a few mandatory dramatic incidents. There were lots of other pit stop opportunities as well. “The number of cocktail hours were abundant,” said Matis, “and made for a great atmosphere to share a cocktail and a conversation.”

In the end, B2B trade shows work because the people who attend make them work. No matter who throws the event, it’s attendees and exhibitors who ultimately determine its worth, and it is always in the interest of the organizers to listen to their feedback to determine how to best answer their needs. The success of that symmetry is dependent upon a high level of communication and constructive criticism, but if all three are active, anything is possible.

Is Internext doing its part? Certainly it is, and every show reveals more work to be done, with more and better communication to be had. The summer Internext in Hollywood, Florida, will reflect that process, but all in all, this show, despite or perhaps because of its tripartite structure, showcased more commerce and less clowning around.