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Written by: Thizbee
International Dating Conference is "the largest convention ever attended by executives from the Internet Dating and Social Networking industry." Attendees totaled over 600 this year, doubling last year's numbers. Miami was beautiful and the forecasted rain never arrived.
Scott and I finally arrived on Wednesday night (Thursday morning?!) after a hectic day playing the airport game. San Diego's departure had us running down the terminal in our socks holding our shoes, jackets, and other carry-on luggage in a jumbled mess hoping American Airlines would hold the plane just a few more minutes. Might I suggest eating AFTER you go through security? As other passengers were turning off their electronic devices and fastening their seat belts, Scott and I were bending like pretzels to get our shoes back on and tied.
Next came the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, my favorite airport in the world. Terminals are set miles apart and though there is a train that travels the circumference and moving sidewalks, how any one makes their connections is a miracle. Even with the help of the tram that took us what seemed like only half-way there, we arrived after another 15 minutes of speed walking just as the last group was boarding the plane.
And as with any adventure in travel, the excitement didn't end there; because as we found out later at the hotel, Miami International Airport has two types of luggage: carry-on and lost! As a result of creative luggage handling we missed our 9 PM shuttle by 10 minutes and didn't get to the Hotel Catalina until long after midnight.
Scott spent the next few hours cursing the lack of promised internet connection in our hotel room (which, alas, we were never able to solve). We decided to say screw it to finding a connection and got cozy instead. Though we had expected carpet, the room had some wonderful books; our favorite was a compilation of vintage men's magazines from WWII to the 60's.
The Miami Convention Center was only two blocks from the hotel and it was a pleasant walk every morning.
Registration was a breeze, with plenty of industry swag in a logo printed canvas bag; and after we discovered that the convention was really two in one (dating and social networking) we found our meeting room with ease. Opening Statements (mostly about how the conference was going to run and highlights to look forward to) were led by Marc Lesnick, whom I had met via the virtual conference the week before. He was harried most of the conference, running two or three rooms at once, and keeping long winded speakers on schedule. May be he as ADD, cus there's no other way he could have done it all.
After the first day of Seminars (my highlights and lowlights from the two day conference are listed below) I walked away with the feeling that the majority of the industries leaders had no real-time contact with their customers and that Online Dating and Social Networking has very little to do with community and more to do with the almighty dollar and "conversion rates." Conversion is something that happens between the effort made by an internet company to get traffic on their site and when a user decides to sign up (and for pay sites, get your money) for services found on that site.
Sam Yagan of OKcupid made the comment that because he has a free site pushed by advertising he has 100% conversion. And though I agree with him that all our favorite sites like Google and Yahoo are free, the big industry "leaders" seem to think that free sites are not the wave of the future.
Below are some Highlights and Lowlights of the lectures, panels, and workshops we did attend.
The final "beer and chip" panel discussion included a fair representation of the many businesses and websites that spoke at the conference:
On the last day, during the last few minutes of the last panel discussion, something happened; something that should have happened on the first day during the opening statements. Like when Ross Perot changed all the issues for the 1992 Presidential Election debates:
Moses, from OnlineBootyCall.com said
(Paraphrased) I have gotten a piece of ass from every single one of your websites (laughter) -- no lie. What I want to know is what are your ideas on online dating and STD's? (silence). Because this has happened to our members, and at the parties sponsored by our site, I have started passing out condoms. (Shock) I wanted to know, what the industry sees as their role in STD education?
Suddenly, the promoters deemed it time to say good bye and end the conference with a reminder of he big party later that night.
Though an important statement made late in the conference, I am hoping not too late. The catch phrase of iDate 2008 has been "Niche." I am hoping next year it will be "Responsibility."
We continued the habit of going to bed on San Diego time and waking on Miami time while in Florida, and by the time we had our penultimate "board meeting" on the veranda of the hotel sipping White Russians we figured we'd spend our last day in bed until we had to check out. Our final "board meeting" was on the same veranda the next day; which we spent girl watching!