TEMPE, Ariz. - The Phoenix Forum celebrates its 10-year anniversary this week with a renewed focus on launching, maintaining and advancing business.
Presented by CCBill, the adult webmaster convention takes place Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 2- 4 at the Tempe Mission Palms.
"What we've done in the past is focus our Thursday, which is pre-show day, on newbie education. With this year's programming, we continue to do that, but take a view of optimization as a whole for all our participants," said Laurie B., vice president of education and marketing for CCBill. "We're focusing education on emerging opportunities and optimizing opportunities.
"In this industry, one of the things that have always been prevalent is that when a new technology or marketing model comes into the environment, culturally it becomes shut down or embraced very quickly. We tend to be on the forefront of both those areas, and with the downturn in the economy, companies are looking for ways to maintain current levels of revenue and business models," she continued. "So, it's become ever-more important to focus on these two areas. Thursday, more or less, will focus on new business and ideas for current business, while Friday and Saturday will focus on these emerging opportunities and optimization for them."
CCBill's conversations with its many clients helped determine panel topics.
"VOD stores will be covered, tubesites will be covered," Laurie B. said. "The economy will be focused on, not solely as an indicator of business health, but also as a kind of underlying conversation piece.in a large number of seminars. So what we're trying to allow for is a little bit of strategy discussion - a looking-forward version rather than just a tactical discussion on what's taking place right now."
The Phoenix Forum has changed and grown during the past decade, with CCBill stepping in to present the show in 2001.
"We took it over in the second year of the show; the first year it was called the Southwestern Webmaster Gathering and it was hosted by an industry veteran named Big Bear," Sherri D., CCBill director of special projects, told AVN Online.
Attendance will be down this year from 2008, but a large turnout is still expected.
"My first year, 2002, we probably had 250 people at the time, and it has grown exponentially since then," Sherri D. said. "Our largest attendance was last year when we were at 1000-plus. With the economy being what it is, this year will be a little smaller, but we'll still have roughly 700 attendees at this point, week from the event."
So what makes The Phoenix Forum stand apart from numerous other adult industry shows? Sherri D. believes it comes down to it truly being a webmaster show.
"The spirit of The Forum is really very intimate; it's kind of like summer camp in a way. Everyone talks to each other via the Internet and they really get to visit with friends they talk to all year long that way," she said.
The show's success comes from avid sponsorship and satisfied attendees.
"It's a lot of work and it's not our core business. We do this secondary and out of love in a lot of ways," Sherri D. said. "We put a lot of feeling into it and we get a great response. And our sponsors put just as much into it as we do. We have loyal sponsors, who come back year after year and they're very generous. Attendants come back because of that and the hotel's hospitality. We want to give back to out sponsors, put value in their investments and give attendees an experience, not only learning some things, but mingling with peers."
The Forum's combination of structured and unstructured gatherings has also brought it popularity.
"It's very much a networking event," Sherri D. told AVN Online. "We don't have exhibit halls and all that. There are some structured networking events, like sponsor meet-and-greets where they have little tables and activities to encourage our attendees to visit them.
Sherri D. also credits the show's longevity to a personable approach.
"The Phoenix Forum goes beyond the business and really does embrace the industry and despite of all the growth, I think we've done a great job of keeping that intimate feeling," she said. "That's because it's hosted by CCBill, which is a family-owned company, started by our president, Ron Cadwell and his parents, Frank and JoAnn. People knew them. They showed hospitality in a personal way, knew people by name. Ron's sister Stephanie is also very involved."
Despite the economy, which has hit everyone, Phoenix Forum's 10th anniversary won't be ignored.
"We're sponsoring a 10th anniversary party taking place Thursday evening," Laurie B. said. "We do a welcome party every year. Ron typically gets up and thanks the sponsors individually and gets them up on stage. It's a way to spotlight our sponsors. Historically, we were able to operate this show with just sponsorship dollars up until two years ago. We put them in a position of great gratitude for allowing us to produce this event. As it became cost prohibitive and event attendance continued to grow, we began to charge for registration. Even with that, Ron likes to get up at the welcome event and thank the sponsors and attendees."
"We're throwing a big bash Thursday later in the evening, in an area of the show called The Abbey, which is an indoor and outdoor venue," she said. "It's going to be a big party, a celebration. There might be a surprise or two. But we want it to be a scenario where it's just kind of a celebration of the event."