MERGE! 2018 – My personal experience after attending the conference

I attended MERGE! 2018 in Orlando, for the second time that the conference took place.

Attending a local event isn’t necessarily an advantage, when one commutes daily to the venue. I spent 45-60 minutes on average getting to the Hilton in the Disney area. I’m certain that those who stayed at the venue hotel, enjoyed extended sessions that I could not attend, along with a more relaxed morning routine.

One thing I liked at this year’s MERGE! was the layout of the session rooms, which were adjacent instead of spread out like last year. The hotel’s lighting was great, providing ambience. We could have used a bit of a background music during the networking sessions.

The main exhibits wall area was about 3/4 covered by event sponsors and corporate participants. Due to the room’s size, it felt as if there were fewer exhibits this year, and indeed that’s the case. GoDaddy was there, along with,, Escrow Domains, Sedo, Dot .CLUB, Bodis, InternetX and others.

Overall, the number of attendees was smaller, although I’ve no exact numbers to compare it to last year’s event. I saw quite a few domain investors that attend every domain conference, due to their involvement with the industry, and I did come across several people I hadn’t met before.

The conference’s agenda was extensive and well presented. The speakers truly knew their stuff, and although the conversations and moderation was excellent, I felt that the audience did not participate as actively. The exception being, Larry Fischer’s “Registered Or Not?” game, that was really fun to be a part of.

When attending domain name conferences, there’s a fine balance between overly active, packed events, and the ability to establish contact intentionally or through random meetings and conversations. If things were measured by numbers, MERGE! 2018 was definitely far from being a NamesCon, which I did not attend this year. From my personal experience, when an event is overly packed, the venue needs to offer expanded space to accommodate a flow of visitors that require private space and discussion spots.

For the businesses that attended MERGE! 2018, the event seemed to be focused on b2b versus end-user customers. I’m certain that during the regular hours and at the hospitality suite events sponsored by, lots of discussions led to enhancing or establishing new business between industry players.

What I got from the event’s relaxed atmosphere was the ability to hold actual conversations with other participants that lasted a while. I got to know some of them better, than on the surface of domain investing. I was able to understand their personal motivations, aspirations and learn about their lives, sharing my thoughts. That type of engagement isn’t possible at an event attended by hundreds or thousands.

It is clear to me, that MERGE! 2018 made a good effort at presenting its participants and sponsors with an agenda that focused on the domain industry, and expanded on other interests such as blockchain, content management systems, advertising, security, law and entrepreneurship.

By skipping my stay at the Hilton venue, I definitely missed out on the vibe that those who stay at the hotel experience, as a lot of engagements occur outside the scheduled conference meetings, and late at night.

Event co-founders Jothan Frakes, Howard Neu and Barbara Dillman-Neu along with Ray Dillman worked hard to present everyone with lots of opportunities to engage in business, and I appreciate the press pass that I received for the event.

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