So, as some of you may be aware, both Firefly and I were speakers at the latest iDate conference in Cologne last week. Let me fill you in on the situation. First of all, I have to say a big thank you to everyone who watched us speak. The conference room was pretty full, certainly over 3/4 full. Remember, these are people who earn big bucks from their sites. We're talking CEOs of multimillion dollar companies. We're just 2 volunteers on a small site helping out those who have been scammed. None of them really had to be there to listen to us, but there they were, listening to us. The conference starts on the Monday. FF had spent a few days at my place with my family, and we set off around 8am on the Sunday. Quick explaination here. I won't fly, so the deal was that FF would fly to my place a few days before it, spend some time here enjoying the Welsh peace and quiet and meeting my family, then we were going to drive there together in my car before continuing to FF's for a few days before I would set off home again - a combined trip of well over 3000 miles by plane, car and ferry.
So, on the Sunday, FF and I arrived after a gruelling drive from my place to Cologne, a 14 hour trip that consisted of a drive of around 500 miles, a 2 hour ferry trip, numerous traffic jams and one brief wrong way journey up the autobahn. In all fairness, I'd never driven outside of the UK before, so one small slip up wasn't too bad considering. We'd booked rooms at the hotel the conference was at, the Barcelo. It took us a while to find the entrance, and ended up parking in the taxi bay while we booked in and got to our rooms before parking the car in the correct place. The hotel itself was great. Really clean with friendly, professional staff. If I ever return to Cologne, I'm definitely going to book there again. We also got the rooms at a killer price that certainly added to the appeal. It's late, but we find a KFC to get something to eat, let Mark Lesnick (the organiser) know we've arrived and go off to our beds for a well deserved sleep.
We're speaking at 11:15 on the first day, second on the agenda. By the time we manage to wake up and make ourselves presentable, the first presentation is already underway. We find the conference, get our name tags and go watch the first speaker, Mark Brooks, discussing the state of the dating site industry over the past 12 months. After that is a "speed conferencing" session. Imagine speed dating, but with the smell of money instead of cheap cologne in the air. Both FF and I took part in it, which meant we got to speak to twice as many people as everyone else. We got to make some good contacts in it, and one in particular is really useful. I won't mention their name, but they kind of do what we do here, except they do it for the dating sites and charge them for using their database. These people, and another one that runs a buying and selling site are particularly interested in continuing the conversation later. After that, we set up our system and we're ready to do our talk. We received a great introduction, at one point being referred to as "heroes" for what we do here. The audience is also told "no photos" to prevent FF's identity. The audience respects this request, so you're not going to find any photos of FF from the event. Be assured, FF was there though and wasn't just a figment of my imagination. Both FF and I were worried we'd run out of things to say and be stuck in silence for about 20 minutes, but we actually had so much to say that we had to cut an entire part of our presentation as not to overrun and cut into everyone's lunch. After the presentation, we get some very good questions asked that we answer as best we can. As it happens, one of the questions allowed me to point the person to the company that does something similar to what we do. Major brownie points for us on that one. After our session, we're approached by people wanting to speak to us personally. At least one site even wanted to use our presentation as a tool to teach their staff how to spot scammers there. So we finally manage to go to lunch, which was really good. One of the people from the other antiscam site joins us and we discuss ways to work together, sharing information. The event organiser also joins us
Now, I have to confess, a lot of the other presentations aren't really relevant to us, so FF and I both sneak out to check out the area surrounding us while they're going on, being sure to be back for the networking sessions. I actually manage to find some cider in a nearby shop, so FF and I both get in some drinks. Unlike everyone else, we're on a strict budget. Day 1 ends with us skipping the party and getting early nights ready for the next day after something to eat, a few drinks and a DVD.
Day 2 has one of the people from Facebook speaking, and we get to speak to him after it about scammer profiles and ways to get them shut down as quickly as possible. The gist is that things are being done to make it easier to get the accounts closed faster, but these things take time. The important thing is that we got to speak to him and we managed to exchange cards. The rest of the day until the final panel is spent talking to more people and "hobnobbing with the bigwigs". We also managed to sneak out again for a bit of present shopping for my family. So now comes the final panel. This is a 90 minute session where anyone can ask anyone on the panel questions. I'm expecting to be ignored, especially as there's a representative from Facebook on the panel, but there were actually a good few questions sent my way. We got to explain what recovery scams were and how much is lost to online scams each year, shocking a number of the audience. All in all, the final panel was very rewarding and I'm really glad I got to be apart of it. After this, FF and I are moving on. Hotel rooms are 5x what we'd paid for the other two nights, and as much as we'd have loved to stay another night to attend the final night's party, our budgets really don't allow it. So, we speak to some more people before putting the last of our stuff in the car and continuing on with our journey. But that's a whole other story.
Was it all worth it? Oh absolutely. We made some really good contacts in the business, got the site's name out there and raised awareness about romance scammers in front of the right people. Would we do it again? Well, let's just say that we're already discussing next year and what we can talk about. There's 3 places it could be next September, and we're really hoping it'll be London as that would be perfect for us. I also want to make sure our Powerpoint presentation is better next year as I'd never used it until I had to make one for this. Until then, it's out of the suits and back to jeans and t-shirts for us, doing what we do best - helping those who are dealing with online scams. We're also continuing to work with some of the people we met there.
If you want to see photos from the conference, you can find them at http://idate2014.com/eventphotos-cologne-2014.php
as well as a review video that includes a discussion on us at http://idate2014.com/eventvideo-cologne-2014.php