“The conference business when it works, is one of the most highly profitable businesses that is legal.”
“The more I charged, the more people came.” It’s a credibility thing. In telecom, its corporate money, take as much as you want (its not individual money). With competition, someone always wants to outspend another in sponsorships, etc.
However with a waning economy in 2010, the 140conf charged $140. EBITDA is poor, but you get folk. Inspiration for these lower prices came from Fred Wilson’s post about conferences.
He didn’t start out with a professional conference/event management firm. He built conferences based on the ones that he had attended before.
He never pays for speakers (with one exception: Scott Adams). He gets paid $40,000 per speech. He does occasionally cover travel costs. He has sponsors from hotels so accommodation is usually taken care of.
Very open about his numbers, earnings, business (he had many including a record label), failings, etc. in his interview. Well worth a listen if you have the time.
Parting thought: you have to occasionally reboot your buddy list. I can agree – different friends take you thru different parts of life.