9 Tips for Surviving a Real Estate Conference
As a real estate conference goer myself, both on the real estate side and the vendor side, I want to share with you my tips for getting the most out of your experience.
Before I began at eMerge, I was the assistant to a nationally recognized top producing real estate agent. I was responsible for simplifying marketing processes and finding new solutions and software to help us close more deals. Fast forward two years and a college degree later, I'm now on the "other" side of the real estate industry. Instead of finding solutions for the real estate team I was on, I now work for the solution for real estate agents and teams.
My experience in the real estate industry has helped me at eMerge, not only with client relations and understanding firsthand the real problems our software solves, but my experience also helps me when it comes to writing for the eMerge blog. What I'm trying to say is this isn't your average "book your hotel early" or "research the area before you go" list of tips. This is a list of tips from someone with experience on both sides of the coin and I hope you walk away with a few things that you haven't heard before. If you have an insider's tip or anything to add, share it with us in the comments.
TIP #1Getting the most out of your real estate conference means networking with people you know will be there weeks before you leave. Following the official Twitter account and checking in on it for updates doesn't count. I mean real, solid networking with the people that are talking the most. And it's easy! Just find the official hashtag of the conference, and join in on the conversation going around it.
NETWORK BEFORE THE EVENT
For example, the National Association of Realtors conference is less than 100 days away. On their official Twitter account, it is showing that the official hashtag is #narannual.
When I clicked on the hashtag, I noticed that the conversation going on around the NAR conference is scarce, but as the date approaches and excitement picks up, so will the conversations. But even almost 100 days out, you can still reach out to a few and start building relationships with like minded folk. The whole point is so that you have people to connect with when it actually comes time to attend the conference.
For the people who have been to the NAR Conference before, follow the same suggestions above to meet new people, but also reach out to the people you met years previous and make plans to connect again.
TIP # 2You need to be where you can network most effectively. That's not happening if you're staying at the hotel 10 blocks away to save a buck.
STAY IN THE HOTEL THE CONFERENCE IS HELD
TIP # 3If you want to get the absolute most out of your conference experience, don't eat meals alone and don't eat with just your coworkers. Find someone new to drag to the dinner table, or make plans for breakfast in the morning to talk business. Encourage each person to invite one or two others to broaden the network. Your goal should be to make 10 new contacts per day. After all, everyone has to eat.
DON'T EAT ALONE
TIP # 4Yes you read that correctly. Exchange handshakes before business cards if you want to get the most out of your conference experience. Are you trying to build relationships, or your database? For the business cards you do collect sort them into two categories: the people you plan to follow up with for specific business opportunities and those that don't require an immediate next step. Sometimes there is also a third "who the heck is this person?" list. But hopefully there aren't too many of those.
DON'T COLLECT ALL THE BUSINESS CARDS YOU CAN
Personally for me, I'm more likely to keep up with you if we exchange Twitter handles than business cards. But that's just me!
TIP # 5The best experience I had at a conference is when I ditched the thoughts of my group and made my own choices. I attended the conference they way I wanted to and ended up getting so much more out of it. Some of the best sessions are the smaller crowds or the ones that happen way too early in the morning.
DON'T FOLLOW THE HERD
The structure you find in your conference materials is simply a guideline. Don't follow the herd, and instead find the topics that interest you the most and go to them.
TIP # 6One of my strong suits is the "day bag." As an avid conference and music festival goer myself, I have it down when it comes to packing a back pack with just enough to get me by without weighing me down. You know your coworkers that don't pack a bag because they plan on picking up a free swag bag when they get to the conference? Yeah, don't be that person. It sounds like a disaster. Nonetheless, here's my normal checklist for day bag when I'm going to a conference:
PACK YOUR SURVIVAL GEAR
Not every place with take plastic, so bring a little cash so you don't get in a pickle.
You may not have time to stop at a water fountain or a convenience store for a drink, so pack either a refillable water bottle or multiple bottles of water in your backpack for the day. I usually pack 3.
Depending on your schedule, you may be going a long time between meals. I always pack a light snack for between meals and a protein bar in case I have to skip a meal entirely.
External battery pack + cable
I own two external battery packs for when my phone starts to die. Why? Because if my phone is dead, my entire conference experience might as well be dead. There are some pretty good options on eBay, and this $5 one is my favorite.
We know you're wearing new shoes you haven't broken in yet. Don't be the miserable person walking around with a limp because the blister on your heel is so bad. Bring band-aids!
Bring every business card you own with you on the trip and grab a handful every morning. Don't be "that guy" without business cards. Every time you have an opportunity to exchange a business card is an opportunity for business. Please defer to tip #3 if you feel the need to hand out every single business card you own.
Ladies: comb and touch up
There's a pretty good chance you won't have the opportunity to go back to your hotel room to freshen up before dinner one night. Bring a comb and a small bag of makeup to touch up before dinner.
TIP # 7 Evernote is the app you want to record all of your sessions. You can create a new file for each session, plus record an audio file and take notes all in one app, on one screen where you can reference it later. Download for your computer, iPhone and Android here.
I am terrible at remembering things. If it isn't written down somewhere, then I will forget it ever happened. Here's a snapshot of my notes from when I heard Patrick Ferry speak at the NAR 2015 Conference. I've got my notes and the audio file tucked away in a notebook called "Education and Webinars" under the note called "NAR 2014 - Patrick Ferry." Talk about organized! This is something I can go back and reference at any time, without having to dig through notebooks that actually might be in the trash already.
TIP # 8I want to share with you something that has greatly impacted me, that I learned from the marketing director of the real estate company I used to work for. At the end of the day, after we had soaked up all this amazing information from the talented speakers, we would go around the group and each share our "ah-ha!" moment, the one takeaway of the day that inspired us in such a way that it turned on a light bulb. It really helped us to retain the information that day and learn what stuck out to others in the group.
TALK ABOUT THE "AH-HA!" MOMENTS
TIP # 9After the conference, when you are back at your office, take some time to review your notes. Pick out all of the "ah-ha!" moments, the thoughts you circled with highlighter, the ones with big stars next to them, and transfer them into real, actionable tasks. I like to use the task management app called Todoist (links to http://todoist.com) which allows you to label the tasks under projects and subcategories.
My favorite thing about going to professional conferences is that the the majority of the people attending are as passionate about their careers as I am. The opportunity to be inspired by others is just as exciting as the keynote speakers, and most of the time has greater impact on my personal and professional growth. My hope is that you can take this list of tips and get the absolute most our of your conference experience and that you'll come by the eMerge booth at the next real estate conference and give me or one of my awesome coworkers a high-five.
BY CHELSEA THOMAS
POSTED ON 08-11-2015