As a “veteran” of 8 or 9 NAR conferences, I’ve recently been asked by several conference virgins such questions as “What should I expect?,” “How do I cram a ton of sessions into my already-packed schedule?,” and “Should I pack extra 5-Hour Energy bottles, and if so, how many?”
First things first. If this is your first conference, take a long, slow, deep breath. You are about to embark on an action-packed adventure that will lead to some sensory overload. Just expect it and you will be much better-prepared from the start.
So, how will you survive the next few days? Here are 5 tips that have helped me through the years, and should make your life a bit easier too.
1. You can’t make every session nor meet everyone. Just accept it. I’ve tried this approach (see #2). There’s waaaaaay too much going on, and that’s OK. Focus on the sessions and contacts that are important to you and life will be good. BTW, if you are sitting through an absolutely amazing session, don’t keep it a secret. Make sure to use the conference hashtag and let me and your fellow conference-goers know about it (#NARAnnual). And hey, guess what? You will be back next year – promise!
2. Remember to plan for some much-needed break time in between conference sessions. Do not book yourself back-to-back with no downtime. Plan a coffee break, a quick run back to the hotel lobby to keep up on business or to just relax for a few minutes. Years ago I recall running into my friend Fran in an elevator at my very first conference. Fran asked me how my day was going, and I recited an agenda that would have made a presidential candidate blush. She gave me a big grin as she exited the elevator which clearly stated, “You’ll learn in due time, youngster.”
3. This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyways. Make new friends. Hang out with people that are not from your association. Networking works best when you are proactive about it. I’ve made some great new friends every year I attend, and I’ve closed at least a couple of deals a year for many years; transactions that came from the connections I made at the conferences.
4. Hit the Expo…just do it. You might be familiar with the vendors; heck they might already be calling on you. But it pays to stop in, get some face time, and see what is new and exciting in the world of real estate services. Many vendors also offer conference specials; not a bad way to save some money on something you were considering anyways. And you might walk out with enough free pens to last you until Midyear.
5. You are going to need a day off when you get back. See #2. Rest is a good thing. If you go home on Monday, tell your clients you will be back on Tuesday. Give yourself some time to catch up. Scan all of the new business cards into your Evernote database. Follow up with everyone you need to during this first week back. Put those ten pounds of conference material in a review pile but do not file it into a cabinet. (You mean you still have a file cabinet? We should talk later.)
And finally, remember to have an awesome time! You are in Orlando, land of the big mouse, after all.
Cheers and see you in a session!