I love the tagline of our annual conference this year…Rise to New Heights. It reminds me that attending an important event like this is somewhat like getting a bird’s-eye view of the larger picture of all things in relation to real estate. It is the one place where everyone can converge, trade information, learn about new products and services, and network with other like-minded individuals. What better way to increase your knowledge base and further your career.
I am the first to admit that I have gone to the REALTORS® Conference & Expo before. In fact, this year is my fourth time. I have gone twice to Orlando, Florida and this will be my second trip to San Francisco. Both coasts offer a completely different feel and experience. But one thing is consistent – what you get out of it is equal to the energy you put forth. Having a game plan is so important to the overall success of your conference experience.
Like most women I know, I usually pack a bit too much. My normal thought is that I would rather have lots of clothing options to choose from. I am willing to lug my suitcases all over the country to ensure that I will be prepared. This concept usually works for me with one exception. San Francisco is a game changer. Because we are going to San Francisco I don’t want to be schlepping heavy luggage on the BART like I did the last time. So, I bit the bullet and packed ahead of time to see what I really needed and what actually fit. What about that one dress/suit that I might wear just in case? It has been in my closet for years and I never wear it, so why would I think that by chance a magical event will happen and I will need it? I have tendency to also bring too many shoes, when what I really need is no more than four pairs of shoes. It should be a priority to bring a few select outfits than can be interchanged. A warm coat, good walking shoes, and an umbrella are essential if you plan on doing any walking around. As they say, victory loves preparation.
I like to arrive a day in advance. To me, getting the lay of the land makes the trip easier. This can help with jet lag, lodging, transportation issues, and any eating disruptions. (Do you like airport food?) A fresh day to explore the area is good for your psyche. It helps you acclimate. It also makes it easier when you do get busy at the conference not to have the nagging feeling that you are missing out on sightseeing. There is so much to do in San Francisco, believe me. It is better to try and hit a few highlights at the beginning of the trip than to hopefully get to it before you leave.
This year I am relying heavily on the 2013 REALTORS® Conference & Expo app on my phone. This mobile app can sync with your online event planner, which is a great tool. On the dashboard, you have at your fingertips, to name a few – a map of all locations where events are happening, speaker, sponsor, and exhibitor info, links to social media, Conference Live, the weather forecast, transportation, tours, and conference and expo guides. One crucial place to look at is the conference schedule tab. You can search by day, track, audience, or topic. This app is where you can find just about everything you wish to know about the convention.
When you arrive at Moscone Center, plan to check in at registration first. It is located in the South Hall C, Exhibit Level. Friday is the grand opening of the expo, which is in the North and South Halls A, B, & D, Exhibit Level. I love going the first day to see what new products and services companies have to offer. In addition it does help to pace yourself and there are a ton of contests that you can enter as you walk through. Remember, bring more business cards that you think you need. Most will scan your badge for entry and for any requests you have to receive more information about their product/service. You will hand out your cards to those who don’t use the scan gun and also hand them to other REALTORS® for networking purposes. If you are like me, you seem to acquire stacks of business cards after a conference from folks that you have met, but can’t remember much about your interaction with them. It can also be a lot of work to enter their info into your database. To solve this dilemma, I prefer to use an app on my phone called CardMunch. It scans in the cards that you are given and enters the info into your contacts. It also lets you connect with them on LinkedIn. It even displays the date you scanned the card and lets you add notes about how you met them or what you spoke about. Then, you can give their card back to them. The whole process takes less than 30 seconds and usually the person whose card I scan in turn asks about the app. This creates goodwill with the other person.
Each day brings a new opportunity to attend different events. Do try to take advantage of many of the hundreds of classes that are offered. The education provided is top notch and the instructors are experts in their field. Even if you aren’t on a committee, seek out one that interests you and attend the meeting. Most are open to the public and they are a valuable resource to see the internal workings of what goes on behind the scenes. There are so many interesting things to do and entertainment options included with your admission. The general session and keynote is a must. In addition, I love to attend the always popular REALTORS® Got Talent and the celebrity concert. This year’s concert performer is Foreigner. Some designations have their own networking events or awards banquets. Believe me, there is something for everyone.
I guarantee that no matter what event, class, session, banquet, or meeting you have during this coming week, you will get something out of it that you will be able to use back home at your place of business. The NAR staff and volunteers for the 2013 REALTORS® Conference & Expo have worked all year to make this event something worthwhile. I encourage you to explore the many different options that you will pick for your schedule. Try to think outside the box. Now is the time to reach beyond what you know and discover some new ideas, meet new friends, and enjoy your time with those fellow REALTORS®. Trust me, this year will be the best one yet.