1. a theoretical boundary around a black hole beyond which no light or other radiation can escape.
2. a point of no return.
As someone who not only attends real estate conferences, but also is fortunate to speak from the stage as a keynote speaker at my fair share of events, I have had the chance to attend over 75 conferences in my real estate career.
Some are free to attend. Some cost some serious coin (one conference I went to cost me $7500 for three days of training). No matter the cost, one thing is for certain for all attendees: there is time spent away from your business and family, so you better make the most out of every event. Yet time and time again, I see attendees looking on social media, texting, taking phone calls, and generally… not paying attention.
I remember teaching at an event on the east coast with seven other speakers. While I was on stage, I noticed that more than 50% of the crowd was face down in their mobile distraction device. I thought it was my presentation, but speaker after speaker; the audience was engrossed in their mobile device. It’s like there is an irresistible force that pulls them away from their main focus – the real estate event. That force just so happens to be the reason why we can’t even talk to each other anymore and has made the younger generation incapable of having a face-to-face conversation.
So when real estate professionals make the decision to step away from their business, spend money and time to be at the event, travel distances to attend, why are they so unfocused and why do they even waste time attending?
For those that are attending a real estate conference or seminar this year, here are some of the things that I do to make sure I have a successful conference experience and able to make the most out of my time away at the event:
BEFORE THE CONFERENCE
PREP YOUR CLIENTS: Do yourself a big favor – tell your clients that you will be attending a conference in your town/out of state/Timbuktu and that during the day, you will be checking your voice messages throughout the day. Unless it’s an emergency (i.e. house is on fire, buyer’s loan fell apart, sellers wants to end listing agreement because they don’t like you), you’ll be returning all calls and emails during the lunch break and after the day’s activities. There is no reason for you to be running in and out of the room when you are furthering your education.
ASK SOMEONE TO HELP: Clients don’t like going to voice mail. If you prepare correctly, you can ask for assistance from someone in your office, or even a fellow agent that you trust from another firm. They can assist in showing homes, delivering documents, etc. You don’t need them to take over all aspects of your business. You just need them to do some of the light assistance you might need while you are in session. If someone expects to be paid for these types of activities, consider instead being able to return the favor while they are in training.
BUY A PORTABLE CHARGER: Have you ever see those agents sitting on the floor next to a wall outlet while they charge their phones? You’d think it was the first time they ever had the battery drain on their phone. Don’t be a wallflower – buy a portable charger. I found one on eBay for under $20. It allows you to charge your phone from your conference seat, instead of hugging the wall like you did at your 8th grade dance.
CREATE YOUR OWN CONTACT ON YOUR PHONE: Add yourself to your phone just like you would with any other contact. I’ll show you how this helps in the next section.
BUY SOUNDNOTE: If you don’t know what this app is, it’s a great iPad/Mac app that allows you to type notes while the app simultaneously records audio while you type. You might say, “So what, Imran?”. Well, this also allows you to be able to move the cursor anywhere on your typed notes and it will automatically fast forward/rewind to the audio that was recording the moment you were typing! Wow! (Not available for other devices, sorry non-Apple users)
DURING THE CONFERENCE
GET THERE EARLY: There is no such thing as fashionably late to an educational conference. I love getting a seat up front. You don’t have to be in the front row, but near the front is optimal. It allows you to be fully engaged and tells people, “Don’t bother me while the speaker is teaching.” When I speak at conferences, I always make it a point to talk to the audience before we get started. I’ve met some really great agents – most of them in the first few rows.
GET YOUR CONFERENCE PAID FOR ASAP: Depending on the distance of the event, you are most likely going to run into agents from a number of different areas outside of your service area. When I attend a conference, I bring at least 100 business cards. It’s my mission to put those cards into the hands of attendees, along with a smile and a little bit about me and where I work.
“I’M OUT OF BUSINESS CARDS”: I know I just told you that you need to carry business cards, but I’d like you to start getting used to being “out of them”. This allows you to say, “But I can text you my contact info. What’s your cell number?” That way you can text them your contact profile (see above). Now you have your info in their phone AND you have their cell too. Then… “find” your business card. Building a database of great referral agents is easy if you think in terms of chess – not checkers.
PARTICIPATE: As a presenter, I am drawn to those that speak up and participate. I know I have spent extra time helping them during breaks and sometime even after the conference. Showing you are paying attention and showing that you are engaged in the subject is a great thing. Also, there are a lot of potential referral partners in attendance as well. I can’t even count how many times I walked up to someone in the hallway to introduce myself after I heard them add valuable input during the conference. It’s a great way to show others you are an expert in your area.
COME HUNGRY FOR KNOWLEDGE AND DON’T BE A KNOW IT ALL: We’ve all seen it. The guy or gal that insists on challenging every speaker. They tell war stories about “this one seller” or “all my buyers”. They seem abrasive even though they think they are educating the crowd. These types of attendees are… just… ugh. Don’t be one of them. Disagree with a speaker? Feel free to not do what they say to do. Find a technique not your cup of tea? Then don’t do it. Other attendees paid good money (or spent time or both) to hear the speakers – not you. If you have a relevant comment that can enhance the conversation, then go for it. If not, don’t turn into a “Me Monster”.
AFTER THE CONFERENCE
FIND SOMETHING YOU WOULD PUT TO USE RIGHT NOW: Most people will do absolutely nothing when they come back from conference. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Pick one item you will implement immediately in your business. I would suggest making the decision of what you will be working on before you even leave your seat and calendar it.
SEND THANK YOU/GREAT MEETING YOU NOTES TO YOUR CONTACTS: You met a ton of people at the conference – speakers and attendees alike. Be different and actually thank them for the time they spent with you – no matter how much or little time it was.
OFFER TO SHARE AN IDEA FROM THE EVENT AT YOUR NEXT OFFICE MEETING: When people see you off at “another conference”, they actually don’t know why you go. You know why! That’s why you are the ever-evolving real estate professional. Share with your office one tip (not the very best one – that’s yours!) you think may help them. An agent might find that tip useful in their business and before you know it, you’ll have a partner wanting to go to the next event with you.
INFORM YOUR CLIENTS ABOUT WHAT YOU LEARNED: I don’t care what profession it is; clients want to know that the professional they hired is always trying to better themselves so they can provide better service. It’s okay to share that you learned new way to communicate, or a great new software application that you’ll be using soon. If you feel embarrassed about sharing that you are bettering yourself as an agent, then use the same courage you used to make your clients pose in front of their recently closed home whilst you take the awkward photo with them.
These are just a few tips that can help you be more productive at your next conference. I believe in spending 10% of all my working days in some sort of training. Always be a student. Your thriving business is depending on it.