Blow up your comfort zone: RETSO REFOCUS is the re-imagined conference

Services for Real Estate Pros with

In January of 2008, my friend Andy Kaufman announced an idea to bring the unconference to the real estate industry. RE BarCamp was born. I didn't quite understand what it was, I just know I wanted to ba a part of it. Months later, after a lot of work, I started having serious doubts. I mean, it's a conference with no schedule. No pre-determined speakers. NO RULES. It was anarchy. I bit my toungue and trusted Andy that it wouldn't be a complete disaster. In the end, Andy was right. The event was a huge hit. Soon the attendees of the first RE BarCamp decided to host their own REBC's. First in Houston, then in New York, then all across the world. This was a big lesson in working outside my comfort zome.

What makes them great is that the content was sourced from the crowd. They are collaborative, hands on, and outside the comfort zone of a passive audiance. They are the opposite of a typical conference. But for all the reasons they're great, sometimes, it makes them kind of suck. They are also an opportunity for bad actors to steal the stage. They fall flat when the facilitator in the room doesn't know how to engage the crowd. Finally, they can feel disjointed. There's no overall strategy you can walk away with no overal conference content strategy to make the sessions fit together.

Please understand, I helped create the RE BarCamp movement. I love it, and I'll participate in them in the future. But what if you could capture power of crowd collaboration and FOCUS it? That's what RETSO REFOCUS is all about to me. Attending RETSO REFOCUS means you will be part of the collective brainpower that enables the audiance to walk away with a gameplan for the future. But instead of the anarchy of the unconference, RETSO is building the infrastructure that allows guides tha audiance through the event. 

I'm excited to be a part of this by coordinating RETSO's Robot Teams.

Each team is an independent group of 3 to 5 people seeking to challenge the status quo by creating extremely innovative business models. Each Robot Team will be assigned a specific niche within the industry. In addition to working on their individual business model, they will work together to design a second business model for their niche that will inspire the audience. Speakers will randomly request a Robot Team Leader to stand up and present the current work from their team throughout the day on Thursday. Each team's work will be highlighted during the RETSO Recap on Friday.

Here's a list of teams and their leaders:


Agent Robot Team - Maura Neil

Broker Robot Team - Heather Elias

MLS Robot Team - Sara Bonert

Association Robot Team - Nick Kremydas

Lender Robot Team - Sarah Stelmok


That makes you the perfect candidate to join a team. We're recruiting team members over the next week. Let us know in the comments if you want in.


Register for REFOCUS here.


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Bob Stewart
ActiveRain - Seattle, WA
ActiveRain Ambassador

I look forward to seeing you there Todd. I am actually excited about attending to see what I can learn and apply for ActiveRain. I'm sure any real estate agent in attendance will get great info but for me it will be about applying these concepts to ActiveRain.

See you in two weeks in Atlanta!

Mar 20, 2013 06:14 AM #1
Jordon Wheeler
The Jordon Wheeler Group - Fairburn, GA
J W Group Real Estate Sales and Service

Hey Todd,

I will be at RETSO as well - courtesy of Brother Bob.  Looking forward to the event.  Have an awesome day!

Mar 20, 2013 08:53 AM #2
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

That is so cool.  I've been to a couple of ReBar camps, and they were awesome.  I'm sure the Retso Refocus will be amazing, too.

Mar 20, 2013 07:06 PM #4
Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

I attended RETSO last year and unfortunately my experience wasn't a postive one.  The sessions were many of the same people we see at every conference with little new to say about the industry.  I learned more from working with a group of other attendees I met through social media sitting at our hotel than I did from any session at the conference.  I do hope the conference has "refocused" back to getting true practioners on stage and leading sessions.

Mar 20, 2013 11:07 PM #5
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

Interesting. I kind of imagine the ReBar camps as a giant cocktail party.

Mar 20, 2013 11:21 PM #6
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

I too attended last year and felt vendored to death and got my best/only take aways from lunches and patio after sessions.  And I totally agree with Cindy, if you want ME back, then you better get some folks who are actually in the trenches, running brokerages day to day, building their own websites, converting and working their own leads (and I'm NOT talking about the "team" concept either where someone claims oh so big numbers and 100 agents are actually selling those 300 houses).  I will always prefer to learn from others in the business, not who have left the business and are running around making bunches of money selling "what worked for me" when they would obviously not be out of real estate if it had worked so good.

Getting down off my soapbox now.


Mar 21, 2013 01:14 AM #7
Jeanne Dufort
Coldwell Banker Lake Country - Madison, GA
Madison and Lake Oconee GA

Tammy - guess that answers my question about your thoughts on the value proposition!  Thanks.

Mar 21, 2013 01:44 AM #8
Elisa Uribe Realtor #01427070
Golden Gate Sotheby's International - Oakland, CA
Opening the Doors to California Homes -East Bay

I just heard about it the other day through a vendor but still wasn't sure what it was. Can't make it to Atlanta but it sounds great!


Mar 21, 2013 02:20 AM #9
Larry Story
Total Care Realty - Greensboro, NC
Total Care Realty, LLC, Greensboro, NC Real Estate

I have been to many conferences, Raincamps, Rebar camps and such.  More and more I do notice that they have become commercialized and we are bombarded with sales pitches and not honest "this is what is working for me RIGHT NOW"  Not years ago when you did real estate.  As I know I quote from Jack Black in The School of Rock: Those that can't do teach and those that can't teach coach.


Mar 21, 2013 02:45 AM #10
Thom Abbott |770.713.1505 | Intown Atlanta GA Condo Living - Atlanta, GA
Midtown Atlanta GA Condos For Sale

Well, since I was in the same patio sessions as Cindy and Tammy...I will concur. 

When RETSO first started, I walked away with headaches of all that I learned. I'm all about the occasional motivational speaker, but I need tools and tips that I can take home and apply and make my email box light up and my phone vibrate like....oh wait....that's for another thread!!

I'm headed to another meeting with like-minded peeps that will say "You all have to see this __________(fill in the blank!) I've been using this tool and it does this for me and my business. Or, see this plugin....look what it will do for your Wordpress site. 

RETSO needs to evolve to a Freshman, Junior and Senior level track so people can land where they need the most. I don't need blogging 101, but I might need a session on how to take my business to the cloud so I can work better and get more business.

Mar 21, 2013 05:05 AM #11
Elva Branson-Lee
Solid Source Realty GA - Atlanta, GA
CDPE - Atlanta Real Estate & Short Sale Agent

The real estate climate is changing as we speak. I checked out the website for this year's event and it sounds very interesting and unlike the pitchfests of the past. I hope to see some of you there, and expect to come away with a streamlined focus and clearer game plan for taking the Best Atlanta Short Sales Team into the next season.

Mar 21, 2013 07:31 AM #12
Lehel Szucs
All Seasons Real Estate, Inc. - Covina, CA
REALTOR of choice

always something else for us to attend and do and py for ... you know ... when I first started nthis business 11 years ago someone told me that the people that really make money in this business are the people that sell stuff to us ... 

Mar 22, 2013 04:33 AM #13
Debe Maxwell, CRS | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Homes for Sale - Charlotte Neighborhoods

Todd, I've attended RETSO all 5 years.  In the beginning, it was fabulous; later, I realized that my focus group was WAY ahead of what was being pitched at the conference.  Last year had to be the worst.  First of all, agents who don't sell ANYthing were treated like royalty, while those of us who DID have knowledge to share, were treated like second class citizens!  No kidding!  I, for one, was a bit offended but, quickly ran off with a group of like-minded, active real estate agents (and I'm talking agents who actually SELL $15M+ per year!).  We learned more in the few short hours that we spent together than during the entire RETSO. 

I adore those guys down there but, unfortunately, they are being deceived by some agents whose stature in the industry is merely through social media and doing little or nothing (as far as sales) in their respective areas.  What I didn't like about it was classes being led by some agents who are 'thought to be' on the cutting edge and when listening to them sharing their knowledge, they were light years behind what is REALLY needed in this industry!  YEARS, not singular either.  It is then deceiving to those in attendance who 'want' to be like those agents and sad when the newer agents try what those agents are 'selling' and it doesn't work for them.  I like to see success come out of these conferences and am no longer seeing it!  

Okay, so I'm off of my soapbox now too!

I will say that networking with those folks at RETSO truly is what helped me in the early years--the classes did then as well.  That is THE best part of the conference!  Learn from those truly in-the-know and openly share YOUR successes.  There are some wonderful folks that I will miss seeing this year and I hate that I won't get to see you as well!

Mar 23, 2013 09:44 AM #14
Eric Michael
Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI - Livonia, MI
Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519

Last year was my first experience with RETSO and I agree 100% with Debe, Thom, Tammy and Cindy, so I won't need to rehash what they said. I know RETSO is being promoted by saying it's totally new, or refreshed or whatever, but I'm gonna skip it this year. Hopefully, the reviews of it afterward will make me upset that I missed it, but will also cement that I need to make it a point to go next year.

Plus, I paid $50 for it last year. This year, even using a discount code, is $250. I drive down from Detroit. Gas isn't cheap, Todd :)

Mar 26, 2013 09:55 AM #15
Elva Branson-Lee
Solid Source Realty GA - Atlanta, GA
CDPE - Atlanta Real Estate & Short Sale Agent

I attended RETSO Refocus and thoroughly enjoyed the event, although many others did not share my enthusiasm. I never attended before and only expected what the promoters promised. So it worked out for me and I posted about it here:

Apr 09, 2013 01:43 AM #16
Elva Branson-Lee
Solid Source Realty GA - Atlanta, GA
CDPE - Atlanta Real Estate & Short Sale Agent

P.S. I still loved the BarCamps best, and miss them.


Apr 09, 2013 01:44 AM #17
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