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NAR Conference and Expo San Francisco 2013: 13 Tips for a Great Show

Services for Real Estate Pros with ActiveRain, Community Manager


I am SO excited to attend NAR once again but most of all because I get to hang out with my Rainers!!!  See you next week San Francisco!

Original content by Bob Stewart

NAR Annual is just around the corner. This year, thousands of real estate professionals will descend upon San Francisco from November 8th-11th to learn about what's happening in the industry, to be inspired by the likes of Hillary Clinton (the keynote speaker this year) and to set the course for a great 2014.

And you can bet ActiveRain will be there! Kerrie and I will be on the scene from November 8th-11th manning the ActiveRain booth and hosting a meet up for ActiveRain members (Meet Up details by following this link).

With a little bit of planning and attention to some important details, you can absolutely use a conference like NAR Annual to change the course of your business.

So here are a few things I have learned in the last ten years attending some of the bigger conferences our industry has to offer.

13. Wear comfortable shoes.

You will be on your feet A LOT. San Francisco is a great walking city. You can walk everywhere. On top of that, the Moscone Center in San Francisco, where the conference is being held, is big. You are going to spend a great deal of time for 4 straight days on your feet. Nothing makes an event more miserable than beat up feet. Which probably means, no new shoes. I know, I know, I'm as big of a fan of a brand new pair of shoes as anyone! Believe me, I am. But you really can't take that risk here. There will be points, come about day 3, where it seems like getting to that next session is like finishing the last mile of a marathon. You'll be tired, and all you'll really want to do is find a seat. A comfortable pair of shoes could be the difference in making that session that lands you 10 more listings next year. Bring them, wear them, embrace them.

12. Bring Plenty of Business Cards

The vendors in the trade expo have no shortage of great stuff to give away. You can best believe that someone is going to win an iPad, probably more than one person. Gift cards will be given away, free product, TV's, computers. Vendors like to get you to stop by their booth with the lure of winning something cool. In order to get your contact information so they can communicate with you about their product, they'll ask you to leave your business card. So make sure to have plenty with you.

Then of course, you'll be there with thousands of your peers. When you meet someone and you have a great conversation, that's probably the time to give them your business card. (Please don't be the person that just walks around thrusting a business card at anyone who makes eye contact) When you get a business card, it might be a good idea to grab an app for your phone that can scan them in, so you don't end up like me with a big pile of business cards in the bottom of your backpack that you are never going to lay eyes on again. 

(This one is actually a personal reminder. I've understocked the last two times I've been on the road. Note to self......bring more cards this time)

11. Map out Your Route on the Trade Show Floor

I can remember the first time I ever stepped foot on the floor at the NAR Trade Expo. I was blown away. I had no idea that there were that many companies that an agent could do business with. Each year, I continue to marvel at the number of companies and products out there for you to wade through. 

Here's the thing......some of these companies will absolutely help your business. Some of them will be nothing but a distraction. And the answer might not be the same from person to person. If I have a team and generate a lot of phone calls for my business, Better Voicemail is probably someone I want to have a conversation with. If I don't think a phone is important in my business, I probably don't need to stop and chat with them. The point is, there is something here for everyone, but not everything is for everyone.

But you should have a plan. One of the main reasons I say this is the people representing their companies at the Trade Expo are really good at what they do. I can't tell you how many shows ActiveRain has been at, where I have had 20 minutes in front of someone and convinced them ActiveRain is for them, only to never have them do anything with it once they signed up. They didn't come to the show trying to find a blogging platform to help them rank in the search engines. They didn't have an agenda at all. So I was able to convince them of something they weren't going to use in their business. 

So just think about what you need in your business. And map out some companies that might fill that need. Of course, with 385 companies doing the trade expo, you're not going to know who some of them are. You might even consider touring the trade expo on the first day after agreeing with yourself that no matter what, you aren't going to buy anything that first day. Then once you've figure out a few companies that might fit with your business, go back a second or third time and just focus on a few companies. Of course, if you need a great website or more of a presence online, we'd love for you stop by and visit ActiveRain. We'll be with Trulia and Market Leader in booth 719. 

10. Check the Schedule and Have a Plan

Just like you need a plan when attacking the Trade Expo, it's a great idea to have the conference mapped out as well. What do you want to be your focus? Is there some part of your business that you know needs a lot of help? There's probably a session (or five) that will focus on that. You can find the schedule of all the events on the NAR website. On that page, you can sort the sessions by topic or by date and find sessions that are going to help you get the most out of the conference. DO NOT wait until you get there to figure out what you are going to attend. I promise you will miss some things that you really wanted to attend if you take that approach. Spend 30 minutes prior to the event to go through the list and really determine which sessions are 'can't miss' for your business. Again, this is going to be different for each person.

Which means, if you are attending with a friend, don't get sucked into attending the same sessions that person attends. Spread your wings a little bit. If you have to go sit in a session alone, do it! The person you are attending with may not have the same challenges in their business. 

NAR does a great job finding amazing speakers to present during these sessions. Make sure the amazing speakers you get to hear are talking about things that you need help with in your business.......not talking about things your friend needs help with.

9. Have a Great Networking Question

Events like this are a great opportunity to interact with people doing what you do in different parts of the country. Any time I get out in an environment where I know there are going to be a ton of agents, I always want to make sure I have a good conversation starter. For me, I'm always interested in what agents are doing to find business. It's not uncommon if you've come across me at an event like this, that I'm going to ask you something like "tell me what's been working for you lately to generate more business".

You are in a position to learn something from just about everyone you come across at an event like this. Be prepared to ask for a learning opportunity. People might not just offer up what's really working for them, but if you ask them, most people are willing to share. You just have to ask. 

Earlier this month in Dallas I learned about a great technique for generating seller leads because I cared enough to ask what was working in this agent's business for generating seller leads. It was a very pointed question and I got a very valuable answer. Make sure that you take advantage of the networking opportunities with more than just a surface level discussion about where someone is from. 

8. Have Fun

San Francisco is a GREAT town. If this is your first time visiting, there is a TON to do. Make sure to take some time away from the conference to enjoy the town a little bit. If you like to eat (and really who doesn't?) my friend Matt over at Heinz Marketing came up with a list of some of the great places to eat while you are in the city. 

Just like with the conference as a whole, you'll probably want a plan of how you are going to enjoy the city. Pick two or three attractions that you'd like to see and make sure you get to them. Ten years from now when you look back on your trip, you'll probably remember the fun you had more than you will what you learned (unless you take note of #5 below).

The conference itself has a bunch of special events as well that are sure to be a great time. Some require that you be a VIP of some sort, while others are open to everyone. You can find the full list of conference related special events here

7. Don't Have Too Much Fun

There's lots of fun to be had at this conference (or any conference really). Many companies and organizations will be throwing parties. Some of them will even have an open bar. Just remember, what happens at NAR, stays on Facebook. Have a good time in the evenings, but don't be 'That guy'. While it probably seemed like a good idea to dance on the table with your shirt off while you were doing it........it wasn't a good idea. And it got even worse after that guy you thought was your new buddy posted the picture on Twitter. I promise you, someone between Nov. 8th and Nov. 11th will have a picture posted of them on social media that they will wish wasn't. Don't be that person.

Plus, if you have too much fun the night before, I promise the next day isn't going to be any fun at all. (At least I've been told that's the case, I've never violated this commandment before.....ha!)

6. Don't Overpack

I know you think you need to bring no less than 15 pairs of shoes for the four day event (or maybe that's just my girlfriend Erin) but make sure to leave a little bit of extra room in your suitcase. Lots of the vendors give away random things that you can take home with you. You might even decide to buy a few things either on the trade show floor, or maybe even while you are out exploring the city of San Francisco. If your bag weighed 49 pounds when you checked it in, you don't want that new pair of shoes to push you over 50 pounds and end up costing you $50 more in luggage fees on the way home, in addition to the couple hundred bucks you paid to buy them.

Or maybe you should just pack the bag completely full and that will save you from yourself. If you don't have any room to bring anything back, maybe you won't buy that crazy jade lion sculpture from China Town that your wife wouldn't let within 500 feet of the living room.

5. Find One or Two Things

If you attend a full slate of sessions during the course of four days, you are absolutely going to walk away with a ton of ideas that you could implement in your business. The reality is, though, when you get home, you definitely will not be able to implement everything. A better approach may be to pick out one or two things that you learn during the conference and make a real concerted effort to apply those things to your business.

We all have a certain way we work. Find things that you will really be able to apply to your own business. Just because it sounds cool and others are having success with it, doesn't mean you'll find the same success. Be honest with yourself about what things you could actually implement. But once you find something, focus on that one (or maybe two) things. 

Don't think that because you came home with 50 great ideas that you are going to be able to incorporate them all into your business. You'll probably do a bad job of implementing any of them.

4. Share With Other Rainers

Did you pick up some great piece of advice during one of the sessions? Did you come across a truly great product or company on the tradeshow floor? Don't forget to share with your friends. Take a little bit of time when you get back from the conference to write about some of the things you learned. Other Rainers are sure to do the same thing at the next conference they attend and we're hoping you will choose to do it from NAR. 

Part of what makes ActiveRain a great community is our willingness to share. I probably don't have to remind you to do this, but I always love to see how other people viewed something I attended, or even a show I wasn't able to make. With an event of this magnitude, even if you are able to attend, you never get to see or be a part of everything. Our shared experiences make us better professionals.

3. Arrive Early

Hoping to catch Hillary Clinton (she's keynoting)? You might want to show up a little early. Some of the more popular events at the conference will have a lot of people clamoring to be there. It's not uncommon that if you stroll up right as the event starts......that you won't have a seat (and in a worst case scenario you won't even get in the room). 

I've been at conferences where there are sessions that have been so popular that the fire marshal made people leave the room. You don't want to be the person getting ushered out by the fire marshal. Never did someone have to get up from a seat they were occupying because the fire marshal shut things down. Those people were early. The guy that showed up 'right on time' was the one that got asked to leave.

2. Download the App

NAR has put together an app that you can use to keep track of what's going on and even use to plan how you are going to attack the conference (#8) and the trade show floor (#9). Probably not a bad idea to head over and download the app for your smart phone. The reality is, many of you attending are not going to schedule a plan in advance (but if you do, you can manage it with the app) and you will need to know what is coming up so that you can decide on the spot what to do next. The app will help you a lot with this. 

Also, the registration process is all handled in the app. If you bought tickets for different part of the conference, you will pull those tickets up on the app to be scanned when entering different venues during the conference. In many ways, you almost have to have the app. So just go grab it.

1. Visit ActiveRain, Market Leader and Trulia

As I mentioned above, we'll all be hanging out in booth 719. There will be some fun stuff to win at the booth. Market Leader will be giving away a Samsung Galaxy Gear Watch as well as iPad Mini's. All you have to do is show up and take your turn at trying to unlock the prize box. You get a little key and you give it a turn. If your key unlocks the box, you win. We'll have a gift card or two to give away as well.

Also, we'll have a  learning lab set up where folks from Market Leader, Trulia and ActiveRain (me) will be doing learning sessions about all things online marketing. If you stop by our booth early, you can pick up the schedule for what will be happening in the learning lab and come back and join us. For example, I'll be doing a session about the right way to generate leads using Craigslist. There will be a ton of great sessions like this over the course of the four days. 

And if you are already using Market Leader, Trulia or ActiveRain, it's a great chance to stop by and speak with someone about any questions you may have. One of my favorite things about these conferences is getting to meet Rainers in real life and have a candid discussion about their blog and their overall online marketing efforts. If you'd like to grab me one and one and chat about your online marketing, you know where to find me from November 8th through November 11th. I hope I'll see you there.

And if you'd like to come hang out with other Rainers that will be in San Fran for the event (and I'll bet even a few locals that might not be attending the conference), Kerrie just wrote about our Meet Up we'll be having that week in San Francisco. Check that out as we'd love to have you join us for that as well!

Now Let Your Friends Know

Are you coming to San Francisco for NAR? I hope you found a couple of good tips here. Feel free to share this post with anyone you think might be able to benefit. You could reBlog it, maybe share it on a group on Facebook, Tweet about it. However you feel comfortable sharing it. And if you're not attending.......maybe we'll catch you next year!


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Posted by

Kerrie La Guardia
Community Manager


Comments (4)

Debb Janes
Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
Put My Love of Nature At Work for You

San Francisco is one of my favorite cities. So bummed I can't attend and meet all the fellow Rainers who will be attending. Have a blast Kerrie - and one of these days I hope to meet you in person. ( Bob too)

Oct 31, 2013 02:17 AM
Beth and Richard Witt
New York, NY
The best Retired Brokers !!!!

Hi Kerrie... Guess why I'm not going... Not PC to tell you I'm sure you can figure it out... Happy Day

Oct 31, 2013 02:24 AM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate Services

Kerrie,  I am looking forward to this event.  I can't wait to give you a big hug! 

Oct 31, 2013 03:41 AM
Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Clearwater, FL
Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor

I am sure you are having a wonderful time at NAR! I am way too busy to take time to fly out there.

Nov 09, 2013 01:02 AM