NAR 2008 – It’s a Wrap… and it was pretty interesting!

(This is one of my longest posts ever! Good for a weekend read…)

When you are building a brand from the ground up, you can’t do it without receiving feedback. What better place to get feedback than at the annual NAR conference where you have a captive audience of some 20,000+ REALTORS® to talk to?

I have been attending this conference for at least the past 15 years.  I still remember my very first one. I just couldn’t get enough of it… the amount of information was staggering to me, the number of participants amazed me. I planned each and every session I would attend in advance, circled all of the trade show booths that were of interest, and visited them all. In later years, I began to speak at sessions rather than attend them and, for a few years, did not even make it through the tradeshow doors. Priorities change, and people get busy being busy.

This year, I made a commitment to myself to begin to do things differently. To take time to speak to the agents, the brokers, listen to their stories, ask for feedback, and attend education sessions. Be with the people. What I learned was very interesting and validated my thinking about the future of the business.

Wednesday evening: I ran into several people in my hotel lobby. Brokers commented on continuing to pare back, right-size yet still look for strategic growth opportunities. MLS executives asked for feedback on their own business models, offered help. Refreshing.

Thursday morning: I had breakfast with a group of women, some of whom were attending the Women’s Council of REALTORS sessions that day. We talked about the future and what it would look like. We talked about it being the era of the consumer, and what we need to do to educate our agents to meet consumer expectations — to be an agent of the future. Validating.

Thursday evening: The LORE / Real Trends Top 200 agent dinner was elegant and sophisticated. The cream of the crop – best of the best was being honored. I was pleasantly surprised at how humble and grateful everyone was. These are people who found ways to excel in challenging times, but want to make it clear that they couldn’t have done it without the help of their broker, their brand. Are we becoming a kinder, gentler breed? I like it.

Friday morning: I presented a case study of the BHGRE launch to the group at the Bloodhound Unchained conference. It is exciting to meet in person some of the people I only know online through the various social networking sites. It feels like I have some new friends, and I am impressed by the passion of this group, the eagerness to learn and absorb. Being at this event reminded me why I love this business.  I am energized.

Friday afternoon: I presented at NAR – my topic is about networking, with the emphasis on social networking. It’s a “how to” for broker owners.  I will write a post on this next week and share some of the slides. It was great to have some old friends in the audience, as well as new ones! I am feeling supported.

Friday night: The infamous RISMedia Power Broker Dinner takes place. It’s an invitation only event – open to only the largest companies and sponsors. I had decided to invite some guests who would never have attended in the past. We sent out invitations to people we are working with, potential strategic partners, people interested in the future of the business;  in the end, and for fun, I sent a message out on Facebook and Twitter, extending an invitation to online friends to attend. A number of people responded.  It was fun. Alex Perriello won an award, and spoke about his “Save the Dream” initiative.  Brokers in the audience followed up, asking for information on how to participate. Feels like we are all on the same team. For the first time.

Saturday evening: During the several receptions we attended, the mood was what I would call encouraging. People exchanging ideas and offering to help one another. People reaching out to each other in a sincere, not superficial, way. Another reason why I love this business. I am encouraged.

Sunday afternoon: I position myself at the BHGRE booth for the afternoon, all by myself. Many people stop by, some looking for jobs, some interested in the brand, others just to talk. It was a great afternoon. People are responding to the brand.

Sunday evening: I join the masses at Universal Studios after having dinner with some Canadian friends. It has been a long time since I actually went on the rides… what fun! But running into and taking the time to talk to many, many people was the highlight of the evening. And everyone had a lot to say.  Everyone is searching for answers. Looking for leadership.

Monday: One last trip through the trade show, and l notice that NAR has changed their color to green. Are they copying BHGRE? Being green is good.

Major takeaways to share:
•    We have entered a new era, the era of the consumer. They have access to all of the information. Our role will not be changing in a few years, it has already changed. Everyone needs to know that.
•    Agents, for the most part, have embraced this and are looking for ways to implement the new model to service consumers. Agents are looking for leadership.
•    The education sessions were jammed – everyone looking for the secret sauce to help make them successful now and in the future. Unfortunately, not many of the sessions addressed the present and future of the business. As brokers, make sure your agents have access to education and information to help them with the real estate industry now, and how to service the new breed of consumer.
•    Agents are ready and eager to change, without question. They are not only looking for leadership, they will embrace it wholeheartedly. This is my biggest takeaway.
•    Broker owners are worrying that agents do not want to embrace change, and are fearful of taking a risk in this market. My note to brokers – you must change to ensure the future success of your business.
•    Thanks to technology, the lines of communication are completely open. As a broker owner or agent, be sure to take advantage of this as much as you can. It is called collaboration. The next wave of buyers and sellers are upon us. They are here now and over 70M of them are under the age of 35. Remember that. The success or failure of your business depends on it.

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