It’s here! The 2017 REALTORS® Conference & Expo is here and while the official dates run November 3-6, some attendees are arriving early to take in pre-conference classes and meetups. Well over 20,000 REALTORS® are expected to descend on Chicago in the next week, so here’s a quick list of what to do to make the most of the experience.
- Review the conference agenda online. Before you get here, map out a list of the classes or committee meetings that interest you the most. NAR has a conference app you can download to make planning your schedule easier. You can also add personal items into the app, such as coffee meetings or dinners you have planned. Schedule the important stuff first, and fill in the gaps later.
- Orient yourself to the city and where your hotel is in relation to McCormick Place conference center. Map it out on your smart phone and plan your transportation. Are you taking the L from the airport to the hotel? Will you use an Uber to your dinner on Thursday night or can you walk? Take some time to drop a pin on the map at the locations you plan on visiting so you know where you’ll be and what type of transportation you’ll need. The conference has shuttle buses to the official hotels and the conference center, but you may need alternative travel arrangements for other meeting places.
- Find out who’s going. Network and use your social media accounts to find out which of your friends will be attending, and when they are free to meet up. With over 20,000 people at the conference, it’s very hard to locate people when you want to find them unless you plan in advance. I sent Facebook messages to a few people who I know I want to spend time with so we can get it on the schedule. Planning to just “run into” a friend may not work so well when there are thousands of people in the same place. Let people know when you are arriving and which days are best to grab lunch or a cup of coffee.
- Set your out-of-office reply and designate someone in the office to help you out while you’re away. Yes you’ll have your cell phone with you and you can still do some business while here, but that’s not always practical. Let people know you’re away and who they should contact in case of an emergency. Have someone back at your office take over your files temporarily if at all possible. Your buyers and sellers still expect you to be somewhat available if they have a crisis, so plan several times a day (morning, lunch, evening) that you will return calls. You don’t have to pick up at 2 pm when you’re in a session, but let people know when you will be available to talk.
- Don’t forget the gear: phone chargers, cables, and even a battery pack. Phones die at the most inopportune times. Of course they do! I carry all the cables I’ll need in my backpack during the day, along with a power bank. There should be places in the Expo where you can charge up, and some of the rooms will have outlets you can quickly plug into if necessary. Carrying your own gadgets makes life less stressful.
- Bring a bunch of business cards. You’ll want extra cards to toss in the vendor booths for giveaways and if you are interested in a product. People you meet in sessions may ask for your card, and you never know what these interactions will lead to as far as referrals in the future. Don’t be stingy on the cards. Give them out – that’s what you had them printed for in the first place.
- Check out the vendor list and map out a plan. If you have a list of exhibitors you want to talk to find out where they are in the expo hall and make a point to hit them first. You may not have time to go back later in the week, so make a list and target those booths early. Then you can make a full sweep of the vendors afterward after you’ve talked to your target list.
- Before you go, reach out to specific groups of people and arrange meetups. I like to plan a lunch or mixer with a few small groups during the week, to be sure I have time to talk to some of my favorite people who I only see once or twice a year at these events. Reach out and include a few fresh faces to keep it interesting. Pick a coffee shop or bar near the conference center or one of the major hotels to make it easy on the attendees, reach out and message a few people who you’d like to invite. You don’t have to plan this far in advance. I’ve done it on the fly and messaged a group that same morning to meet up in the afternoon, and whoever can make it is welcome.
Make the most of this week in Chicago – and I look forward to seeing you there!