So you’ve landed in Chicago, planned out your time here (see my prior article on Pre-Gaming the Conference) and you’re headed to registration. Now what?
Most importantly, know that any conference—in any industry—is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re in town for more than one day, you’ve got to prioritize what you will do and who you will spend time with. You cannot possibly sit in on every interesting presentation and hit every party or you’ll burn out quickly. Pace yourself. FOMO can be real (fear of missing out), but know that you must take in some down time and don’t double book yourself or this will be more of a chore than it’s worth.
REALTORS® attend the NAR Annual to learn about industry trends, pick up new skills, and make connections with other REALTORS® throughout the country (and world). There are no set rules or schedule you must follow when here (what to attend, what to skip). You are free to take in educational sessions, get involved with committees, or network your heart out—whatever floats your boat. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your time here.
- REGISTER EARLY. When you arrive, check into your hotel and get rid of your bags, then head over to registration at McCormick Place. Try to do this before the desk closes on the day you arrive so that you have your badge for any parties or events you may have been invited to tonight, and so you don’t have to do it at 8:00 am the next morning when the lines will be longest.
- DIVIDE AND CONQUER if you are in a group. If several people came from your company or region, don’t follow each other around in a herd and attend all the same committee meetings or all the same educational sessions. Split up. When you get back together, compare notes so that you can learn from each other. You don’t have to all travel in the herd for your time here. Take your information back to your offices to share with each other—and with others who didn’t attend.
- CONNECT WITH PEOPLE AROUND YOU. Talk to the person to the left or the right of you in a session. Exchange cards and initiate the conversation as to who they are and why they are here. It’s not that hard! REALTORS® are naturally talkative people (most of us), and if you ask them about themselves (instead of talking about yourself) you’ll open a door to what may be a new friendship. Who knows? Exchange cards and talk about where you work and what you specialize in—you don’t know what the conversation could bring in the future. You’re here to network and connect with people, not to sit quietly and observe.
- TAKE NOTES. If you took someone’s card, take notes on the back about that person and your conversation. In an educational session, take notes on your tablet or laptop. I use Evernote for note taking and also snap photos on my tablet of the presenter’s slides if I want to remember them for later.
- If the presentation was fantastic, ASK THE SPEAKER TO SEND YOU THE SLIDE DECK or notes. Some may not, but you’d be surprised how many will do this if you simply ask them afterward or email them later. Give the presenter your card and tell them you appreciated their talk. Even if they are professional speakers, many still like to hear what you thought of the presentation and enjoy hearing if you liked what they had to say.
- This is a big one: DON’T MULTITASK. If you’re in a presentation listening to the speaker, listen to the speaker. Take notes. Immerse yourself in what he or she is saying. If you don’t find yourself engaged, it’s okay to pick up and leave. Find another session that you like better. But don’t sit there on your phone wasting the hour. Be in the moment. Enjoy the people you are with and the sessions you are in. Try not to negotiate an offer while at lunch with your peeps. Do one thing at a time, and do it well. When networking, network. When listening to a speaker, learn. Return your calls and write offers later.
- DON’T FOLLOW THE HERD. Dare to step out of your comfort zone and mix with new people. Insert yourself into a new group and go to dinner or events with someone you’ve never met. Sit in on committee meetings that you’ve never been to before. Try new things and open yourself up to new learning experiences. It makes all of us nervous but the new connections you can make at these conferences are invaluable. Take a chance by starting a conversation with a stranger in line next to you.
- Finally, to follow up on #7, THE CONVERSATIONS YOU HAVE AT THESE EVENTS ARE INVALUABLE. The sessions are fantastic. The speakers are inspiring, but the connections—the real one-on-one conversations you have with REALTORS® from all over the world—will be the moments that matter the most to you. Last year I stood for 15 minutes waiting for a convention shuttle with a woman and neither of us talked for the longest time. We checked our phones and waited patiently, but we eventually started talking. It turns out she was my editor at a real estate news site I write for, and we ended up ditching the bus and taking a cab. We were able to take our business relationship to a more personal level all because we struck up a random conversation at a bus stop. Don’t be afraid to open up and just talk to the next person in line. That’s what we’re here for!