Local panel touts benefits of National Association of Realtors Conference and Expo

Every year the National Association of Realtors Conference and Expo brings a wealth of information to real estate professionals across the country. So much so that the breadth of the event can be a little intimidating to newcomers.

On Tuesday morning at the St. Louis Association of Realtors a panel of local real estate professionals summarized their experiences at this year’s conference, which was held in San Francisco. But they also promoted the event as a resource that can be beneficial to everyone within the industry regardless of experience.

The panel was mediated by Robin Haynes, manager of Prudential Select Properties’ South County Office. Panel members included Gary Lombardo, COO of PSP; Deb Campbell, PSP and 2013 CRS President of Illinois; Nate Johnson, Real Estate Solutions; and Kimberly Cameron, RE/MAX Properties West and 2014 CRS President of Missouri.

All four panelists have extensive experience attending the conference and began Tuesday’s session by promoting the event.

“It’s very valuable for me and for my clients,” Campbell said. “I can find out what’s going on before a lot of people do and that’s important.”

Added Lombardo: “It represents a one-stop shopping opportunity. It’s an opportunity to coordinate meetings with vendors and coordinate meetings with our peers within the industry. It’s very convenient for me not only to network, but to discover.”

All four panelists emphasized the importance of prioritizing leading up to the conference. There are so many sessions and so much information to take in that it becomes critical to map out days in advance what’s most essential. Johnson noted that he found it made most sense to attend the most interactive sessions, because full registrants are granted audio access to all 300-plus sessions at the conference’s conclusion.

One of the most helpful aspects of the conference, each panelist cited, is the chance to exchange ideas with professionals from all over the country and, in some cases, the world.

“Once I attended my first conference, it really took me to another level as far as my business was concerned,” Johnson said. “One of the reasons for that is you get a different perspective. When you’re in your office interacting with the same people, there’s a certain culture there — not that there’s anything wrong with that culture. But it’s often helpful to hear what people outside of your market have to say.”

The conference presents a golden opportunity to rack up referrals. Cameron explained how she organizes all the business cards she collects during the week, organizes them once she returns into a spreadsheet and follows up with hand-written notes to keep in communication. For the Midwest contacts she makes, she enters them into a drip-marketing campaign.

As Haynes put it, it’s essential to treat these contacts just like a realtor’s sphere of influence.

The panel also touched on the various legislative issues discussed at the conference, which included a change in the code of ethics in regards to gender identity, how conceal-and-carry laws apply to realtors and pending Dodd-Frank legislation.

Haynes spent a few minutes encouraging the realtors in attendance to get involved locally with organizations such as SLAR to learn about the issues facing the real estate industry and to support them in protecting the industry’s interests.

Various products picked up at the expo were shown off by Cameron, and Haynes noted how many tools are available for realtors of all backgrounds.

“There’s so much information available at this expo that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the business and doesn’t matter what you’re doing in in the real estate business,” Haynes said.

In addition to physical tools, the conference serves up a bevy of statistics and industry trends for realtors to take back to their clients. Lombardo discussed the sessions he listened to that indicated that despite a recent cooling in the marketplace and a nationwide inventory issue, confidence remains high that there will be a resurgence in the spring with interest rates remaining at 5.5 percent.

Information like that, Johnson added, is what realtors can take back and use to position themselves as industry experts.

The panel concluded with Haynes asking each member to describe what they saw as the key nugget to take away from the week. Johnson and Cameron both emphasized the importance of being exposed to a national networking base. Campbell said she came to understand the importance of using social media daily but with a local twist. And Lombardo harped on the importance of time management and not getting bogged down with too many day-to-day tasks.

The variety of the panelists’ answers to each question further affirmed the diversity of the conference.

“There are so many conferences out there that you’re inundated with invitations to, whether it’s Inman, Gathering of Eagles, RISMedia’s events and this like,” Lombardo said. “This is really all of those events on steroids. It is by far most diverse in terms of curriculums available to you from just getting into the business or even considering the business to the building of teams and expanding on a successful business plan.” 

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