What an amazing backdrop to host such a conference, New Orleans, just five years after Katrina- the city was an outstanding choice for a location. This was a city ready to demonstrate its resiliency. With manicured and clean streets downtown, we were just in time to witness the city adding Christmas lights to it’s Canal district. The service in every venue we visited was above par and it seemed as if the entire city was on its best behavior just for us. Personally, I was very proud of New Orleans, and will soon visit there again.
Upon entering the convention center, the same impression continued as the entire event was supported by locals, and anything you needed was taken care of. Although the food by our standards might have been a tad expensive, it wasn’t your typical conference food, it was actually prepared by a local Chef if you opted for more than a quick sandwich.
What stood out to this observer on our first day as we sat at lunch was the hustle and bustle of Realtors working their way from one end of the conference center to the other, busy with learning things and shaking hands with familiar faces along the way. You really get a sense for what 1.2 million agents really looks like with this microcosm of such an enormous industry filled with people dedicated to their profession.
As we sat and watched, we ran into a few familiar faces ourselves, one of which was a local Realtor we know personally. He was eager to show us his agenda as if to ask for our approval. As we browsed his itinerary we saw classes like “Leveraging wordpress plugins and themes” “Customizing WordPress” “Improving conversations through optimized landing pages.” We chuckled because knowing this particular Realtor the way we do, what he really wanted was a class on “do it for me.” He, along with many Realtors, simply wants to sell real estate and barely has time for the kids. What this pointed out was that the schedule offering was essentially from top to bottom, social media and mobile included. If a Realtor was looking, a buzzword (and I don’t mean that in a negative way) was right beside them.
As we became accustomed to the facilities, located the Press Room and the Blogger’s Lounge, we were pretty let down. Typically, you get a little more than a wi-fi connection in these rooms, because you want Press as well as bloggers to write while the conference is in action, but the quiet, empty lounges were quite drab. There was certainly room for improvement here.
Throughout the rest of the center were what seemed to be endless rows of classrooms, lecture halls, and breakout rooms, and during the time we were observing, it was less than crowded in any of them- obviously, some events were higher on conference goer radars than others.
As we wandered from point to point, what struck me the most is how much time, energy and effort goes into such a large event. I heard one vendor mention he pumped out $4k for 20 chairs, and although I wasn’t able to verify the pricing, by the look on his face, his intent was to express the fact that he dropped a ton of money on a couple of chairs (he may have been weeping, but I couldn’t tell).
As we waited on Friday for the Expo to open and we waited for the big wigs to take the stage and cut the ribbon, we observed men on tall ladders to take pictures of the tortured crowd. I say tortured because listing around me was mass frustration that there even needed to be a wait or ribbon cutting, and I even heard “I wonder what NAR paid for those giant scissors?” that Vicki Cox Golder was chopping the ribbon with as she reminded the crowd of the ultimate Realtor messaging campaign “Home Ownership Matters.”
As the ribbon was cut, the crowds rushed in, and the moment was over- the Expo was officially (open and) making money- and we mean a lot of it. Skyscraping booths lined the skyline of this enormous convention hall, and it would take me roughly 1.5 hours to navigate it. It was so much, I honestly had a hard time even remembering 99% of what I saw and who I spoke with, but ultimately, I’m sure each person had an opportunity to find what it was they may have been searching for.
Needless to say, my hat goes off to all of the NAR staff. What an amazing event. Once you’ve actually attended the event you really get an understanding for why this conference must take place. It’s an enormous family of competitive professionals that need to hear, see, and touch not only what is new, but changing in the industry. The decisions, politicking, and Association business aside, the job the staff does is no easy feat, and these folks deserve a little break.
Obviously, with any conference there are negatives, but quite frankly, nothing happened at NAR New Orleans that isn’t to be expected, but what was unique was the staff availability to answer our questions.
We enjoyed the parties, mixers, and formal dinners, and all who came up and visited with us, and were so courteous and professional. As well, we say thank you to New Orleans.
Over the course of this week, we will release our conference notes and stories, so stay tuned.