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Mark Your Calendars … RE Bar Camp Bismarck

I Don’t Get It

Does anyone else remember the seen from Big where Tom Hanks is in a development meeting at the toy company, listens to an entire presentation with a quizzical look on his face and then says simply, “I don’t get it?” If you do, then you can understand my current feeling with the wave of RE BarCamps building across the country. Bismarck’s not on the official list but it can’t be far off …

There’s a fundamental flaw in the RE BarCamp setup … not BarCamps in general, but the real estate version: the purpose of a BarCamp is to have an “unconference” conference where there’s no set agenda and all of the discussions develop organically. Except without an agenda in place, it’s difficult if not impossible to decide who the intended audience for these events might be.

Are they designed for more seasoned tech-savvy real estate agents? If so, there need to be discussions at a somewhat higher level than for those who are paying Active Rain to blog because they haven’t figured out that WordPress is free.

Are they designed for these newbies? If so, how do you get the more experienced agents to participate and help these others grow? (Maybe I’m the only one but I’m soooo DONE with blank stares from agents who never will adopt any advice I provide. But hey, it’s not like I’m closing a couple of deals a month strictly through the Internet so what do I know …) I realize I’m not supposed to ask what’s in it for me, but what’s in it for me – especially if I have to travel either across state lines or into a different area code to attend?

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Lending a Helping Hand

I’m not against attempting to help the newbies but at some point these people needs to take the initiative and do something with what they’re told. Because if they aren’t then they’re wasting both their time and mine. And unlike Mr. Hand, I can’t show up at their house on prom night to reclaim the minutes of my time that were wasted in a futile attempt to enlighten.

And so I’m back to square one … am I the intended audience for these events or not? If I’m not, then why keep urging me to tell everyone about the event through my Facebook account? Why not spend the time trying to get those who aren’t online to attend … actually I know that answer. Because they probably won’t.

When NAR decides they’re going to announce who was hired as Social Media Manager at a BarCamp, does the event even belong to the agents anymore? (If you’ve read a similar sentiment recently it’s because I’m in agreement. I’m now going to go take a Silkwood shower.)

Everyone seems excited to have one of these and I’m not sure they’re even sure why in some cases, except to say “hey, we had a BarCamp.” You don’t need a BarCamp. You need a curveball … I mean closings … right, Meat?

Hey Bartender

To be honest, regardless of whether I’m who is being targeted, call me when the drinking starts. Because what I’ve found is I learn more with a drink in my hand at these events (and also at my former brokerage’s happy hours) than I ever learned in the designed sessions (or training classes).

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Written By

Jonathan Dalton is a Realtor with RE/MAX Desert Showcase in Peoria, Arizona and is the author of the All Phoenix Real Estate blog as well as a half-dozen neighborhood sites. His partner, Tobey, is a somewhat rotund beagle who sleeps 21 hours a day.



  1. Ken Brand

    February 24, 2009 at 7:42 pm


    Sly and thin sliced sarcasm? You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish. Horses to water….. “Mr. Hand and Meat”? Prom? Silkwood shower…

    Yahtzee for you.

    What’cha drink’n sir?

  2. Ben Martin, Va Assn of Realtors

    February 24, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    I don’t disagree with anything you’ve written, but I’ll answer “No” to your question: when NAR shows up, does it really belong to the agents? They just want to participate.

    By their very nature, BarCamps defy definition, and a phrase I’ve heard repeated with respect to BarCamps is “Whoever shows up is supposed to be here, and whatever happens here is supposed to happen.” That kind of environment can be unsettling, especially if your Myers-Briggs ends in a J.

    I’d say, no, you’re not the audience, in the sense that you’re not going to learn a whole lot at a BarCamp. You might get one or two new tricks. But you ARE the audience in the sense that you have a lot to offer to others, as you’ve noted. And I guarantee you’ll find that “whoever shows up” at BarCamp won’t glare back with an empty stare.

  3. Linsey Planeta

    February 24, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    I’ve never been to one and I’m looking forward to the one in LA. I’ve had some of the same confusion about the audience for the event. But hell, I’m happy to get together for that drink too. It’s about the connections and, like you said, that always seems most meaningful during cocktail hour following.

  4. elodie

    February 24, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    I’ve been to an open presentation where the topics selected by the vocal members of the audience were much too advanced for the rest of us. We all wanted to participate, but were too ill-equipped.

    In my experience, the disadvantage of an unconference setting is that the bullies control the event.

  5. Dale Chumbley

    February 25, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Coming from one of the people helping put on one of these events, I can say I’ve thought these same things. Who is the audience? Who will attend? Who will share? I believe (after experiencing it in NYC) it will all happen organically.

    My hope is we will have some who travel from out of area (hopefully prepared to share their knowledge since most of them are fairly well versed in the SM world). Hopefully we get some of the locals who “dabble” in the SM world (because frankly, most of them stink at it) and I hope we get a good turnout of people who want to learn about this world that those of us here use & flourish in on a daily basis. We’ll be hitting the streets and going to office meetings personally inviting them since most of these people will never see an invite on facebook.

    Thanks for continuing to challenge the thinking and helping us to refine why we do what we do.

  6. Chris Griffith

    February 25, 2009 at 6:16 am

    I am now counting on the “what is gmail?” question at every panel I sit on. Maybe I should make it a game and start bets with the other panelists. 🙂

  7. Andy Kaufman

    February 25, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    You’re right JD, you might not be the intended audience and if you determine that you’re not, it’s no big deal, we’ll still love you anyway.

    The BarCamp model borrows from Open Space principles in that, the intended audience is whoever comes & whatever happens is the only thing that could have.

    You could teach/lead a session on something that you’re an expert in and build some social capital with the next generation of knowledge hungry professionals.

    Don’t feel like doing that? Why not organize an advanced session so that you can talk and share secrets with your peers at a level that 95% of the attendees won’t ever understand and truly geek out IRL.

    If you don’t want to do that, why not hang out, pop in and out of sessions or talk to people in the hall all day? Who knows what you might happen.

    I’ve done them all and can say I’ve benefited from doing all three.

    You’ll get the most out of RE BarCamp if follow the law of two feet: If you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet. Go to some other place where you may learn and contribute.

    Finally, the movement has never ‘belonged’ to agents. Its for whoever is interested in real estate and wants to gather and share in an open environment. You’re the intended audience for RE BarCamp if you want to be.

  8. John Wake

    February 26, 2009 at 2:31 am

    Hey Jonathan, I can save you some money.

    Skip the BarCamps and let’s go straight to the bar.

    I’ll buy the first round. Can your car make it as far east as Desert Ridge? (I know Scottsdale’s out.) Hell, I suppose I could go to Arrowhead Ranch if you buy the first round… and maybe some appetizers.

  9. Matthew Rathbun

    February 28, 2009 at 10:22 am

    There are times when we’re against so many things, I often wonder what we’re for….

  10. Jonathan Dalton

    February 28, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    I’m easy, Matthew …

    I’m for skinning cats, paying my mortgage and anything that will allow me to do both with some dollars to spare.

    Increasingly, I’m finding it’s my own hard work and not the search for miracle cures that’s allowing me to do that.

  11. Matthew Rathbun

    February 28, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    I really did mean “us”… I am more guilty than most at warring against things.

    In this case, I think that any learning and sharing opportunity is good. The REBARCamp is a catalyst to the social part of social media. There will be plenty of bar time 😉

    But, I get your broader point in that we shouldn’t depend on any one single source to be magic beans.

  12. Kim Wood

    March 4, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Hi Jonathan!
    Although some I’ve recently attended are not set up like the Bangin’ REBCSFO in 2008 – the premise is…. learn, share, contribute… if you aren’t happy with the session(s) you’ve attended – go start another one ! I have learned something at each of the 3.5 BarCamps I’ve attended. Yes – lots of learning happens ‘after hours’ as well !
    With plans underway for REBCPHL – we are also focused like Dale said, on thinking, “Who?” “Why?” and “How do we target market to them?”
    It’s all about sharing – most may not carry out the information shared – but hopefully some will.
    Of course…. like most things….. Bar Camps aren’t for everyone, but give it a fair shot – each one will be different. Guaranteed.

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