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ARE CONFERENCES RELEVANT IN TODAY’S SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD?

I just returned from the Summer Conference held in Los Angeles. There was a good turnout of nearly 800 broker owners and managers. The sessions were very good with a great exchange of information on office management procedures, recruiting and new technological trends that will affect our business.

Beyond the sessions it was obvious that many of the delegates were networking and sharing ideas on office management issues and concerns. Similar to all RE/MAX conferences the true benefit in attending a conference is in the face to face networking and sharing of ideas. However, is that still the case? Has social media replaced the need for people to personally gather to achieve the same results? Over the years we have witnessed a steady decline of membership participation to all conferences.  By the way, this trend isn’t unique to our organization, as all industries are having the same experience.

As a conference organizer we then have ask the question of relevancy. In the past, our tried and true convention attendees responded loudly and clearly that we must continue, yet, numbers continue to slip. The upcoming Canadian Conference in Quebec City is a prime example. As of my writing this blog today, we are seriously below attendance expectations. So much so that we are questioning the overall viability of the event and will have to make a business decision.

What are your thoughts? Has social media replaced the need for conferences? Are people no longer interested in such events? Is it communication and awareness; is the membership even aware of the conference?

Please let me know your thoughts by posting a comment.

Elton Ash ABR CRE
Regional Executive Vice President

RE/MAX of Western Canada (1998), LLC

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9 comments

  1. Shawn Jacula says:

    Hi Elton,

    Your blog brings up an important topic for sure. The conferences for me have been an important part of my real estate career. They provide me with the opportunity to meet industry members and involve them in my online social network to keep in touch. However seeing them once a year is a great re-fresher and opportunity to discuss ideas and markets without the computer screen.

    I am not able to make it to the conference in a couple weeks due to conflicting events; however I do look forward to Victoria. Although, I just reviewed the layout and it seems condensed from past conferences. I wanted my whole office to attend but with the lack of sessions I don’t know if they will see the true benefit in traveling to Victoria. I know it will be beneficial for them, but reading the agenda I don’t think it is enticing enough. Or does it just appear that way since one evening of entertainment that can allow for networking was removed?

    For me, I see the value in attending the event as is. I have built a great network of friends in my RE/MAX family and want to continue to expand that.

    sj

    • Elton Ash says:

      Although the Victoria agenda may look as though there is less networking/free time, we have built the schedule to actually give more time for face to face networking. Really the only thing we cut out was a second key note speaker, which will be reflected in the registration cost of the conference. We really want to emphasis networking and direct learning opportunities from within our own membership.
      We also tweaked the agenda to give the chance for sales associates to get home in time to conduct weekend business or to take advantage of the weekend for a break.
      We look forward to seeing if this new formula works well or not. It is always good to test ideas and see how they work.

  2. Chad Allard says:

    The biggest problem isn’t that people are socially networked in general, it’s that the information that they need usually is readily available SOMEWHERE online. Either it’s on a blog, in a social network post, on an extranet site (such as Mainstreet), or coming directly from an email either from corporate or the broker who obtained the information one of those same ways.

    The information is out there big time, and I think a lot of people are hesitant to go to conferences, not because they’re on social networks, but because regardless of whether they go or not, the information will get to them almost instantaneously anyway.

    So one of the issues is that no matter what is said at a conference, they’ve heard it before or will hear of it shortly either way. The information isn’t important enough to invest the time and money. There’s nothing hidden about conferences. Yes, people come back and say “____ was a really great speaker!”, but it matters not when the topic that person was speaking about is accessible through YouTube or Facebook or on a Blog.

    Ok, so people are getting the information elsewhere. What is the conference still good for? Networking is a big one, a sharing of ideas that does NOT happen via social networking, and the entertainment aspect.

    Well entertainment I can get anywhere, including online sources as well, and I’m easily amused, so the networking (and shared ideas) is really the ONLY thing that would draw someone like me out. People do share things at a conference amongst peers that they would never share via social networking or even via email. There are things that just have to be explained one-to-one because us humans are a very visual species. We need the visual interaction and communication.

    So video conferencing is the way to go then? Not entirely. Again, the technology limits the amount of communication we can do, and people generally tend to be more uncomfortable and less relaxed in front of a camera than they are in person as well. Surprising when we would do video conferences in our office with the broker traveling overseas, there would be those in the room who refused to be on camera. It’s just not personal enough, and is far from relaxing….. don’t let me get to the technical issues involved either.

    So for me, there’s always going to be a need for a personal connection in order to share ideas honestly and openly, and to enable people to network properly.

    Is this required? Yes, I think it really is. Does it have to be grandiose though? Not so much. For all the bells and whistles that are thrown in (which, remember, I can get elsewhere) and the price associated with those bells and whistles, it’s a lot of time and money to invest in a handshake event.

    One of our brokers has gone to several different conferences and is also attending the Quebec conference. They ALWAYS come back with some very useful information and always tell us how much they enjoyed it, but I don’t think I would be so easily sold on it.

    So with all of that said, does social media replace the face-to-face networking? No, however if that’s the only reason that people are spending money and time to go to a conference, I think the agenda would have to include MUCH more to make it worthwhile. The kind of things you can’t find online. The kind of information you can’t find any place else.

    RE/MAX as a whole is constantly getting information pushed out to the members. It’s almost too much information shot at the members! There’s so much of it, that we have no use for a conference which would just repeat the same information to us that we were already blinded with via email, twitter, mainstreet, blogs, websites, etc..

    These are just my honest opinion.

  3. Keith Schultz says:

    Hi Elton,
    Cancel the conference. The registration numbers speak loudly.
    Conferences need to morph into something that resonates with the realtors. The number one reason to attend a conference, in my mind, is the personal face to face contact. In the hierarchy of communications the most credible is face to face, next is the telephone, then email; after that there is no credibility. Social media has nothing to do with it. Although I am very tech savy I personally do not like to use social media; in particular I tell people not to text me as it is annoying and has little credibility. I have attended many conferences. There is a real buzz. The main reason I attended is to work the referral market. I found over the years that the quality of referrals declined. The worst was outgoing referrals. Even with money in the bank referrals the closing ratio with other agents was only 15%. So at $2,000 and several days of my time the conferences weren’t worth attending. The agents to whom I sent referrals were very lax, did not keep me in the loop, did not listen to the clients (that was the feedback), and failed to make a sale or listing, and did not inform me.
    Conferences are still relevant. Make them shorter, one day is fine. Skip the interminable awards show, maybe recognize the top ten. Have the realtors say a few words (and let them know ahead of time what is expected). Spend some money on the initial presentation during the first hour. I remember one presentation called The Third Wave years ago with earthquake quality sound. One year they gave away a new car just like The Price is Right (it was a Pontiac); OK that was over the top, but the excitement was evident. Is entertainment necessary?? I don’t know. Change the format perhaps, and start earlier, say 6 pm so realtors can mingle. It doesn’t have to be musical entertainment that precludes talking. Comedy, dinner theatre, ice cream. You get the idea.
    The get togethers I like the best are the local fall events. The RE/MAX Recharge. It’s quick and it does recharge.
    I would be interested to know the referral statistics from the realtors’ perspective. How many received, how many sent, how many closed and how many not closed, from personal knowledge of the realtor (that is, not leadstreet or office duty referrals or other low quality referrals). If this area improved I personally would go back to attending conferences.

    • I’ve received four referrals in the past year from AB and even within the lower mainland. 2 were handled fast and successful within a few weeks. One was a tougher sale, hence the sellers were buying at the peak, but we did get the job done and the sellers have moved, thanked me and the referral agent a ton for our hard work, hence it wasn’t easy and the fourth one was a buyer referral, who didn’t get the financing even after having been pre-approved prior to us starting at homes.
      So I guess it’s not the quantity of referrals you send or receive, but it’s the quality of relationships you have with the other agents.
      I absolutely love referrals and it just wouldn’t feel right to not work 110% for the people which were referred to me by a FRIEND!!!! When you have this type of accountability because of a great relationship you can be sure that sent referrals will lead to success and you will do everything in your power to close received referrals everytime.
      Just a thought and personal experience…

  4. Jim Gordon says:

    Hi Elton,
    Dave and I always plan to attend at least two RE/MAX conferences every year and we have done this for most of the 25 years we have been involved with RE/MAX. We make a point of attending so that we can bring back new relevent information to our associates and we encourage them to go and we want to lead by example. We have never returned from a conference without some new relevent information and the relationships you build cannot be duplicated. It would be a huge loss to see the conferences cancelled. They will never be the same though without Trevor.
    Jim Gordon

  5. Hi Elton
    As I see it, social media has it’s place. It is great for initial, casual business connections. However, nothing beats meeting and talking face to face. Nothing. This is why our RE/MAX Conferences are so important to our business. After being with RE/MAX now for about 20 years, each rally or convention I attend is like being at one’s high school reunion! It is a great way of saying hi to old friends and making new ones. Social media, after meeting a colleague at a convention, provides a good way of reminding our expanding Realtor referral network that we are still around and love to work referrals.

    Regards,
    Bruce Dougall
    RE/MAX Kelowna BC

  6. Hi Elton,

    I’ve been with RE/MAX about 8 years now and have started my career with RE/MAX of Bavaria. When I reflect on the many conventions I attended, I realize that these conventions are the reason for where I am today. Without conventions, I wouldn’t have found the necessary motivation (2004 when I started I went to a german speaking convention in Lucerne, CH and saw about 1000 german speaking agents) I desperately needed to overcome the hard times of starting a career in real estate.
    My first international convention in Vegas 2006 was phenomenal. I’ve been travelling a lot prior to that event, but sharing such a great event with friends and co-workers was amazing. I’ve gained many friends and am still in contact with most of them.
    The most influential convention was 2008 in Vegas. I met Ron, my Broker/Owner. At that time I still lived in Germany. I had a great business going on. Ron and I started talking over a cigar and twenty minutes later I was taking the necessary steps to move to Canada.
    Despite the fact, that I love the place where I’m from, I’ve started a new life, new business, new adventure in Canada.
    Without Conventions I would have never gotten to know Ron and many other wunderful friends. Since I started my new career here in BC, I’ve attended 3 more conventions and I’m looking forward to the convention in Quebec. Oh, and I also receive referrals on a regular basis from agents I met at conferences. One can’t build the type of relationship that is being created face to face other than meeting people face to face.
    Social Media is a great way to keep in contact, but it doesn’t replace the need for agents to develope relationships face to face in any way.
    I’m looking forward to many more conventions with many more relationships to be discovered and can’t wait to see friends (old and new ones) at the upcoming conventions in Quebec, Victoria and Las Vegas.

    All the best,
    Frank Heitzer
    RE/MAX All Points
    Coquitlam, BC

  7. Hello Elton,

    I am a huge advocate of the RE/MAX conferences. As a trainer and mentor, I encourage the new licensees to get out to the conventions and meet realtors to do referral business with. It is one of the strong points of being branded and makes one stick like glue to the brand. The thought of leaving to go to another company would be an expensive one because of the referral relationships that I have built over the years. I believe that many markets are soft and have been for almost two years now. Many Realtors are watching their pennies and will attend their regional conference and not a national one. I attended the Quebec Conference at the Manior Richelieu about 5 or 6 years ago and it was fantastic. I would so like to go to Quebec this year, but have other commitments. I will be in Victoria for sure. Maybe the answer is having a national conference only every other year or every 3 years like the Banff Western Connection. I believe that face to face time, networking at conferences is part of our Brand and it should continue and evolve. The first two nights of conference are like high school reunions, I so look forward to reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones as well. It is part of our strength as the RE/MAX brand.

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