It’s Good to Be Back: The Return of the Human Element and CRE

We’ve been on a massive roadshow for the past 12 weeks and it feels like we’ve seen a lot of you! We thought we would take some time to reflect on what it means to be back in person after an entirely virtual 2020. It was a whirlwind tour, but we were excited to see how many stakeholders in the CRE industry have adopted virtual business and the trend of a more flexible and convenient workplace is here to stay (in our humble opinion). That being said, it has been quite a welcome experience for us to be back in person.

They say you don’t miss things until they’re gone. I would bet if we polled our industry at large, a majority would say they love going to conferences but the process is exhausting. It’s hard to miss something when you get into a rhythm year after year. Well, 2020 hit and we got to experience what it’s like to have many things taken away we often took for granted. Personally, I missed the human interaction of our business most.

As a former broker, commercial real estate has always been practiced as supremely relationship driven. From my earliest days being mentored by Herb Jackson (god rest his soul) to my current venture with @Otso it has been abundantly clear how important it is to connect with people in our business. Not just clients and “winning” business but all the spheres of influence around us. There’s a quality of interaction and modicum of remembrance that being together, breaking bread, sharing stories or a laugh that just cannot be replicated by Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams or any other of the apps we’ve been jumping back and forth between for the past year or two.

Conferences can easily be maligned. They’re expensive, difficult to get to (travel), can be hell on your feet, and often can feel repetitive if you’re hitting them back to back. We’ve been to 10 conferences in the past 12 weeks though…and not a single one felt repetitive. Sure, they’re hard on our bodies. Sure, they’re still expensive. However, I found myself actually excited to see people I had not seen in months or years. I’d talked to them plenty of course…but shaking hands and sharing meals is a different level.

We’ve got more success out of the past 12 weeks than I can remember. I credit an enormous amount of that to just being able to truly meet people. You can feel the excitement in the room. We just visited SIOR this past week, and the deal-making and energy were palpable. At IOI Summit in August, the Pitch Battle was electric. Both companies and attendees were so jazzed to put names to faces and get scaled feedback on what they’re trying to grow. CREi Summit (first year they offered it) was unbelievable. There is just something about being together, sitting down, and listening to each other (in the same room) that just can’t be replicated.

Not that Zoom or Virtual Meetings are bad! We’ve found them to be a much-needed lifeline and use them heavily even now. However, if you’ve been to anything in person in the past few months you know what we’re saying. You can’t replicate the same level of emotion, feedback, and energy that a group of like-minded and driven individuals from all backgrounds create…together.

So, what did we learn so far this 2021 conference season? Here are our tips after covering 8 states and 10 shows in the past three months.

-Be prepared. Mentally and Physically. You will walk a ton (wear comfortable shoes) and have your quick pitch down. People are excited but it’s a frenzied atmosphere so move respectfully but efficiently.

-Cards are back! Biz cards are still hugely useful and many in our industry prefer them to apps and virtual sharing of information.

-After hours. Many deals get done after the main show. Set dinners and breakfasts so you can maximize your attendance. Lots of people who would not normally meet are there!

-ASK for meetings. There is zero point in attending if you don’t plan on working the conference, hard. Lots of conferences have apps or lists you can mine in advance. You should have meetings set before you step foot in the event center.

-Smile! People are happy to see you and there’s nothing more human than a solid smile. People do business and hang out with people they generally like, so wear that smile.

-Set goals. Conferences are just the beginning, you’re laying the foundations for a future relationship with attendees and sponsors. Don’t expect to meet and close the deal in a 15-minute span.

-FOLLOW UP. Last but most important, follow-up. If you have a massive stack of business cards use apps like CamCard and Contacts+ to ingest the business information into your CRM. Then do the work. The first 2 days back from a conference for me are almost always follow-ups. Write personal notes and individual emails (no mass emails!) If they asked for a call, call!

Remember, being in person gives you the opportunity to form a very human thing…a potential connection with someone. Honor that. Following up is the simplest and smartest thing you can do for folks and it shows you respected their time and remembered them. After all we missed in 2020, who doesn’t want to be remembered?

Onwards and upwards as always. LFG.

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