I just got back from three amazing days in Atlanta at RETech South. I think I feel pretty comfortable saying that RETech South (#RETSO) is today the best wide-audience real estate conference in the country. Brad Nix and Mike Pennington, the two righteous gents in charge of RETSO deserve so much credit for the amazing job they did.
It will take weeks for me to absorb everything, but for now, here are seven things I learned at RETech South… with music videos!
1. People Who Know Know There’s A Problem
I did not know what to expect from my Call to Greatness speech. (Yes, yes, I’ll get the slides uploaded shortly… though they won’t make a lot of sense without the… ah… audio portion.) There was a part of me that thought I might get hounded off the stage. After all, I was going after a lot of sacred cows, and mentioning some unmentionable things….
I wasn’t. In fact, I was gratified by the response, not only because it meant that I didn’t have to quit working in real estate immediately… but more importantly, because it meant that there were many people who are in a position to know — CEO’s of State Associations, heads of MLS’s, elected leadership, and concerned thought leaders — who agreed that there is a looming crisis in our industry.
As the first step to solving a problem is admitting there is a problem… I thought this was hugely important.
2. The Choice Is Reform or Burn
Shockingly, I had assumed that everyone would want to talk about changing the situation, to reform the industry. Nope; quite a few people, even some who are deeply involved in organized real estate, are not afraid to ask, “Why not just let it all burn down?” Wow.
The choice is not between the status quo, and major reform. The real choice is between major reform, and total collapse. There are more than a tiny few who wouldn’t mind seeing the whole thing burn down. The challenge for reformers is to change the situation enough so as to channel the energy of these revolutionaries so as to keep the good. Else, the result won’t be silent compliance but a firestorm.
3. The Social Media Backlash Cometh
I felt it was building all along, but I think RETech South was the first actual major event at which I saw the backlash against social media take root. More than one speaker, more than one thought leaders, more than one expert was saying things like, “social media is not a silver bullet; you gotta get back to the fundamentals of service, of knowledge, of expertise.” More than a few people were talking about how they were tired of the hype, and wanted to see results. QR codes became sort of a running joke amongst the cognoscenti.
4. Conferences Are Better When In Middle of Nowhere
Gahlord Dewald taught me this. We were talking about why RETSO seemed like it was such a better conference than just about any other we had been to — and many of us are almost like real estate conference circuit riders. His answer was that it was because the event was in the middle of nowhere (at least, compared to New York, San Francisco, or Las Vegas). Suburbs of Atlanta are actually quite nice, but it isn’t as if you could hop in a cab and head to Soho or Fisherman’s Wharf.
So instead of dispersing and going our separate ways, all of us stuck around, with each other, talking and drinking and eating and talking some more. And that made it so great. Maybe Inman should consider moving the conferences to Western Pennsylvania and somewhere in the middle of Oregon respectively?
5. REFooCamp Is A Great Format for Advanced Discussions
I’ve now done two of these “alternative REBarCamp” formats, once in Austin and now in Atlanta. Both times, I felt the level and quality of discussion was superior to just about any that I’ve had about real estate and about technology than any other event I’ve been to. It isn’t for everyone, and the format isn’t necessarily perfect just yet, but I think those who did stick around an extra day to attend heard some amazing things, and experienced what it’s like when you get a group of brilliant people in a room, and start asking, “So, What Are You Working On Right Now?”
6. One Hug Is Worth A Thousand Tweets
There is a strange magic in the physical. It can’t be explained, but it is very real. I’ve met people I had built a relationship with on Facebook, Twitter, and my blogs for the first time in Atlanta this year. These are people I’ve had extended online conversations with. And yet, something happens when you shake a hand or give a hug that creates a deeper bond than thousands of words on a screen. Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you, Michael McClure, and Laura Monroe, and Mark Brian!
There’s probably a lesson in there for real estate pros too.
7. Dirty South Knows How To Party
As a general rule, real estate people know how to party. When I was in NY, I thought my peoples at Lucky Strikes Social Media Club knew how to throw down. Go out West, and the California crew can raise the roof. But seriously, I don’t know if anyone can compete with the South as far as partyin’ goes. Brian Copeland and Maura Neill, come on down and claim the crown. I’m scarred for life.
BONUS: Peyton Manning Is Married
Honestly, I had no idea. And then someone showed me the Wikipedia entry. Jeez, he keeps her off the cameras somehow.
Anyhow, a great event, great times, great learning, great BBQ, and a great karaoke throwdown. My hat is off to the ATL. Until next year, play on playa.