Shining A Spotlight On My Blind Spots

“Another conference? You want me to go to another conference?”

That was my response when my friend Sherry Chris, who runs Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate (BHGRE), pitched me on going to Inman Connect almost 10 years ago.

I was already attending about six or seven national events a year: Realty Alliance twice a year, RIS CEO Exchange, Gathering of Eagles, The NAR Convention and now that we were with Sherry’s franchise, two brand conferences a year.

That’s roughly 25 days away from the office every year, and now Sherry wanted me to go to Connect too?

“OK, when is it?” I asked.

“August.”

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“OK.”

“And January,” she added.

“Twice a year! Another two conferences every year? Seriously, how much conferencing do we actually need in this industry?”

Turns out we need all of it. And maybe Connect most of all.

Here’s why: In our industry (really in any industry) it’s so easy to lapse into a conventional way of thinking about what you do. You wake up in the morning, you go to work, you put out fires, you churn through your week. Maybe you find a few hours once in a while to think about your business, to get outside your modality … if you’re lucky. But it doesn’t happen that often because you’re so busy living your life.

That’s what I think those 20+ conference days every year are about — giving you a chance to think, learn and get inspired.

All the conferences on my yearly schedule do that for me. I go to Realty Alliance to find out what the top brokers in the country are doing. RIS Media’s CEO Exchange is an invaluably intimate confab with the leading executives in the country. Gathering of Eagles reflects the perceptive analytical mind of its founder, Steve Murray. NAR provides an essential update on what’s happening throughout the industry. And Sherry’s BHGRE conferences are a way for me to engage with and learn about my own brand.

They all educate me, inspire me and give me new ideas. That’s why I go to all of them.

They all share one particular commonality: they see the world the way I see the world. They all share the perspective of people who are vested in the success of what I think of as the “traditional” real estate industry — agents working with brokers and helping clients buy and sell houses for commission.

Connect isn’t like the others

Those conferences attract brokers and agents from all kinds of shops, using all types of business models, while reflecting the sensibility of people who depend on the enduring success of that traditional industry.

But Connect is different.

Connect doesn’t have that kind of rooting interest. If anything, Brad Inman delights in bringing people to the Connect stage who challenge every “traditional” belief we have. He’s not rooting against the industry per se … he’s just intensely curious about what’s going to happen next.

You have a startup with a whole new business model? Tell us about it!

A direct-to-consumer play? Take the stage!

A technology that you think could upend everything? Show us!

Connect isn’t safe. You don’t have anywhere to hide. If you have a deep-seated fear about the future of the industry, Brad’s going to expose it, rub salt in it and then stand back to see how you react.

Let me put it this way: Connect is the only conference that ever gets me angry. Literally angry. As in, “what the hell is Brad doing putting this numbskull on the stage?”

And, frankly, I’m right most of the time. That startup over-promised. That direct-to-consumer play fizzled. That technology did not upend anything at all. That’s how attempts at disruption work — most of them fail.

But once in a while, we see someone on the Connect stage who does, in fact, change everything.

And that’s why I need to be at Connect. It’s not just about the networking, or the technology, or the content. It’s that Connect reflects the skeptic’s perspective that I don’t share, shining a spotlight on my blind spots, showing me the challenges I can’t even see. It’s disconfirming information that exposes my confirmation bias.

Indeed, the very people who get the most irritated by Brad’s contrarian takes on Inman.com are the ones who absolutely have to be at Connect. They need to get outside their comfort zones, their safe spaces.

More importantly, it’s fun. All conferences reflect the unique sensibilities of their founders, so Connect has this quirky side where you can find out why we might soon be able to live for 1,000 years, or what we can learn about client relationships from dating sites, or stuff like that.

And on top of all that, you never know when you might see a man reunited with his family for the first time in 17 years, live on stage!

I’m actually afraid to miss it. Connect pushes my buttons. It challenges me. It sometimes makes me angry. But Connect helps me see where the icebergs are, so I can plot my course around them. And that’s a lot better than blissfully — and blindly — crashing into them.

SAVE MY SEAT

Want to connect with Joe? You can find him on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Joseph Rand is the chief creative officer of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate — Rand Realty, a real estate brokerage in New York City’s northern suburbs, and the author of the forthcoming book Disruptors, Discounters, and Doubters: Five Key Changes the Real Estate Industry Can Make to Improve Client Experiences and Protect our Future.

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