Something has to change

I don’t know who it was, but a very wise person once said, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” This statement seems very apropos to the real estate industry conference scene right now.

November 9-12 was the NAR Annual Conference and Expo in Orlando.  I attended every NAR Annual from 2007-2010.  I even spoke at and lead sessions a few of them.  Heck, I helped to plan the very first NAR BloggerCon, which was an early precursor of what would become the very successful and widespread RE Barcamp scene.  At that 2007 NAR annual in Las Vegas, there are a few things that I distinctly remember:  1)  That very first BloggerCon in a tiny corner room of the Venetian that was attended by a handful of people.  2)  Meeting Jeff Turner for the very first time.  3)  Listening to Seth Godin give the keynote address.  4) My fingers literally aching from live-tweeting my way through the whole damn thing.

I’m not telling you all of this to brag or seek congratulations.  I’m telling you this to give you some context.

In 2007, all of this blogging and tweeting and social technology was a new horizon for real estate.  There was a community of real estate professionals who were passionate about the technology and its potential to influence the industry in a positive way.  The sun was just beginning to rise and shed light onto what promised to be a glorious new world.  At that time, the larger industry was basically completely unaware of what was coming.

Fast forward to today, 5 years later, and I kinda feel like that sunrise has come and gone, and the industry has largely missed it because we’ve all been too damn busy staring down at our iPhones.

As I searched through the #NARannual hashtag stream, I had to stop because it was depressing me.  It is almost completely devoid of anything that could be described as valuable information to anyone who wants to know anything about the real estate industry, or to any professional seeking to improve their business.

I know that sounds harsh.  But it’s the truth.

This is the most accurate summary of the #NARannual hashtag that I can come up with:

Lots of congratulations and thank yous. More than adequate coverage of the parties people went to, and how fabulous the Peabody hotel is.   The requisite amount of vendor hashtag spamming.  Some drive-by tweets about the tech tools that people heard about in sessions.  A small smattering of conversation surrounding industry issues.

That’s it.  Honestly, I could learn more about the conference from looking at the schedule than I could from reading the hashtag history.

After reading the hashtag, I’m actually kinda glad that I wasn’t there.  I mean, sure, I missed out on seeing many of my friends in person (which is always great), but on the positive side, I got to spend those 4 days with my family (which is better).

Look, if you want to kill my assessment of the conference because I wasn’t there, that’s completely fair.  I can’t argue that.

What you can’t argue with is the fact that NOTHING that I read about in the reactions of people who actually did go to the conference made me wish I had gone.

What Happened?

I feel like for all of the advancements that have been made in technology and all of the growth that we have experienced in the community of real estate professionals who care about making the industry better, we have gone nowhere since 2007.

Maybe nowhere isn’t accurate.  There has been improvement, overall.  But in the industry conference scene?  Not really.

Ok, so maybe the standard conference session topics have changed a bit.  There is more coverage of technology issues and social technology issues, but most of it is almost purely superficial.  Very little of it is really focused on helping you improve your business, which should be the goal of a conference shouldn’t it?

It’s My Fault

I’m standing up right now to apologize for this.  I’ve dropped the ball on this issue as much as anyone.  As someone who has been involved in real estate and technology for most of my real estate career, as someone who has been on the forefront of many of the social technology issues that have come up, as someone who has held leadership positions, the fact that the conversation hasn’t moved forward significantly since 2007 is my fault.

I’m sorry.

But I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try to do something about it now. . .


For those of you who were at RETSO 5.0 and heard my closing speech, you know that I am passionate about bringing about positive change in the real estate industry.  I also passionately believe that such change must start with us, the RETSO community.  We cannot rely on any other outlet or community to drive this change.  There are a lot of reasons for this, so many that I won’t cover them here, but you’ll have to trust me that I’ve been involved with many of the other options, and significant change won’t come from there.

So it’s up to us– me and you.  The RETSO community.

We’ve already started the planning for RETSO 2013, and I can guarantee you that this will not be like any other real estate conference you’ve attended.  Even if you’ve been to all of the five previous RETSOs, you’ll be in for a different experience this go around.

That’s a good thing.  That’s what the real estate conference scene needs.  That’s what this industry needs.

At RETSO, we are totally focused on delivering to you a conference experience that won’t just entertain and inform you.  We are focused on delivering a conference experience that will fundamentally change and improve the way you think and your business.  We’re focused on this to the point of obsession, almost to the point of derangement.

We know that if change is going to happen, we must deliver it.  We are committed to delivering that change.  We are committed to you.

We are RETSO.


11 Responses to “Something has to change”

  1. I’ve kinda been out of the RE scene recently, but I agree with your general sentiment — I don’t see many great conversations happening anymore (at least in the channels I follow).

    Hard for me to make a trip to a conference for an industry I’m not really in anymore, but everything I’ve heard about retso has been good. If you’re truly creating a community of real doers (as it seems you are), you’re going to crush the competition…

  2. Drew. There are some real serious Doers who attend our event every year. It is because they push each other, they push us, they push RETSO to do better that we are going to break the conference model and rebuild it from scratch. We welcome outside perspectives. Especially from those who left the industry. What have you learned since your departure? What can you share?

  3. Thank you so much for taking the time to call out what everyone who are actively selling and converting sales on a large scale has been thinking. It has been a very long time since I have picked up much of value from the numerous conferences that I attend every year. I go because I love the people and the personalities. In fact the conferences have been such a disappointment that I took up making changes within the industry from the inside out devoting my time away from my family to both local (four years as board president) and national level (MLS Tech Director for Canadian Real Estate Association) participation with the hope that I would meet other minds that would challenge mine to think outside of the box, inspire new ways of thinking doing business and of course make more money. Just a thought, but maybe conferences could consider leveraging agents and brokers that are crushing it out in the trenches rather than speakers who almost always have some side car of products to sell at the end of their sessions. If I had a quarter for every webinar or ebook being sold after I heard someone speak at a session I would not have to pound the pavement selling houses. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of valuable content out there and amazing speakers but that needs to be blended with those willing to share how they are crushing it in the industry. I have heard nothing but good reports on RETSO and this post stating what everyone has been thinking already has me reconsidering my 2013 vow to skip the conference scene all together. Thank you Daniel, great post.

    • Gary. I started RETSO as a conference to bring the real estate industry up to speed with technology. The real value we found was in the power of community. RETSO is now a community of Doers, like yourself, who just get shit done for their clients, for themselves, and for the industry. We’re scrapping technology as a cause and committing fully to the Doers of the world. We will work with you to make a difference. We are starting by breaking our own conference and rebuilding it from the ground up. Stay tuned for more and thanks for being a Doer!

  4. Just thinking out loud. The importance of surrounding yourself with people who are solving problems, not those simply making a living. The power of tight knit communities. A trusted support network is paramount to success. Pushing the limits of what’s possible by questioning everything. Assume nothing.

    • Drew – that sounds exactly like what RETSO has become these past few years. It’s hard to find those type of people in the wild. Which is why we try to put out the best problems to solve and watch the Doers flock together. In 2013, we are going to use business model design problems as the tool to refocus the industry on what truly matters.

  5. Nice to see in writing what I have been thinking. I think part of the problem in that in 2007 conferences featured the ideas of disruptors and innovators. now we have industry leaders who are not disruptors or innovators but the leaders of what they consider the new world order. In other words we have a new status quo and the conferences are more about teaching procedures tand selling us ideas. Telling us what we need to do which is bull. I love the idea of business model redesign along with disruption, challenging the new world order and status quo and turning technology on it’s edge rather than following the same procedures that other businesses use. I want more and I want to do more. I don’t want to listen to a motivation speaker tell me about how great life and connections are. I want to be inspired. I want to get out of my mental rut and move forward. I want to hear about people who are doing things differently even if it doesn’t work because we can learn as much or more from our failures. In fact I would love to see a session on failures and bad ideas. I will admit I have not sat through an entire real estate conference session since the last time I was at RETSO which was in 2009 and have not been to a real estate conference since 2010. I attended several events this past year including the worlds largest Bar camp held at the Best Buy corporate headquarters here in MN. I came away exhausted and energized. I also spoke a a couple of events. I skipped the MN REbar camp no reason to go. It doesn’t seem like it is for Realtors. Like many of the conferences, events and even blog posts, advice and how to’s, they don’t seem to have anything to do with my business anymore.

    • “We have a new status quo.” Bingo. You’re on the money, as usual. 🙂

      RETSO REFOCUS will be all about putting you in position to shatter that new status quo. It will be collaborative, it will be inspiring, it will move you forward, it will send you home with something that you won’t get anywhere else in the real estate space. Period.

      Come hell or high water, I’m going to make good on the promise and potential of 2007.

  6. You know what Daniel I believe you will do that and that you can!

    • You’re so right Teresa. We must all individually challenge the status quo. RETSO can’t do it for you. We can only ask the right questions. Give the proper focus and align tools to match. But the Doers of this industry must work on their individual business models while understanding the context of the industry and macro economic forces around them in order to design disruptive ideas.

      I’m worried that the bulk majority of the industry is actually full of freelance contractors and not true entrepreneurs. Freelancers bill for time delivering specific skills. Entrepreneurs design value for customers that did not previously exist. My goal is for the Doers of our industry to lead by designing valuable business models.

      I’m trusting Daniel and many other Doers, like yourself, will join together to make a difference.


  1. And now for something completely different. . .RETSO REFOCUS | RETSO - January 16, 2013

    […] already shared with you why I think the current model for real estate conference is broken.  I’ve already hinted at what you can expect from RETSO REFOCUS.  Now it’s time to […]

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