Editor’s note: It’s that time again – some 25,000 Realtors will meet up Oct. 28-31, for the biggest real estate event of the year, the National Association of Realtors’ annual convention and tradeshow. Inman News created this five-part offbeat guide to the not-to-miss real estate event. (See Part 1: Party on with the Realtor ‘in’ crowd; Part 3: Presidential Suite: Best room in the house; Part 4: Inman Video: San Francisco ‘hoods worth checking out and Part 5: Inman Video: Cool San Francisco Bay Area hangouts.)

Last year, a spritely, scantily clad Richard Simmons — a big-haired fitness and weight-loss guru — entertained Realtors at the eNeighborhoods exhibit during the annual National Association of Realtors convention and trade show. For a previous show, the company had hired hunky Fabio to lure Realtors to its booth.

This year, the company was engaged in serious talks to get Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the sexual therapist who enthralled audiences with her “Sexually Speaking” radio program; and the Village People (known for the hit song “YMCA”), which these days is more like the Village Person and some other new guys. But these modern villagers would have cost a lot of money to fly across the country and lodge.

The industry is well aware of the star power that eNeighborhoods has employed in the past, said Greg Robertson, vice president of marketing for eNeighborhoods. “Everybody is calling me. ‘Who is it, Greg?’ That’s the story in itself. Every year eNeighborhoods has put a celebrity out there.”

But not this year. Dr. Ruth is a Dr. No-Show, Robertson told Inman News. Fortunately, he explained, the company has a Plan B: Give away money and prizes. The company is handing out 1,000 free copies of its ProSuite software this year, and inside some of these kits are “Golden Tickets” that represent an opportunity for Realtors to win up to $500 dollars in cash.

“All the money we are saving from hiring a celebrity is going right into Realtor pockets,” Robertson said. And the company wasn’t about to “hire a celebrity for the sake of celebrity,” he added.

The trade show at the annual Realtors convention, which will be held this year at San Francisco’s Moscone Center from Oct. 28-31, is a major draw for attendees, and there will be plenty of prizes, promotions, discounts and freebies to distract them from the more serious issues and events scheduled during the conference. And they just might spot a celebrity, too.

While Dr. Ruth won’t be making an appearance, attendees will have an opportunity to meet Jamie Farr, who played Sgt. Klinger on the television series M*A*S*H (and appeared regularly on “The Gong Show.” He will be signing autographs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at the National Association of Realtors “Imagine” booth. Television psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw a.k.a Dr. Phil will speak during the conference’s general session. And attendees can see Glenn Frey in concert at the Moscone Center on Oct. 30.

VirtualTour.com has hired real estate industry speaker Allen Hainge to talk up Internet marketing.

First American Corp. is offering attendees a chance to win $50,000 by entering the correct combination in a lockbox at the company’s booth, and First American will also offer a $100 prize in a daily drawing. Attendees also can grab some free real estate reports from the First American booth.

Some companies pay big money for large, prominent floor space and advertising at the trade show. Companies at the San Francisco show are paying $29 per square foot, plus additional expenses for prominent corner booths.

Companies have paid $100,000 to sponsor the conference’s general session and $100,000 to sponsor a shuttle bus that drives attendees to the convention center. Also, the National Association of Realtors charged $25,000 for an advertising display facing a main entrance to the trade show, and $45,000 to sponsor the grand opening wine tasting for the trade show. Systems Engineering, a real estate software development company, is sponsoring the wine-tasting event to open the trade show.

Marketing to Realtors is a competitive business — one company that will have a booth at the trade show has advertised on Craigslist.org for a model (“female preferred”) to walk around the trade show floor passing out literature promoting its technology. The company, Cell Story, offers automated, cell phone-based technology for real estate professionals that can help them produce marketing materials.

Real estate technology company a la mode, which typically has a car giveaway at the trade show, this year will offer a 2005 Porsche Boxter instead of its usual Mercedes giveaway drawing of the past two years, said spokeswoman Amanda Stephenson. “(This) is usually one of the biggest draws at the show.”

Fidelity National Financial, will have a “power” theme for its booth at the trade show. The booth will feature a kiosk with a large power switch that attendees can pull to win prizes. Also, attendees can create digitized audio presentations, dubbed PowerCasts, which are saved in the same format as Internet music files. To promote its technology affiliation with Microsoft, the company is giving away portable music players and video game consoles, among other prizes.

Reply!, which at last year’s conference had its conference staff dress up in medical scrub uniforms, has not yet unveiled its full plans for this tradeshow (it’s supposed to be a surprise), but it will again be a theme, said Steve Arentzoff, the company’s vice president of marketing.

“People will be in costumes again,” he said, adding that it will be “bigger, brighter and more fun” than last year.

Stewart Title Guaranty Co. is going with a “Miles Ahead” theme at its booth, with signs and promotions supporting a highway theme. Just as tourist stops feature brochure stands, the Stewart booth will have informational materials for Realtors at its Realtor rest stop. “It looks like you’re driving underneath a freeway,” said Holly Green, a marketing and events specialist for Stewart.

Stewart is also sponsoring a technology center at the conference, as it has for the past seven years. Staffers at the Stewart booth will be giving out gas cards and software packages, and Stewart Title Co. president and CEO Stewart Morris Jr. will be signing books during the trade show.

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What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com; (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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