Why is it that some agents can lead sessions at Real Estate BarCamps and other agents have never attended a Bar Camp and don’t know what it is? Is one agent smarter than the other?

The agents who lead the sessions tend to have one thing in common: They don’t wait for someone to offer training or education; they go out and find it and will pay for it.

In 2009 I hung my head in shame because I had forgotten about my continuing education classes and I ended up taking them all at the last possible second over the Internet. The courses were the easiest and least expensive courses that I could find.

In the last two years I have done a little better. Most of the continuing education courses I take are related to contracts, ethics, fair housing, loan programs and other subjects that are directly related to buying or selling real estate and working with clients.

Taking the minimum continuing education is not nearly enough to keep me at the top of my game. Most of us need more than that if we want to remain competitive. There are so many things to learn about the marketing and technology that we need to run out businesses. Many of the educational opportunities that are offered to real estate professionals are not really educational enough, for example:

The free webinar

Take a critical look at the next free webinar that you have the opportunity to attend. Is it hosted by a company that gets a significant source of revenue from real estate agents? Sure the company may offer free training, but keep in mind you are probably only being taught how to use a particular product and it might not be a product that is going to help your bottom line, no matter how good the instructor is.

Some of the most expensive classes I have ever taken have been free webinars, and I know I can never get those hours of my life back again.

The expert

The expert may have been flown in from someplace far away and paid to speak. The expert is typically a wonderful speaker or presenter, with a lot of experience in front of an audience. The expert, though, may not know everything about your field of expertise or even your industry — and that may become apparent when the expert starts to speak.

I recently listened to a so-called social media expert, who did not have much experience in the medium, explain how to use social media.

It was clear to me that this expert does not fully understand the real estate business or the best practices for using social media. When the expert talked about blogging, I was secretly hoping that my competitors would take the expert’s advice so that I would never have to worry about competition for my blog.

The BarCamp

I will go on record as saying that I am in favor of BarCamps. They can be an amazing learning opportunity. However, the sessions often turn into classes, and we need to keep in mind that the people teaching them are not always qualified, especially for very technical topics.

The speakers are usually passionate and often well-informed, and may have slightly more experience than most others in the room. The best approach is to ask questions and take notes, and then to do some further research and reading on the topic.

BarCamps are places for discussions with peers, and for exploring new ideas.

Office meetings and brokerage-provided training

Sometimes brokers have guest speakers at the weekly office meeting and call it training. Sometimes the trainer is a vendor speaking about a product. The vendor may show you how to use a product and encourage you to buy it. It is like television infomercial.

Some of the information presented is actually useful but it isn’t educational. For vendors, providing such training has become a business model.

An hour a day of reading every day helps me determine the type of education or training I need, and I learn enough so that I have an easier time weeding out the time-wasters who are disguised as teachers and trainers.

Real estate brokerages could offer more relevant education, but that can be expensive. Our associations provide relevant courses and designations, but we still need more.

We are what we read, and we should be reading articles about real estate, the economy, technology, marketing, social media, small business advice, and local news.

Education isn’t something that can just happen for a few hours a yea — it needs to be ongoing. If you are a member of the National Association of Realtors, take advantage of the virtual library and borrow from a collection of electronic books that are available in several formats.

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