“Connect” is a word we often know as being pedestrian and powerful, overused and elusive. I came to appreciate the meaning of that word for the first time at the recent Real Estate Connect in New York.

When we think of great conferences, the first things that come to mind are compelling speakers, thoughtful sessions and valuable networking. Although Inman encompasses all those wonderful things, it presents much greater opportunities than simply attending a useful conference. To paraphrase Brad Inman during a conversation we had a few months prior, Connect is a platform we can all leverage.

He cited the example of Trulia launching at Inman some years ago — and look where they are now.

With that in mind, I knew it was important to get involved in a more meaningful way with Connect in January. Ultimately, I got to be part of “New Kids On The Block” (NKOTB) to introduce Spacio — an opportunity to showcase our product to an audience that mattered. As a result, I was able to gain insights, access new markets and meet people who were inspired by what we are doing.

Preparation is key to success

Fully maximizing the Connect experience takes some preparation, which I would encourage anyone going to Connect in San Francisco to take time and do. First, identify from your network and the speakers list with who you want to meet. Second, arrange meetings weeks ahead of time and push hard for them; most people don’t confirm until the week before. People are juggling their schedules, so it’s important to be patiently persistent. I was fortunate enough to have close to 30 meetings in four days.

And the outcome of all of those meetings and connections?

Through numerous discussions, I got a sense of the companies that would support our venture and the ones that would be difficult to get on board. I stayed in constant contact with my team during the conference, and we brainstormed at the end of each day about directions we should take based on the conversations I had that day.

Knowing what tools we had to work with helped us shape our product offering so much we had to take a step back and reposition features to strengthen the value proposition. It was the first time I was able to showcase our product and share our vision with so many industry drivers, not to mention in such a short time. We were able to get clarity on our strengths and gauge people’s interest. We were also able to realize the things we had limited abilities in achieving so that we could optimize accordingly. This experience has already made our product better, and it will ultimately contribute to the success of our company.

New markets and opportunities

Being on NKOTB not only gave us exposure to people who were there, but uncovered markets and opportunities that never occurred to us. We announced our Beacon Pilot Program with Terra Holdings, an announcement that triggered interest from people around the country who reached out to me afterward. The day after NKOTB, Spacio was billed as the “buyers holy grail” in Vastgoed, a real estate marketing site in the Netherlands. During the event, that enthusiasm continued as several people from different parts of the Netherlands stopped me and knew my name. I soon learned that this was no coincidence.

Boris Geheniau, CEO of Fundament All Media, saw me on the speakers list a month prior and told the team flying over that I was the person they needed to meet given my background in new development marketing. The Netherlands is a market I would have never dreamed of, but this has the potential to be one of the biggest opportunities I’ve come across to date. All of this happened because Inman gave me the opportunity to be one of the “new kids.”

Meeting people, making connections

People traveled around the world for this event, and a lot of them have been coming for years. They braved a nasty storm and scrambled to reschedule just to come just for the last one to two days. Anyone who’s anyone in real estate made their way to NYC. It was the best time to get in front of anyone, the only time to get to everyone at once.

Connections might not be immediate, nor should they be

But if anything arises in the future, you have already made the connection and put your face put to your name — nothing replaces that. People understand that’s what Connect is about, and they are open to it; we’re all there to make the most out of the conference in our own way. Never have I had opportunities presented to me on a silver platter the way they were at Connect. If you’re an entrepreneur like me, go and do what you do best: Create your luck. It’s the luckiest place in the world, for those few days.

This platform did not happen by accident. Real Estate Connect is the product of Brad Inman’s dedication to the industry, love for connecting people and vision for creating opportunities. For over 30 years, he invested his time, effort and relationships to bring the industry together, drive innovation and encourage collaboration. Because of that, young companies on a treacherous path like us have an easier shot.

A lot of people thanked Brad and the team at the end for putting together yet another successful event. Although it’s true that Connect was a successful event, perhaps taking full advantage of what Brad has built is one way to show true gratitude.

See you in San Francisco.

Melissa Kwan is the co-founder and CEO of Spacio. You can find her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Email Melissa Kwan.

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