• You are the face of your company at ICSF — represent them well.
  • Network always and everywhere, and try to have a meal or a drink with the people you meet.
  • Admit what you don’t know; others will help you fill in the gaps.

About a week ago I had the opportunity to attend Inman Connect in San Francisco. For those of us in real estate, Inman is one of our key sources of information regarding the latest trends in the industry.

Twice a year, Inman brings the sharpest minds in real estate together to speak, and provides a venue for real estate professionals and startups to come together, exchange ideas and connect.

This is my humble attempt to provide some perspective for newbies of the future with these four lessons I learned while attending the conference.

1. Inman is a professional conference

The way you carry yourself is a direct reflection of your company.

A day before the conference ended, I learned that my manager sent out an email to select ICSF veterans asking them to keep an eye out for me.

As a first-time attendee, he wanted to make sure I was included in gatherings and networking events.

Keep in mind that three days had gone by before I found out about that email. Considering that you have only seven seconds to make an impression, I had three full days to ruin mine and implicitly trash my company’s name in the process.

You might not have a manager warning the troops of your arrival, but make no mistake — if you are a newbie at Inman, people will know.

You are a representative of your company and of your brand. Cherish, protect and use this power for good.

2. The magic happens between sessions

The sessions are prepared to challenge your perspective on the industry, so come with a willingness to learn. That being said, the real magic, in my opinion, happens outside the conference rooms.

In the hallways, in the networking sessions and, thanks to the excellent Inman ambassadors, in the introductions they arrange for you.

Meeting and connecting with peers who are equally passionate about the industry is the core of Connect. Make it your priority to meet with the leaders of our industry. Ask them questions. If possible, share a meal with them.

On my first night at ICSF, I had the pleasure sharing a meal with three industry veterans — Stephanie Chumbley, Dale Chumbley and Dane Briggs.

What started out as a quest to find a place to eat turned out to be an unforgettable dinner. I’ve gained three incredible new friends that evening.

A couple days after that, I shared a drink with Austin Allison, CEO of dotloop. For about 20 minutes, I had his undivided attention. I never thought I would have that opportunity.

This is only a small account of the amazing connections I made that week, and I can guarantee other people had equal, if not better, experiences.

3. Don’t be arrogant with your intellect and industry connections

There are people who are way smarter and better-connected at ICSF than you’ll ever be. You will get more out of the conference by keeping your ego in check.

Let’s face it, we all want to name-drop, and talk about our transactions and commissions, but frankly, it will get you nowhere. Don’t make the conference about you. Make it about other people.

Look for ways you can invest in someone else’s life rather than trying to make everything about yourself. The real estate community might appear big, but it is a small network of well-connected individuals who talk, learn and collaborate with each other on a regular basis.

Be honest about your shortcomings and lack of knowledge on certain topics. I promise — you’ll get much more out of being humble and willing to learn than showcasing your intellect or your connections.

There are people at ICSF who are there to meet you and invest in your development as a real estate professional. Don’t let your ego get in the way.

4. There’s real estate, and there is real life

Connect is the bridge between those two worlds. My right takeaway from ICSF can be summed up from my last Facebook post before heading back home to Ashburn, Virginia:


The next Connect gathering will be in New York City in January. I hope to be there and to meet you. If you take away nothing else from this post, I can promise you this: There is a family waiting for you at Connect. You will be welcomed, and your life will change.

Billy Ekofo is the assistant director of lead management at Century 21 Redwood Realty. You can follow him on Twitter (@BillyEkofo) or LinkedIn.

Email Billy Ekofo.

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