Since 2009, Heather Elias has been attending Inman Connect New York, making the trip up from Virginia each January to supercharge her business, learn from others, and build her network for the upcoming year. Well established within the Inman community, Heather shares what she’s seen and learned over the years, and what she’s looking forward to in 2018.
You’ve been coming to Connect New York for several years now. What do you remember about your first experience, and what advice would you give a first-time attendee?
My first ICNY was in 2009, back when I was coming into my own as a real estate blogger. I actually won my ticket and travel costs via the Virginia Association of Realtor’s “2008 Blog Brawl“. At the time I had only been blogging for a year, and I was trying to connect to other people who were doing business the way that I was– via my website, blogging, and social media. Back then, there weren’t a ton of us! But many who were were attending Inman and talking about it there. I’d met some folks in San Francisco at ICSF the summer before. But there is no way I would have been able to afford to go to New York that year if it hadn’t been for winning the Blog Brawl.
Ginger Wilcox and I shared probably the smallest hotel room in the city, across the street from the conference hotel. The conference itself was a whirlwind of REBar Camp, sessions, dinners, cocktail parties, and conversations. ICNY was a springboard for a year that was full of learning and milestones for me, including my first speaking engagement on stage. The friendships created at ICNY helped change my life and shape my career. Inman conferences tend to foster a love of learning, sharing, and collaboration, and it definitely contributed to my willingness to step up and help teach and mentor other agents.
For new attendees: embrace the opportunity. You will be surrounded by so many people with deep knowledge of the industry and how to be successful within it. Everyone wants to be helpful, to learn and grow, and make the industry better. Immerse yourself in it!
Connect is very well known for its ability to create long-lasting, meaningful networking opportunities. What would your advice be to those looking to grow their business through new connections in January?
Some of my best conference experiences have come from the most random connections and conversations. Don’t overschedule yourself…leave room to wander off for coffee when you get wrapped up in an interesting chat with a new friend. Take some extra time to talk to the vendors and see what kind of technology or service they’ve created.
How do you pick which sessions to attend, and why?
I typically head into the conference with a list of the things I’m struggling with or want to learn about. Then I can choose the sessions that are going to help me figure out how to solve for them. It’s always about finding smart people doing business in ways that I can relate to and apply to my own situation. If I can come away with one strong actionable idea from each session I attend, I’m happy.
What’s the single biggest thing not to miss at every Connect?
The networking! My favorite spot is the bar that overlooks Times Square on the lobby level: you can meet a ton of people in a fantastic setting. It’s always packed and the conversations are great.
For those still on the fence about attending, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give them?
This is the place to be if you are looking to grow, learn, and take your business seriously. Bring an open mind along with a fresh notebook and sharp pencil; there is no better way to kick off a successful new year.