With only about six weeks left to go before Inman Connect New York (January 22-26, 2018), we asked Zillow Group’s Jay Thompson to share a few tips for navigating the program, networking effectively and ensuring that you’re taking those online relationships offline during the conference.


You’ve been coming to Inman 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?

I believe the year was 2009. I knew a handful of the then-small community of real estate bloggers, and was looking forward to meeting many in real life and getting to know them better, which is exactly what happened.

Several I first met at ICNY have become some of my best friends. I’ve been to weddings, welcomed babies and, sadly, had to say goodbye to a few.

But what really blew me away about my first Connect experience was the opportunity to meet with and have real conversations with major industry players. Meeting people like Trulia’s Pete Flint and Zillow’s Spencer Rascoff forged relationships that would extend for years and ultimately play a part in my getting hired by Zillow (now Zillow Group) over five years ago.

Don’t be afraid to talk to people. And, importantly, wear comfortable shoes.

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?

Don’t be shy! You have something in common with every single attendee — real estate. Be brave, be bold, walk up to people you don’t know and introduce yourself. They are looking to meet people too.

You don’t need to engage in some hour-long dissertation on the future of real estate. Just talk to people. Even the CEOs of major corporations are there to meet people and learn more about this industry.

A handshake and a “so nice to meet you,” is remembered and appreciated more than most realize.

How do you pick which sessions to attend, and why?

The Connect agenda is jam packed. There is no way you can see it all, so don’t even try. Pick a few sessions in advance that sound interesting and try to attend those.

With multiple tracks happening, if you wind up not getting much from a session, employ “the rule of two feet” — use your two feet to walk over to another room. No one will be offended.

What’s the single biggest thing not to miss at every Connect?

Honestly? Hugs from my friends. But that’s not very helpful. The morning main sessions are almost always great, and if something isn’t really your thing, the talks are short and the agenda moves fast.

If I could only attend one part of Connect, it would be Lobby Con. Between sessions there will be people gathered in the hallways and the hotel lobby, some in one-on-one groups, some in much larger groups. Amazing things happen in the hallway and lobby gatherings, the lunches, the random encounters and even the coffee lines — you don’t want to miss them!

For those still on the fence about attending, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give them?

Get off the fence and go. Inman Connect, be it the San Francisco or the New York City flavor, is a must-attend event. You’ll learn things that you can take back and immediately employ in your business, and you’ll meet amazing people that will wind up being life-long friends, co-workers and maybe even your future employer.

I’ve never come close to regretting attending an Inman Connect.


Want to connect with Jay? You can find him on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Email Matthew Shadbolt.

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