Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent the past six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column publishes every Wednesday.
“How many Inman Connects have you been to?” someone asked. Actually several someones, as this question seems to come up when every biannual Inman Connect approaches.
My answer is: I’m not real sure.
My first was in San Francisco in 2008, I think. I’m going to guess I made 16 or so of the next 22. I could look through receipts and photos and figure it out, but what’s the point?
A lot — I’ve been to a lot of Connects. The actual number doesn’t really matter.
Why? What compels someone to attend the same conference, sometimes twice a year, across more than a decade?
It’s the people
Yes, it sounds cliche.
- “Oh the networking is just fantastic, anyone who is anything will be there.”
- “It’s the can’t-miss networking event!”
- “Bring a stack of business cards, and meet your future!”
Whatever. We hear those platitudes all the time about all sorts of conferences.
Here’s the thing. It’s true for Inman Connect.
I’ve been lucky in many ways because a lot of my overall conference-going expense has been paid for by an employer, through speakers compensation and sometimes through a friend who’s organizing the conference (not coincidentally, I met many of those friends at Connect). So I’ve attended many, many conferences. Some brilliant, some not-so-swift.
Inman Connect falls into the brilliant category.
Is every session amazing and full of takeaways to make your business explode? Of course not. But the content and speakers do tend to be very current and very good. Take a peek at a Connect schedule — it’s jammed full. You can’t possibly absorb it all.
This article isn’t about the content though. It’s about the people.
The magic happens in the halls
Although one could certainly fill their calendar attending seemingly endless sessions at Connect and more than get their money’s worth, the real magic happens in the halls.
Or at breakfast, lunch and dinner. During breaks, on photo walks, in the bathroom, waiting for an Uber, in an Uber with the person you just met waiting for one. There could be cocktails.
Yes, in the bathroom.
He won’t remember it, but some bathroom at Connect was where I first met Pete Flint, founder of Trulia and now with VC capital firm NFX.
I remember it because it was Pete freaking Flint who started this Trulia thing that, at that time, was just a couple of years old — but already causing a ruckus in the real estate space.
We were … finishing up, and I just said to Flint, “I’m a big Trulia fan.”
We introduced ourselves, I was silently blown away when he said he’d read my blog, and it was a great 30-second chat.
It wasn’t a meeting that changed the world. We didn’t become BFF drinking buddies, but it was the start of a then casual and later more business-related relationship that continues to this day.
There were many more
Attend Connects year after year, and you will soon lose count of how many people you meet there. From brand new real estate agents to startup founders to CEOs of multibillion dollar corporations — and everything in between — you can meet them all at Connect.
People are super approachable. Don’t be shy, get over your introvertness, and just walk up to someone and say, “Hi, I’m Joe with ABC company. I’m here to meet people. Who are you?”
(Pro networking tip: Use your real name and company, unless you’re Joe with ABC). If you know who they are, a simple “Hi, I’ve always wanted to meet you” will get anyone to open up.
It worked for me with Gary Vaynerchuk and Inman Connect New York 2009.
I’ve meet people at Connect who are BFF drinking buddies. I’ve attending their weddings, played with their children and watched them grow up. And sadly, I have mourned a few losses.
This article sounds like an ad for Inman Connect. I get that, and I know the sometimes relentless marketing can get annoying. But I’m telling you, this conference attracts an amazing collection of people, it’s not just real estate propaganda speak.
You can make real-life, long-lasting, legit connections and friends by attending Inman Connect.
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Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree in Seattle, as well as the mastermind behind Now Pondering. Follow him on Facebook or Instagram. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty.