17 June 2009

So, Who’s Really Shaping Our Future?

I attended my very first RE BarCamp just a few weeks ago. BarCamps are scheduled one day events in major cities across the country. The attendance is usually between 100 and 300 agents, brokers, suppliers. Not many CEOs. There are no preplanned agendas, no major sponsors to feel obligated to, people check their egos at the door. Everyone is there to learn, collaborate, network. Sponsorships are welcome, but each one is usually limited to $250, so nobody receives preferential treatment.

To get the the idea, check out the Wikipedia description http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barcamp

Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate has been a sponsor of almost every event. We feel it is a way to give back, to collaborate, to learn what is really inside the heads of those who may very well be leaders in the future of the industry.  We feel these are incubators for the next generation of agent who need to learn and share information that is not taught in real estate school. These are agents who come from all walks of life and many different companies, drawn by a common passion to learn, share and grow.

The very first BarCamp was held last July in San Francisco. According to Andy Kaufman, founder and catalyst of the RE BarCamp movement, “the original vision was to organize a free event where people could meet up in real life and openly share ideas with one another”.  How unselfish is that? What he didn’t expect was the explosive growth and amazing community that resulted from the first event.

The BarCamp movement is special. It is run and attended by what I would call some of the true entrepreneurs of the industry.  They understand that in the transparent world we live in, to thrive in the future means to openly share today.  Putting the ideas of many together will allow us to be in control of truly shaping our future.  Many of the participants are what I would call trailblazers,  pioneers of the new way of doing business who will take not just the baton from the old guard, but will take their market share as well. It is only a matter of time.

As a student of the industry, and one who is building a brand that embraces the future, I like to interact with these people who are so passionate about what our industry needs to look like now.  BarCamp devotee Ginger Wilcox told me “most conferences are all about people talking at you, BarCamps are all about learning while participating and engaging.  The first one scared me because it was so unplanned, but now I realize the best learning opportunities come from collaborative brainstorming, this is where innovation is born”.  I couldn’t agree more!

Krystal Kraft who arranged the recent event in Denver says “there is a universal appeal because they speak to people with a wide range of skill sets. There is excitement that turns into synergy when groups of people get together with the purpose of sharing”.

And so from a humble beginning, and a group of about 50 people who shaped the first event, the movement has grown to multiple events in venues  across the country with hundreds of attendees at each.  Personally, I couldn’t be more impressed with the people who organize these grassroots learning days, and the people who fly and drive in to each city to participate. Notice I use the word “participate” rather than “attend”. You see, there is a big difference.

While some brokers are back at the office trying to decide how their companies need to change to meet the next generation of agents and consumers on their own, others are participating in events such as these to ensure they are involved in shaping our future now.  You can count me as part of the second group.

25 thoughts on “So, Who’s Really Shaping Our Future?

  1. Sherry,

    I couldn’t agree more. I was at ReBarCamp Chicago on Monday and it was a great experience. I got to meet Andy, Ginger, Kelley and many others IRL for the first time.

    According to Todd Carpenter, the average drive was approximately 263 miles to attend the Chicago event. I only traveled 160 miles but it was well worth the time and expense.


  2. Hi Sherry,
    The REBarcamp wave is an amazing one because it is learning at its best. To think that you can contribute to the conversation and discussion F2F with the best in the industry is priceless!! And let’s not forget the sponsors, it’s because of gracious sponsors like BHG that these events can cover their expenses.
    Hope you can make it to Miami in September….still working on the details and just put up the website.

      1. Thank you again and can’t wait to see you in Sept (although I’m sure I’ll see you before then) and thanks also for this post as well, great to see the brilliant input – we will reach out to locals in Miami (have a few already signed up) – the planning is not easy, but so looking forward to the interaction and synergy that is bound to occur.

        On another note – it’s amazing how easy it is to talk to all the organizers of the various rebarcamps across the country who are so willing to share the highs and lows of each event and what they would do differently. I keep learning from everyone and it just amazes me how giving our re community is.

  3. The Boot Camp forum is a good one as long as the momentum can continue in each area and someone picks up the torch every 6 months or so.

    One thing about Real Estate Agents is they require a wide variety of skill sets and it is difficult to be an expert in each: Social Networking, Internet marketing, Photography, Video production,. content writing, script writing, PowerPoint presentations, Excel spread sheets, legal knowledge, financing knowledge….you get the point and I’m sure I don;t nee to tell you!

    At any rate, everyone can use help in several of these areas, and ongoing education is crucial to do so. The level of knowledge in each of these disciplines varies greatly.

    And if the knowledge is not up to par in any one area, the business in some way suffers. I have seen listings with AWFUL photography, incomplete information, (no BR and no BA? Really?) and the changes in the marketplace, technology and modes of communication are not decreasing the demand on professionals to continue to learn new disciplines on top of mastering the old.

    ReBar is a good way to approach this, but there are also many tools and support businesses cropping up to fill the need.


  4. Sherri:

    The greatest part of the BarCamp phenomenon (In my humble opinion) is the collegial brainstorming aspect of the gatherings.

    Regardless of the levels of expertise of the participants, everyone gets to ask and comment and reach out with their ideas and challenges – and without regard to the competition in our marketplaces, there always seems to be someone to help with a solution or suggestion to improve the business.

    But that’s the wonderful social part of the whole social media movement –

    Great post big props to everyone who has spent the time and effort to make BarCamps so great all across the country – and to sponsors like you and BHGRE for helping to make them possible

  5. Sherry –

    I absolutely agree with Bill. The beauty of bar camps is that everyone shares across the boards; from the person who just got a Facebook page yesterday to the Andy Kaufmans of the world. The fluidity (the “un-conference” part) of each event makes it totally different from the previous one – even if some of the same folks are involved – and therefore, one is sure to walk away with something new every time they attend.

    Bar camps are a wonderful environment in which to learn, observe, contribute and have fun. I’m so thrilled that you and BHGRE have been a huge supporter of the bar camp scene since its beginning. (We were so pleased to see you in Philadelphia.) Many thanks for your sponsorship and kudos to you for such forward thinking!

  6. Sherry,

    Thanks for helping spread the word! The biggest difficulty with bringing a REBC to a new area is educating the RE folks as to what it is! People involved in social media “get it,” because they are part of it, but those on the “outside” remain clueless and hard to convince.

    I do believe we all have something to contribute. REBC offers a forum where the contributors come and in true synergy build upon each other. We all have amazing power and it grows stronger when we share.


  7. Thanks for the info. I did not get a chance to attend the Portland one this year, however a few of my friends and co-workers did attend and had a great time. I am sure the other barcamps are just as much fun as this one was supposed to be, and I was told it was a really positive experience.

  8. Sherry (and all the BHGRE team) –

    Thanks for so eloquently putting what a RE Bar Camp is into words. Your support (and sponsorship) has been a huge asset in helping REBCs gain momentum.

    Kristal nailed it in her comment when she said that communicating what an REBC is can be challenging. Your post pretty much nailed it. Participating in a REBC is educational, and fun! Organizing one takes a tremendous amount of work, but the payback is enormous. Watching people actively engage in the Phoenix Bar Camp was exhilarating. Everyone takes something away from an RE Bar Camp.

    Looking forward to seeing you and others are REBCSF#2!

  9. I have attended several RE BarCamps, including the first one in San Francisco last year, New York, Houston, and Phoenix. I am working with some folks here in Tucson to bring a BarCamp here in the first quarter of 2010.

    I think that RE BarCamps are remarkable events and I was happy to see a large crowd in Phoenix with social media and tech skillsets ranging from newbie to advanced. The format is wonderful, leaving room for collaboration and innovation at a moment’s notice.

    I’m going to play a little bit of Devil’s Advocate here … I preface that advocacy with loud and wild applause for you and BHG for being so proactive and an industry leader vis-a-vis social media, Internet marketing, and all aspects of real estate.

    To be fair, we see many brokers back in their offices wrestling with uncertain economic conditions and a changing real estate landscape on many fronts – new financial rules and guidelines, sweeping foreclosure challenges, negotiation nightmares, and other day-to-day circumstances that consume their waking hours.

    I see many top-producing agents still earning handsome, six-digit incomes, keeping pace with buyers’ and sellers’ fiduciary interests who are less concerned with keeping up with the Bloggerazzi and high-tech Kool-Aid drinkers than they are with extending quality care to their clients.

    I see lots of Kool-Aid drinkers attending lots of BarCamps who spend more time and energy being online publishers than they spend selling real estate.

    I see some Kool-Aid drinkers (but not many) who balance social media outreach and real estate practice brilliantly.

    Social media risk management is an increasingly onerous task and lots of the new tech and revenue producing venues touted at recent BarCamps fly in the face of state laws and RESPA. (Ouch!)


    (1) I would like to see BarCamp organizers use more traditional methods of outreach (yes, fax and flyers!) to attract more rank-and-file real estate agents to these educational events.

    (2) I would like to see more innovative discussion about real estate agency, legislation, and other matters at BarCamps.

    (3) I think that outreach to more agents in the trenches will do more to honor the generous commitment that sponsors are making to this educational effort. I think BarCamp organizers should give sponsors a better bang for their buck.

    Thanks, Sherry, for initiating another good, healthy discussion. You are the best!

    1. Fran – I always value your thoughtful feedback, thanks for taking the time – I think what we want to accomplish is not to diminish the collaborative nature of the events, but also to ensure that a larger audience has access. It will be interesting to see where the movement is a year from now.

  10. Sherry, I just got back from Chicago and did a photo of Chicago and the NAR building.

    Two folks on Activerain commented What is a ReBar ?

    I guess I was surprised since there have been many posts on it for a year now. I love them for one reason, it is not formal, you meet people who you have been blogging with and engaging in social media with for years so that is the highlight.

    I love the Dakno streaming and when I got home found out many agents in my office had watched.

    I hope to plan one in Ann Arbor next year, but I ditto a lot of what Krystal said, I’ve had similiar thoughts.

  11. Sherri: Well said and very timely. I got introduced to bar camps when I watched the #REBCVA (courtesy the dakno live stream!).

    I then got a chance to attend the REBCPHL and the bonus was to meet you…

    The bar camps embody what social media is about, conversations and dialogue among people with common interests.

    I have been learning a lot from you and others in this arena and thanks to you and some others, are defining the brokerage of the future and how to leverage this medium.

    The only regret I had was to not see a lot of agents from our company.

  12. Sherry,
    Your points are well made here. The simple reason I’ve gotten so passionate about REBarCamps is due to the unconferance nature. In over 7 years as a Realtor, I’ve been to countless CE and other training sessions and none had been engaging.

    When I sat down at a BarCamp and had a facilitator make us put the chairs in a circle and invited feedback, I knew this was the event for me. I’ve been to more than a few in the past 6 months now and have cherished each. I know the planners are so very thankful for BHG’s sponsorships. The events wouldn’t be possible without them. Thanks!

  13. Thanks for the post Sherry. Like Jay and Kristal mentioned in their comments, I don’t think I could’ve described it better myself.

    Watching the social capital flow through the whole REBC ecosystem is an amazing sight to behold. Participants sometimes travel hundreds, even thousands of miles to attend these events, and do so on their own dime. Often, they’re leading sessions and talking about what’s working for them (ie ‘giving away their secrets’) at a free event made possible by organizers & volunteers who aren’t paid and by sponsors who do so without being guaranteed anything in return.

    Take a second and re-read that last paragraph and let’s be honest here, if I told you a year ago that an event like that would be growing exponentially, you would’ve probably locked me in a room with padded walls.

  14. Sherry, to me it’s so great to see someone on the “big broker” side attend and get behind this event. I have little doubt that most of the innovations we will see in RE over the next few years will have been born, spawned and incubated in some of those barcamp sessions. Without your involvement – and those in similar positions as you – this could become an entrepreneur v. corporate, big broker v. independent debate. Instead, maybe we can all move forward together and create a reality out of the image of RE that I think we all share.

  15. I could not agree more. I had the opportunity to attend REtechSouth and meet most of the core group driving the REBC movement. Their an amazing group of individuals and anyone that thinks this is not the future is going to play a small part of the future. Many brokers are scared to embrace the future of business communications, the level of interaction and content sharing. I hope to attend a REBC in the near future. Maybe Miami I hear they have the best Mojito.

  16. Sherry – I’d like to thank you and Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate for your support of the barcamp movement and in particular, for the sponsorship of RE BarCamp OC. Will you be able to join us next Thursday (June 25th)? We’d love to see you. Got a great group coming from the re.net world plus lots of local agents new to the SM scene, as well as a handful of broker/owners. Hope to see you there! http://www.rebarcampoc.com

  17. Sherry:
    You have found a very important element to shaping change at companies: involvement at all levels. Too many training events are places where talking heads take the podium and prognosticate for hours on end. A few token questions from the audience confirm that nobody is fully asleep, but can we say any learning or change management took place? Not usually.

    The format of getting people into workgroups, providing a topic/thought and letting them apply various creative approaches is one of the most effective ways to get people to break through barriers, consider other ideas, shed their “we’ve always done it this way” phobias and take leaps.

    Keep up the great work with these events.

  18. Outstanding Sherry! Thanks so much for telling it like it is! RE Barcamp is special and being a part of this club is definitely the coolest club I’ve ever been in – LOL!

    See you at the next one!

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