Managing a Marketing Meeting

It is hard to believe that I have been attending national marketing sessions for almost 25 years. I have been involved firstly with sessions conducted by the REALTORS Land Institute (RLI), later with both RLI and CCIM groups, and for the past 10 years or so, attending the Society of Exchange Counselor meetings. I have had the opportunity to watch some of the best Head Moderators and learn which methods I think work the best. In fact, most of my methods of running a meeting are not original but have been “borrowed” from many of our peers in the Society.

In my opinion, the number one goal is to have the meeting become a “transaction stimulator”. Activities should be created that encourage immediate action for as many participants as possible. I like to start every meeting with an extended “quick pitch” session. In order to make this session special, it is important to have at least two Moderators talking and two moderators handing out microphones. Making sure each “quick pitch” is followed up with “Takers” expressing what they might take it with, builds the momentum of the session so everyone wants to listen.

I am very much opposed to starting the day with introductions because too often that effort degenerates into inside jokes and wasted time. The focus starts being on the personalities, not the business they might be there to transact. My goal is to get as much “product” and “situations” on the table as quickly as possible and immediately locate a participant who might be willing to discuss their priority for the day. If we do this right, in less than two hours, everyone in the room can have someone (or in most cases, several people) to discuss a transaction with at the first break.

A pet dislike of mine has been to go through introductions and treat people highly prepared to market their properties in the same manner as the first-time guest who “is only here to learn”. I think that those who show up on Monday prepared to market their services need to start first, set things into motion, and stimulate others to do the same. Through the course of a three day session, I can, at my own initiative or during other formats, get to know the people at the meeting that I don’t already know. Guests are very important to our meetings but the special treatment they receive should in my opinion be through their mentor or sponsor, and special guest emphasis during the marketing session isn’t usually necessary.

In Dallas, we introduced refined definitions for the type of “Takers”, and I think this will improve our sessions in the future. Now, our morning session can give each participant a priority list of who might be interested in his situation and an immediate indication of how serious they might be. The ability to differentiate between “Super Takers” vs “Takers with Interest” speaks a new language that is very helpful in a big session.

I think that it is important to start with a comprehensive agenda where we schedule sessions for moderated presentations, creativity, problem solving, new ideas, most motivated, cash and paper inventory, brief education, etc. We are fortunate in the Society to have many outstanding experienced Moderators to contribute and run these sessions. For the new guest or the experienced participant, ideas generated in these formats can be put to use immediately. I believe a successful meeting will almost always include all of these segments.

Any agenda, however, needs to be flexible and dynamic. I have seen that market conditions and locations sometimes make one of these typical sessions very productive, and in the next meeting we really don’t have an hours worth of “most motivated”. The Head Moderator needs to be able to make the call on when a session needs to be shortened or lengthened if it is going extremely well or fading badly. A Moderator keeping to an agenda should seldom shorten a highly productive format that is going extremely well.

It is my opinion there are numerous members of the Society that could be excellent Head Moderators that haven’t served so far. I don’t think one needs to be highly creative on his/her feet to organize a great meeting. I think it is great to try new ideas and formats, but when we do, we should evaluate them carefully and make sure they are more productive than some of the more traditional activities. In the realm of meeting organization, I don’t think SEC has always done a good job of deciding what works best and refining it rather than reinventing for the next time. Personally, I don’t think there should be an aversion to what I call the “Holiday Inn Approach”. This refers to a scenario where regular members and attendees know what to expect of the format when they arrive. If it works, let’s keep doing it. If it doesn’t work as well, let’s go back to what worked better.

In summary, serving as the Head Moderator is a privilege and an honor. I think more members should volunteer to serve in this capacity. It requires no special talent; only a desire to learn and improve each meeting that one serves. The great thing about the Society is that all members are willing to help each step of the way.

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