Heather Reviews the Multifamily Pro Brainstorming Conference for 2009

Multifamily Pro Brainstorming 2009: A Human Conference With Out Of This World Results

I’ve had many multifamily moments that ranked pretty high on my list of awesome experiences.  As important as each one of those was to me, they’ve all been eclipsed by the week I spent at Multifamily Pro Brainstorming in Houston. I’m not a novice to conventions by any means, but the energy, creativity and addictive nature of this conference has made it a set in stone plan for me to attend next year. 

 Dancing on chairs and making more excited noise than I’ll bet Houston has ever heard before, a room full of people dressed as aliens, star wars characters,Trekkers, not to mention the oracle of the future herself, Ms. Tami Swirek,greeted over 800 amazing multifamily minds on Wednesday morning.  It had to be quite a sight for those first time brainstormers, but the energy of Tami’s facilitation staff was out of this world and incredibly contagious!  By the end of the day, our 64 tables had come up with over812 new multifamily ideas, executable and designed with the idea of tappinginto key trends for the coming year.  Tami set in our sights on 10 trends,including Hyper-Tasking, Infolust, Being the Greenest, Localism, and Generosity, as well as several sub trends under each category.  Explained by Tami and the Apartment Expert, Lisa Trosien, these upcoming trends worked like a snow shovel to uncover what has been a much hidden path for our industry this last year.  Everyone has had a rough year this year, but that fact didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of a room full of dedicated problems olvers.  Participants were even invited to pose their biggest challenge to the small group they were working with, giving everyone at their tables a chance to pull together and find solutions.  I can’t describe to you the rewarding feeling of looking around the table at 8 people who were engaged and involved in helping each other.  People were so generous with their thoughts and experiences, and, though I can’t speak for any of the other tables, those expected and traditional conversation killers never once reared their head at my table.  Open minds and open hearts make for open eyes moving forward.

Tami spoke at the Trends 2010 luncheon, a session which made me want to yell out AMEN several times.  Thankfully, I had Twitter and didn’t have to interrupt her to agree with her.  Tweets highlighting key points posted during Tami’s speech do not even come close to doing the presentation justice. It’s something you really had to be there to get the full effect of and I encourage those of you who have never heard her speak before to add attending a session with her to your list of things to do during your career.

Wednesday wrapped up with a great executive panel session moderated by the CEO of Camden.  When you take the stage in a maintenance supervisor’s uniform to talk about the future of our business, it makes an impressive statement, and I don’t think there was anyone in the room who didn’t hear his message loud and clear.  The points brought up by the panel he moderated were thoughtful and interesting.  The executive panel skewed more to the financial end of things, but what I walked away with from it was a great quote from our moderator: "If the people in the office aren't smiling, then the stock price isn't going to go up."  Dang Skippy!

I would be hard pressed to find a more engaging and fun group of people to celebrate with.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Multifamily folks know how to party!  The inclusivity that I saw extended to and from my colleagues was amazing and really touched me personally.  It may have been because there was a rough year, but the sense of a banded comradery flowed through this crowd.  It was great to reconnect with and meet some of those brilliant minds I’ve been working with on Twitter over the last year. From what I considered to be a very special experience hanging out with some industry legends on my first night, to a long, uncharted walk to dinner the next night, to the great tweet up Thursday evening, I never stopped laughing with these people.  These people held an ability to make it fun to wait a half an hour for an elevator.  Even my roommate, Charity Hisle, and I stayed up one night until 3 am, just cracking each other up, proving once again that things get increasingly hilarious the more sleep deprived you get. I’ve never had so many people teach me so much through love. 

Thursday’s educational sessions were like Pixi Sticks for the brain, a jolt of inspiration and energy that required action. The ones that I attended got me so hyped upand juiced that I couldn’t stop thinking of good ideas, and my brain went in to creativity overdrive!  I was privileged to co-present a session on marketing without the internet with the amazing Ms. Cathy Macione.  If you’ve never had the pleasure to see her in action, you’re missing out on someone who is energetic, intelligent and inspiring.  I was in awe of her poise and grace on the stage, and feel incredibly honored to have been granted the opportunity to work with her.  Some of the other great sessions included Charity Hisle and Allison Bell’s Craigslist Best Practices, Lisa Trosien and Mike Whaling on Social Media, and Lori Snider and Jackie Ramsted’s Improv to Improve. Running concurrent to the sessions was a great tradeshow in the lower level of the hotel.  It wasn't overwhelming in size, but it was just perfect for the attendance and space allotted.  I saw a lot of my favorite vendors there and got the chance to meet and talk with some new ones. I also had the chance to see Anne and Eve's beautiful jewelry.  If you geta chance to buy from them, make sure you do, their work is amazing.

Friday morning’s panel sessions were incredibly informative.  I wished I could have attended all three, but, as they ran concurrently, that was not possible.Though I did not get the chance to see it, I'm told that the fair housing session offered by Doug Chasick and Nadeen Greene was fantastic!  I sat inbriefly on the social media session, moderated by Lisa Trosien, and was very impressed at the knowledge that was being given.  To have 5 strong names in multifamily social media there, taking questions and clearing up misconceptions was a complete gift to that audience.  And speaking of gifts, the massive amount of ideas offered by the expert panel of consultants in the next room wasn't something I'd take back to the store either!  Just sitting in that room, having a chance to soak up their great ideas and knowledge is an experience I am so glad I got the opportunity to have. 

Tami has released the dates for this year's conference, September 15-17 in Dallas, and I hope that I will get the chance to see some more of you there.  It can completely change your perception of this industry and it can turn your world around.  If you've never gone, beg, plead, borrow and deal to get there...it's well worth it!

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