The Charlotte Regional Realtor Association’s fourth annual Real Estate Bar Camp started like all the others, which is to say it didn’t start anything like most other real estate training sessions.
About 100 real estate agents from across the Charlotte region and other states gathered in a classroom at the Mingle School of Real Estate the morning of March 9.
And they had about 20 minutes to decide the schedule for the conference.
“This is why we call it an ‘un-conference,’” Lori Bee, an organizer for the camp and team leader with Keller Williams in Union County, said. “No one knows what classes are going to be taught until we meet to decide the topics addressed.”
Camp attendees were greeted with a large dry-erase board containing a blank scheduling grid and a projector hooked to a laptop that showed live updates – at a special Rebar Camp website – on the voting for topics. Attendees could cast votes via text using their mobile phones or by tweeting or logging on to the camp’s website.
“We open the floor for pitches where people bring up topics they want to discuss,” said Todd Long, another camp organizer and an agent with Keller Williams in Charlotte. “If someone feels like they’re an expert on using Twitter for real estate or using Google Analytics, they can bring it up. But they don’t have to teach a class. Really, no one is teaching the classes.”
This year marked the first time that the conference allowed real-time tracking of votes. This year’s event also focused more on social media than in the past.
The courses for the un-conference play out more like group discussions than traditional classroom sessions, Long said. And just because someone suggests a topic to be discussed doesn’t mean they have to know anything about it.
“We encourage people to bring up topics they want to learn about because usually there’s someone else that wants to learn about it, too,” said camp organizer Debbie Maxwell of Charlotte-based Savvy & Co. Realty. “This year is almost completely about social media.”
Topics voted on included getting the most out of Twitter and Google Plus and how to use Pinterest for real estate. One of the highest vote-getters this year was how to convert Internet leads into sales.
The Rebar Camp wasn’t always this well organized, Long said. The first year for the un-conference was hosted in 2008 at the N.C. Music Factory in Uptown.
“We had to haul in air conditioning, microphones and speakers,” Maxwell said. “That year was a real adventure. But it was popular. We had people visiting from Washington state and California.”
At this month’s camp, attendees included real estate agents from Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Virginia.
Since 2008, the courses have become more specialized. Long said the camp started out with more how-to courses but now has more advanced classes for social media staples, like Facebook and Twitter.
“Our first Real Estate Bar Camp was set up by (real estate agent) Chad Huck, who sent out a tweet about it in 2008 and we just started talking about it,” Long said. “People do these for IT, attorney conferences and all kinds of topics now. It is like an impromptu conference.”
Maxwell said one beneficial side effect of the camp is helping local real estate agents meet in person.
“You have a lot of these people that you follow on Twitter and you know their name and their profile pic,” she said. “But this way you can see them up close and personal and you can recognize them when you sit down across from them at the negotiation table. It really helps.”
This year’s camp was planned via Skype and a special WordPress group.
“We have very green meetings,” Maxwell said.
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