With a couple real estate bar camps this coming weekend (Raleigh, NC; Rye, NY and Ocean City, Maryland), the OCMD team wanted a blog for the site to help people get a flavor for what to expect, so here is my contribution, hope it helps!

You registered (or didn’t go ahead and show up anyway) and are ready to head to your first Real Estate Bar Camp, what next? It can seem like a potentially intimidating experience, not knowing what to expect or who to expect to encounter. What do I bring? What do I wear? How do I prepare for an “unconference”. All those thoughts and more pour through the head of a first time attendee, I know because I was once that attendee. So let me walk you through the process a bit.

When you first arrive, look for signs that direct you to the event – sometimes they are professionally printed but more often hand-written on poster boards. If you aren’t sure or don’t see signs, ask anyone your see, chances are they will know are looking for the REBC event themselves. When you arrive head right over to the registration desk. Volunteers will be there ready to welcome you and check you in. Depending on the individual camp (they are all run slightly differently at registration) you will get a badge to write your name on. On the badges they typically have at least two places to write your name, the first for your real name, the next for your Twitter name (don’t worry if you don’t have one, you aren’t required to), often there is also a spot for your hometown.

Bobbi Howe and I hanging at the bandstand at REBCSF in July. Casual and comfortable.

After you have checked in and received your badge, there is usually an area where the “Board” sits. The board is what will form into your schedule for the day. It is a living document, people fill out 3×5 note cards, or similar, with what the session title is and their name then they pick a time and location. Sessions often run from 30-50 minutes depending on the camp and the schedule.

In theory everyone attending should be prepared to lead a session, but don’t worry about that. Just watch the board and take note of the times and places of the sessions you want.  Remember it is a living document so it will change.  A final visit before the opening of the event is a good idea, but people filter past the board all day long.  You will notice that at the end of each session, people checking locations and changing their choices.

Your organizers will have an opening session. Usually your organizer will introduce the team and give you some brief overview of that days event, sometimes they have a someone do “opening remarks”, but not always.  They will review the concept with you and anything special or specific to the venue. There may be some space restrictions like which rooms are not available for use. Once that is over you are on your way.

If you identified the first session you want to attend this is when you will head over there. Find a seat, chair, floor, window, wall-leaning, whatever you want – it is all casual.  Once the session begins the person leading the session will introduce themselves and anyone else who might be there to offer assistance.  Once the session begins if you feel as though the topic isn’t what you thought it would be, or you decide you aren’t interested it is ok to get up and leave. In bar camp that is called “voting with your feet”.  It is accepted and understood. Not everything is the right fit for everyone.

The whole point of being there is to get information you find useful and meet new people, expanding your personal community and network. People will “lobbycon” which means they might sit in the main hall talking, you should feel free to step into any conversation.

Everyone should feel comfortable and welcome, the real estate bar camp events are inclusive of everyone.  No matter your experience level don’t be afraid to offer a though, or participate in a session.  If someone is doing a session you have some expertise in step right up to the session leader and offer your help.  The more the merrier.

That is really the basics of the event, now for the less pressing questions.  I am often asked “How do I dress?” “What should I bring” and many more questions of similar context.  As for attire – comfort is key, some might wear business clothes, business casual, depending on personal style.  I am often found wearing jeans and a t-shirt at bar camp so when I find that perfect spot on the floor I am comfortable (if you see me on the floor like that, don’t worry I love sitting on floors and get tired of explaining that every time a thoughtful person offers me a seat, so thank you in advance for your courtesy).

What to bring? I often bring my laptop but rarely take it out, if I had an iPad I would have it with me everywhere, or a netbook.  I definitely bring my Sprint Hotspot to share a wifi connection if someone needs one. A notebook is the best thing to bring so you can jot down any notes or great ideas you get from a session. A camera or flip is fun to bring too, to capture photos or video of sessions you really like.

So that is really the essence of real estate bar camp, pretty simple and casual. Everyone is there to interact with each other and welcoming. Don’t think twice about introducing yourself to someone.

My 5 Essentials for Real Estate Bar Camp:

  1. Wear a smile and comfortable clothes
  2. Everyone is a human being, all on equal footing in the universe. Don’t be shy.
  3. Be ready to participate
  4. Ask lots of questions! If you don’t get it ask.
  5. Have lots of fun.

Got any questions or did I miss something important, please feel free to comment and add your question or insight! The more the merrier.

Photo courtesy of Deb Madey

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