Sweat the Details: Laura Monroe with Inman

Sweat the Details Podcast by Nest Realty cooperation

Humanity, Connect(ing) via Analog & Digital with Laura Monroe

Laura Monroe with Inman joined Jonathan, Keith, and Jim to talk about humanity, COVID-19, transitioning to virtual Inman Connect, and a lot more.

Laura Monroe

You can listen to this podcast here, and subscribe to the podcast here.

Highlights:

  • Her role as Global Head of Community at Inman
  • How Inman, as a distributed team, quickly decided to transition to virtual Inman Connect
  • How they will be facilitating connections online
  • Creating experiences with different platforms
  • Tech trends emerging from brokerages due to pandemic
  • Humanity and empathy
  • COVID-19 is not necessarily changing the world, but accelerating it
  • Analog vs. Digital
  • Making, and missing, memorable experiences right now.
  • Is it OK to put logos on masks?
  • What does Inman 2025 look like?
  • Travis Scott’s concert
  • What detail does she Sweat?

If you enjoy our podcast, please share it with a friend or colleague, and rate us wherever you listen to podcasts.

Transcript

Jim:
All right, everybody, we’re here. This is Jim Duncan with Nest Realty, Sweat The Details joined by Laura Monroe from Inman. Laura, tell us a little about who you are, what your role is, and just give us a bit of an intro.

Laura:
Sure. Well, thanks for having me, first of all. I’m a big fan of yours. So I love being here on a Friday afternoon, this is perfect.

Jim:
Thanks.

Laura:
Laura Monroe, so I am… Official title is Global Head of Community of Inman, which is a relatively new role. Took it over in January with a big emphasis in really growing our network globally. I mean, that’s pretty honest to goodness about what it’s all about. We’ve had a really big community around Inman and our events for several years, quite a few years, but we’ve realized that we’ve moved quite a bit into some other marketplaces, gathered some popularity and some momentum in places like Australia and Canada, and this role will facilitate some more intentional programming and outreach and some additional… My big vision is to have some Inman chapters distributed across the globe, which I think for this particular time that we are in is perfect timing. So I’m very excited to be able to connect with more people and just build what we can, build new things, build new networks, collaborate together.

Jonathan:
That’s great. When you were interviewing for the job last year, did they ask you what you would do in your role during a pandemic?

Laura:
Not at all. But what was interesting there was I was doing some of my own R&D research just around brands that do a lot with community and how they build community and just getting into some tactile strategic things, and it gave me enough to realize that community is really one of the most important things that you can have during any crisis situation, but you actually should have a leader that can help manage that community through things like this.

Laura:
And as soon as we were all sort of locked down and it started unraveling, we did pivot quite a bit in terms of content and how we were striking a tone. And I was given that chance to really think very clearly about how I was going to engage with our community. Brad and I had a lot of conversations around this is the kind of tone we should be striking. We really need to be very careful. So we put a lot of thought behind it, but I think without having that community piece in place and having someone that was actually owning that part of what we were doing in the organization, we may not have gotten through it the way we have. So I’ve been really grateful to have the opportunity to experience it in this role. It’s been incredibly enlightening.

Jim:
So on the community aspect, we’re not going to see each other this year in a few months as we were planning to previously. Tell us a little about that transition happened. I mean, you said that you were in the board room when y’all were making those decisions. What was that like?

Laura:
Well, initially we were all… We’re a distributed team. Inman is a distributed team. We have about 40 to 50 employees in, I think, 40 different states, so across all time zones. So we were already working virtually. We already had very good at working very proactively together and our culture has been built around doing that. But when we decided that we needed to at least… We didn’t make it an all-in-one decision because we still wanted to have it as a backup plan first because we were hoping that the live event would work out, but we were quickly putting in a variety of different production models. So it wasn’t completely virtual, it was more of a hybrid, maybe some recorded sessions, maybe we’ll only be live for a day. Like, how can we do this? What do we need to prepare for? So at first-

Jonathan:
Let me just jump in real quick and, I guess, just kind of give some context to Jim’s question. This is relating to Inman Connect in Las Vegas, which was scheduled for July of 2020, and then the decision process behind how you handled that. Anyway, sorry to interrupt.

Laura:
No, thank you so much. That was perfect. Yeah, so we decided that we were going to go fully digital probably the second or third week into potentially the whole country’s lockdown. We just decided we weren’t going to take any chances. It wasn’t the right time. There was plenty for us to do. This was a great opportunity for us to innovate. So we started right away. The first thing we needed to do is decide on the kind of platform that we were going to use to build out this event and still maintain a quality production value that we wanted to make sure that we tried to accomplish.

Laura:
So we’ve been sort of in experimentation mode with a variety of different platforms that will allow us to do some things virtually. Obviously we haven’t settled on just one, but we have a variety of different platforms we’re going to be using that integrate together. So that’s kind of where we’ve been. We’ve been in experimentation mode for quite some time.

Keith:
So Laura, if I can ask for Inman New York, at least, for the past couple of years, you all have been offering more and more streaming opportunities for people that are not present to be able to at least connect in some of the sessions and to be able to get some of the information and doing a lot of daily updates and kind of constant feedback. In terms of the number of people, just to kind of refresh and think about what y’all have been, with Inman when it moved from San Francisco to Vegas last year, what was the actual attendance last year that you had? Were their goals that you all had already set for this year, and how has that adjusted for where you hope to be on a online platform?

Laura:
Sure. I think for us there’s always a growth goal. There’s always a growth goal on the other side of every single event. We want to try to make our audiences as large as possible. We’ve been around the 4,000, 5,000, attendee mark now for a couple of years, and we probably grow a few hundred more every single event. So we really look at our feedback and we really look at what is resonating in terms of content, what’s working out. And it’s interesting because Las Vegas of last year was the inaugural production hitting Las Vegas for the first time. So we were already kind of revisioning that a little bit back in Vegas. So there were going to be some improvements and definitely some really cool things that we were doing there.

Laura:
But I think once we shifted into the virtual, we still wanted to maintain as much of the attendee. In fact, I think we really opened up our goals and we said, “You know what? We can do Facebook Live, we can have watch parties. We can do so much more to sort of see this from a digital standpoint, and then let others actually choose an experience or how they want to experience this conference and decide how they want to do it.” And I just coined last week for myself just to help me envision it, it’s kind of like picturing your own Superbowl party. You know you’re going to be watching, you know you’re going to be putting aside several hours, but how do we connect people? Which is obviously what our event is about. How do we still have some of those elements of a live conference, in other words, some of the offside networking and after parties and some of the things on the side that we needed to make sure that we facilitate? So there’s just a lot of moving parts.

Laura:
Obviously it’s about attendance, but for us, the ultimate goal is connection, networking, content, and still being able to have what we hope is a pretty flawless production. We wanted also to make sure that, as time was going by and we were experimenting with platforms, that we were not going to have the Zoom experience. It’s got to be next level. So that’s kind of where we’ve been going both from a goal standpoint from production as well as attendees. So we’re headed in the right direction. We’ve got about another three, four weeks, and it’s looking pretty good.

Jonathan:
Can you give us any insight into how you do facilitate connections through an online conference?

Laura:
So part of my role with the community side is I’m… I had to revision the ambassador program because in the past our ambassador program has been our… The ambassadors have been our real life people that have been sort of reporting what happens, facilitating some connections obviously, but mostly amplifying the promotion of the event and trying to facilitate some connection before, so that once everybody lands in the city and we’re all in the same time zone, it’s a matter of just sort of finding who your people are and finding the right bar and where to hang out and where to see people and that sort of thing.

Laura:
So this, when we moved into this, the plan for ambassadors was actually not taking them into a smaller role, but actually bringing them into a much larger role because most people will be experiencing and engaging in the actual content live as it happens in chats. So we need facilitators within the chats to make sure that there are conversations that are happening, that people feel heard, that they know that they’re watching something that they’re engaging with. If we’re doing panels, we’re going to be able to move people in and out of chat and in and out of video. So that’s another element of it that’s going to be happening live during general sessions. But then we also have this sense of there’s always the morning coffee and there’s maybe some things that we do at Cocktails at Connect or the after parties. So we’re actually using a variety of different platforms and opportunities to what I call is create experiences.

Laura:
Let’s say, we know that people aren’t going to want to sit for eight hours in front of a computer screen. It’s going to be really hard for people to get through that. So what we’re encouraging people to do is grab the content and the speakers and the sessions that are really important to you and maybe go offline and create another mastermind session around what you heard that day. Or grab an ambassador and let them be part of another Zoom call where you actually hash out a new strategy or a technology piece or you pull in an exhibitor and have them talk a little bit more about a technology that you found on the expo floor.

Laura:
So what we’re trying to facilitate is not only something that’s in real time, but also gives people a blueprint for taking those different connections and conversations and encouraging people to facilitate ways of doing it on their own, even after the fact. We normally sit back at a live event, we go sit in a bar and we might do lobby con and sort of talk about the day, but this way we need to get more people thinking about it a little bit differently. So that’s what the ambassador program will do. Our social media strategy is going to be around facilitating a lot of those things that are outside of normal session workshops.

Jim:
So taking that thread about technology and shifting over to what you’re seeing through your lens about what tech and brokerages are sort of taking hold, have you seen any trend right now that has started to immediately emerge from brokerages that y’all are watching across the country?

Laura:
I think we do. I mean, obviously, I mean, I think we can all sit here and say, I mean, we’re seeing the virtual showings and anything that can be virtually done that was normally done without being virtual, whether that’s seeing curbside closings. I mean, which is definitely more of an analog experience. But, I mean, we’re seeing a rush to get more of the transactional technology online. We’re seeing the 3D virtual tours being much more available and affordable and accessible as a strategy. It’s not so much that we haven’t had these tools in our toolbox and that we’re all of a sudden creating new technology, but it’s more that we need to take the tools out and actually start using them in new ways. So from a technology standpoint, I think that we’re sharpening the tools that have been sitting there for a while, not doing much.

Laura:
The other thing I’m also seeing from a broker standpoint is really the education part of it. I mean, I think that learning platforms, agent training, support, conversations, I’m seeing the culture building with the everyday sales meetings turning into more and more check-ins and ways of connecting with brokers and agents and finding out how they’re doing more throughout their day and supporting them in real leadership ways. So in some ways it’s about technology, but I think we’re seeing a shift from the conversations about venture capital into human capital.

Laura:
I don’t think there’s been a more important time for agents and brokers to really be in touch with the humanity behind not only what they do every day, but how they’re showing up in the world for their clients. So, to me, the real leadership is actually taking the tools that technology can provide, but overlaying that with a huge piece of humanity and empathy for both your agent teams as well as their clients.

Keith:
Yeah. I think one of the interesting things, you said it when you started, was said you’ve realized how important community is within the Inman family within the conference group, but it’s also within real estate in general. And I think one of the interesting things about the tech movement of the last few weeks is that obviously every agent who’s listing property is becoming more adept at and accelerating the use of technologies that were already available to us.

Keith:
But I think, I haven’t heard any agent say, “Wow, I can’t believe we ever did it the old way. We’re never going back to any of that.” No one has said, “Oh, we’re never holding another open house.” Yes, open houses may be on hold for quite some time because of health issues, but nobody’s jumping at Matterport is better than a in-person visit or the video option is replacing. It’s augmenting. And I think one of the comments that I’ve heard over and over again from one of the podcasts I’ve listened to is that the COVID experience is not changing the world, but it’s accelerating the movement to a different place.

Keith:
And I think just in listening to you and in talking with other brokers, there’s no question. We’re accepting these new technologies it seems we need to do, and we’re rushing towards them and I think we’re going to become more adept at using them and we’re going to see them continue after we bring people back together in face-to-face. But there’s no question. It’s not replacing it. And I think if anything, it’s making us realize how important it was.

Laura:
Absolutely. Well, I think there’s that service aspect, right? When you sit down to define your brand and the value that you bring, both your communication and service to clients, it’s a big part of the service development of what you do, which is to do things in-person, which is to do things that are actually from human to human. I don’t think you get into real estate just to sit behind a computer all of the time and deal with customers that way. We are built to be in front of people with people, learning together and experiencing all of the transitions together.

Laura:
The unique value proposition that we sometimes struggle with as an industry because we tend to… Some of the stories that hit the headlines that we get a lot of through the controversial pushback is there’s a lot going on in the technology world with the Zillows of the world that we all keep track on. But again, it goes back to where is the unique value proposition of the agent and the broker? And really, you guys are it. It’s not about iBuying and venture capital and you know these big companies. It’s really about how we’re building cultures and these relationships with agents and then agents with their clientele, because that’s really where the market share is, is in those relationships.

Laura:
One of my big things is I would love to get back to talking about how the value of our industry altogether is built on the relationships that each agent has within their own personal network or community, whatever word you want to use. And so, the value of our industry is actually built on that market share. There’s absolutely no way of getting around those conversations. So I think from a technology standpoint to get back to exactly those things that make us valuable as professionals, you’re right, it’s about the service and it’s not necessarily about what technology we’re taking along with us. For sure.

Jonathan:
Interesting point you brought up about analog versus digital and how you bring humanity into it. I think that talking about these curbside closings that are happening right now, and then also echoing what Keith said, I don’t think anybody is doing a curbside closing right now and saying, “Man, the next time I buy a house in seven years, I hope I can sign it on the hood of a Honda Accord.”

Jonathan:
I mean, you talk about experiences, right? And I’m not going to say that going to a closing table is the most amazing experience in the world, but it’s memorable, right? I mean, all of us have the experience is sitting around, and we may not be signing our names 136 times on pieces of paper and maybe we’re only signing it 20 times, but there’s just something about going to a location and being with… Hopefully your realtor is there with you to sign those papers, and maybe at some point in time we can hug and shake hands again. Jim doesn’t shake hands ever, so he’s not going to shake hands.

Jim:
[inaudible 00:19:47].

Jonathan:
But those are the types of experiences that I think now we’re looking at it and saying… It’s almost like all those kids that are missing graduation, they’re missing that kind of grand finale experience. There’s a lot of these experiences that we’re missing. And the online graduation just isn’t going to cut it. Just like the-

Laura:
Drive-by party celebration, throw the keys out the window, “You’ve been great. Here’s your keys to your house.” Well, that’s the thing. And even yesterday we were having a conversation just about do we put a logo on our masks that we have to use? I mean, that was a big controversial comment.

Keith:
We’ve been having that conversation this week.

Laura:
So many different sides of these kinds of things coming out of this that-

Keith:
Are masks going to be the new lanyard at the next [inaudible 00:20:44]?

Laura:
Exactly. Are masks going to be the new lanyard? [inaudible 00:20:46] of the amount of answers I was hearing. I put it up as a poll yesterday. Is it good? Is it bad? What do you think? The answers were… I could see a point in almost every single one of them, but in general it’s like, again, it’s this new… How are you showing up and is it going to be received the way that you think something is going to be received? But getting back to those analog, I mean, the mask is an analog thing. Is that a service? Is it a marketing statement? What is it?

Laura:
I think that those little things somehow probably will not leave us. There will be those things that we end up sort of having to incorporate in one way or the other and finding the best practice. So that’s one of the things that fascinates me is when we talk about best practices, what’s the best practice for something like that? We don’t even know yet.

Jonathan:
We have no idea.

Laura:
[crosstalk 00:21:56] flesh out.

Jonathan:
Let’s say that in the now goes off without a hitch and it is a huge success. What does Inman Connect 2025 look like in New York? What’s your take? What do we bring from 2019 and what do we bring from Inman now into 2025?

Laura:
From a content perspective?

Jonathan:
What is it? Do we still gather at the Marriott Marquis in New York? Is it part virtual, part there in real life? I mean, what do you think?

Laura:
I think that if we’re fully capable of doing a live event that we would love to continue to do a live event. I mean, we still have our New York event in the books five years from now. However, I can say that I know a couple of years ago or a few years ago when I was at Inman before we actually were thinking about having hologram speakers sort of come in and maybe do a presentation or two. So if I were thinking five years down the line, and if Brad had his choice, there may be something that is sort of that virtual reality, bring in a speaker virtual, but have it actually be more of a virtual reality, sort of that hologram experience where we pass out the masks as well as the goggles and experience it in completely different ways, both live and both virtual.

Laura:
And I think another thing that we’re already seeing happen just in the few short weeks that we’ve been trying these different platforms is we’re seeing these platform developers rush to create amazing technologies to be able to allow you to do a bunch of different things. There’s production companies that are there to be able to film high quality video for prerecorded sessions and being able to Zoom them in. So we’re taking this from an event standpoint, yes, but then we also have to think about production, the technology, and the logistics in a completely different way.

Laura:
But five years from now, I bet you will be seeing some virtual reality and some hologram and some pretty cool things that are probably happening. Because if I know Brad, that’s kind of how he is. He’s like, “We’ve got to have something that sort of shows the future.” But those were the kind of things that would show up at different concerts or Burning Man or Coachella, these different things that artists would play with. But as we start to see that go more mainstream, we could see a whole different kind of event. We could see things that are more disconnect. We brought that out into Palm Springs. Maybe there’s something that goes out into a totally different location outside of a hotel.

Laura:
So I think that we’re open to seeing how all of this happens and the best way to connect. I mean, Connect is Connect no matter what. I mean, that’s the promise that we make as a brand. That this is how we are going to connect as an industry is around some of these events. And for us it’s about always collaborating with the industry. One of the things I love about Inman is that we’re agnostic, we’re platform agnostic. We try to bring in every brokerage, every franchise, every company, everything so that we actually have representation of everyone. No one has to feel like it’s not the right time for me to be there or it’s not the right place. So that’s what I think that we’ll do. We’ll do something amazing no matter what.

Jonathan:
I’m intrigued. I’ll buy a ticket now for the hologram speaker.

Laura:
I know, right?

Jim:
Holograms would be certainly more environmentally friendly too. So maybe it’d be a win-win.

Laura:
Right. Well, like for example, so one… I was fascinated and I would not have even taken notice of something like this without being in this moment. But it was interesting that one of the more popular artists, Travis Scott, who was getting ready to release a brand new album, and he was going to do a big huge live show where he literally will have like tens of thousands of young people. But he had to immediately switch, and he had a production company completely develop an entire experience for one of the gaming platforms.

Laura:
So they immediately rewrote the script, digitized the entire opening of what they were going to do live, created amazing special effects so that when you actually watched it in a virtual reality experience, he was larger than life. And it was almost a theatrical, amazing experience with the sound, with the crowd noise. I mean, they were able to almost recreate an entire launch of this live concert through a gaming type of technology. And I think our young people are so used to that, that experiencing a conference in sort of this gaming reality where you have controls and you have the ability to talk to others through a headset and you sort of have this online engaging experience. I think we’ll move very quickly away from sort of this flat screened way connecting with people. And if it continues that we have these restrictions to be able to do that, that we find these new innovative ways and take those cues from entertainment and from different experiences, digital experiences, and I see it going the way of gaming 100%.

Keith:
I love the tie in between kind of just everything else in culture that isn’t necessarily part of our culture yet. In terms of what the teenage group is seeing, what other demographics are utilizing. As you… Kind of let me put this out. This is Sweat The Details, and so one of the things we’d love to get your take on is as you look at the next year or next two years as you adapt to moving back somewhat into a more normal environment, maybe somewhat staying in this pandemic environment, what’s the one detail that you think the organizers of Inman, or you in particular, are going to be sweating about every day, and what’s that detail for you look like for the next year?

Laura:
I think for me in my particular role it’s making sure that I’m connecting with people every single day in a very one-on-one way. I think I’m the kind of person that tries to do a lot of multitasking, reach a lot of people at one time, rely a lot on social media to be able to do that. But I’ve noticed specifically right now, and something that I will probably never change and the detail that I’ve loved is that one-on-one text, that one-on-one conversation, that really making sure that I’m taking some time to be really intentional about reaching out to people. And I feel like the industry is pretty good at that, but for me personally it’s been really important for me to check in on people at a very personal level.

Laura:
That’s a detail that I think I’m going to keep building on and getting better at in my life and in my work life is taking that time to reach out as a person instead of just a colleague. And actually finding out how people really are. I think we’ve been through a big psychological moment, we’re all handling it differently, we’re all experiencing it differently, and I think that we can’t just snap back to the autopilot that we’ve all sort of been on. So that’s a detail that I think I’m going to really take to heart is just making sure that everybody’s okay, and in as many ways as I one-on-one can do that. We’re going through a lot of changes as humanity, I think, and as a society and an industry. But I think the best thing that we can do for each other is just really be real and genuine.

Keith:
No, I think that’s spot on. I think we certainly, it has been one of our daily weekly discussions of how do we continue to keep community when there is distance that’s enforced between us. And I think obviously for somebody whose entire job is going to be community building, I think that makes complete sense that that connection is top of mind.

Jim:
Cool.

Keith:
It’s been fantastic. Thanks for coming on. This has been an awesome conversation. We always love reconnecting with you.

Laura:
I love seeing your faces. I mean, this is an opportunity that I may not have gotten without all of this. So this is great.

Jim:
Laura, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Laura:
Thank you so much. Yeah, I’ll be listening for it. I’m watching you guys always. I’m a big fan.

Jim:
Thank you.

Laura:
Love to see.

Jim:
See you. Bye. Thanks.

 

Written by
Posted in 501 Nest Realty, Asheville, Atlanta, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, Greater Louisville, Greensboro, Jackson, Lake Norman, New River Valley, Raleigh-Durham, Richmond, Roanoke, Shenandoah Valley, Wilmington
Tags: , ,
Comments closed

Comments are closed.

Archives

Categories

Join our Newsletter

×