It started life in 2010 as HousingWire’s REO Expo, bringing together real estate professionals from across the sector — not just the bank-owned space — to teach them its idiosyncrasies.

The need, observed HW Founder, CEO and Publisher Paul Jackson earlier this year, “was phenomenal.” It grew to become an important date on the real estate conference calendar, Jackson explained, attracting in the region of about 2,000 people during its 2012 incarnation.

Roll the clock forward to 2013 and the conference evolved some more, taking on both a new thrust and, of course, name: Real Estate Expo, or, as its maiden run became more commonly known, REX Annual 2013.

This time around, the focus took on a wider breadth, surveying the wider real estate landscape: marketing, technology, managing listings and how consumers search, to name but a few.

“The goal with REX 2013 was to use our previous three years as a successful REO industry conference as the foundation for a successful real estate conference,” said Jackson at the close of the conference. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy to do. And we knew we had to shake things up, that we had to deliver. And we did just that.”

Indeed, the market responded. More than 1,100 attended the event.

Fort Worth, Texas — the venue for the first run under this new moniker — and the colorful group of attendees got a solid blast of what REX Annual is all about. They also got a dose of the promise of what’s yet to come from an event that’s set on moving with the times, ebbing and flowing with the changing complexion of the real estate industry.

“For me, the highlight of the event was simply seeing how engaged all of our attendees were throughout — and seeing the Twitter hashtag #REX2013 trending on Twitter during the show underscored the intense engagement we were able to produce,” Jackson concluded.

“It’s fun to know you’re doing something relevant, something that is helping others learn how to improve their own businesses.”

Now, pull up a comfy pew, and sit back as we recap some of REX 2013’s top headline moments.

Portending things to come

Beaming bright and centrally positioned, the iconic REX orange box quickly became a focal point during the conference.

The mammoth cube was anchored in front of the entrance to the Forth Worth Convention Center venue, signaling the beginning of something — we think — quite important.

The box acted as a virtual beacon for attendees, beckoning Realtors and other guests as they arrived at the arena, or greeting them once more as they strolled the Fort Worth Water Gardens, perhaps.

But the REX box served a greater purpose then just some grand stationary object.

Instead, it acted as a trademark location to capitalize on where the conference was staged, who people were socializing out with and what this maiden REX was really all about: put simply, helping brokers and agents grow their networks and real estate business.

Newly made friends flocked to the box to quickly take a snapshot to show longer-established friends online what they were up to — or, indeed, other players in the industry what they were missing out on.

Photography enthusiasts seized on opportunities to perfect the ideal angle for their budding pieces of artwork, while companies’ representatives were seen to snatch quick photos, perhaps to remind their customers that they remain active and making progress.

Instead of casually walking into the conference, for instance, many attendees would quickly stop and snag a snap, catching people and friends before they immersed themselves in the conference.

For all that, the cube was the first impression most conference goers got of the event. It helped tell the REX story — that it would be equal parts bold and intense, bidding to help Realtors stand out.

And much of this unfolded before attendees even walked in the door.

The world’s your mirror

“There has never been a time in real estate in which it’s more crucial for you to understand how you can fascinate your prospects,” Fascinate CEO Sally Hogshead told an engaged crowd.

It’s time to stop thinking about how you see the world and start thinking about how the world sees you, Hogshead said. It’s a crucial shift, but all real estate professionals need to learn how to apply their personality to get more leads, attract better prospects and grow their business.

So, asks Hogshead, what is it that makes you distinct? In an age when properties are a commodity, how can real estate agents add additional value through their personality?

“When you add distinct value, people cherish you,” said Hogshead. “It’s when you can really start to grow your business.”

If anyone could prove this statement, it’s Hogshead, who just a few years ago was forced to sell her house as a short sale after the housing crisis severely affected her business. After months of working to become a better speaker — unsuccessfully — Hogshead took a step back to analyze her greatest value.

“The greatest value you can add is to become more of yourself,” said Hogshead, who did just that, writing her first book, titled “Fascinate.” As the success of her book took off, Hogshead’s business followed suit. The speaking opportunities became readily available and, before she knew it, she was bringing in far more money than prior to her short sale.

“I got my life back, and you can too,” said Hogshead. “You don’t learn how to be fascinating, you unlearn how to be boring.”

Adding more of her personality into her speaking opportunities, Hogshead learned how to fully engage her audience. “When you fascinate someone, you become most worthy of their attention,” said Hogshead, who noted that the human attention span has gone from 20 minutes to nine seconds.

You can get the most business ads out there, or you can be the most fascinating, Hogshead added.

Nobody is drinking Jägermeister because of the taste, she joked; they’re drinking it because of the experience.

Instant access

“It’s never been less important to be smart than it is today because every single piece of knowledge sits on your phone,” Gary Vaynerchuk, founder and CEO of VaynerMedia, told REX-goers.

In an age where anyone can search via Google to find out who the 14th president of the United States was, information is at our fingertips. However, Vaynerchuk noted, “It’s what you do with the data after you have it that most dictates your success.”

Vaynerchuk, who grew up as an immigrant, came to the United States with close to nothing, living in a tiny studio apartment. However, he had a drive, riding in his Big Wheel to collect money from each of his eight lemonade stands at six years old.

By the age of 17, he had taught himself everything about Pinot Grigio after working in his father’s liquor store for a year. He then launched winelibrary.com, at a time when the Internet was nowhere near what it is today. Vaynerchuk was ahead of his time.

But, according to the CEO, that’s how you set yourself apart. “The only way to really succeed is to be enough in the future while still remaining practical,” he said.

For instance, Vaynerchuk advised the audience of real estate professionals to start eyeing up Google Glass. We’re still a couple of years from it being fully in market, Vaynerchuk said, so we should be thinking about it, but not executing on it quite yet. On the other hand, up-and-coming social media sites such as Vine are a great place to be looking now, he observed.

Whether you’re B2B or B2C, the practicality of being where the consumer will be in the future is where it’s at now, he said.

So what is the commonality between someone who sells real estate and someone who sells lemonade at age six? “Tell the story about what you do for a living to people who will buy it during the process in which they are looking to buy,” advised Vaynerchuk.

Consumer attention is shifting, so it’s crucial to anticipate the things consumers think they’re never going to do, but that you believe they actually will end up doing.

For example, some years ago, no one thought they would pay for things over the Internet with a credit card, but today, everyone’s doing it.

“Every person in this room is a media company,” Vaynerchuk said. “Being the best media company you can be over the next decade will dictate your success.”

In a time when everybody is hunting, you should be farming. Consumers like convenience, and the way we now communicate matters to everyone in this room, said Vaynerchuk to his crowd.

“Access is the real value in play,” he added. “What social networks really are is just the plumbing in our society to make your word-of-mouth go farther.”

Virtual Water Cooler

HousingWire CEO and Publisher Paul Jackson and UnMarketing guru Scott Stratten chatted out real estate marketing techniques with Curaytor Co-Founders Chris Smith and Jimmy Mackin.

This was the Curaytor duo’s first-ever town hall-style version of their popular online video hangout, Water Cooler, a once-a-week show on the company’s website.

Stratten dominated the conversation. His passion seems to come out most when he speaks on stage. He preached of the need for engagement and becoming one of the most sought-out speakers on your subject area. And he delivered more than a few gems of knowledge.

Stratten spent the hour blasting real estate agents’ use of marketing materials, saying that their techniques do more to harm the industry than to drive business. The live broadcast at REX annual, with scores in attendance, was the first such event, Smith and Mackin said.

The use of the Water Cooler town hall-style broadcast would help to get the word out that postcard advertisements are no longer wanted or needed to buy and sell real estate, they said.

“You guys make me hate you,” Stratten said. Jackson was somewhat more measured: “Marketing goes where the people are.”

Download past episodes, such as this one, or subscribe to future episodes for free from Water Cooler at the iTunes Store. But there is one place you wouldn’t have found the show, and that’s on the conference agenda. Sorry everybody, this event was strictly for VIP attendees.

Ironwoman

During a panel titled “The Human Element: Beyond Tech,” one speaker got personal to make her point. Nicole Nicolay explained her desire to participate in an Ironman competition hinged on knowing how to use the right tools.

Nicolay, the co-founder and chief creative officer of Agent Evolution, who is followed by more than 20,000 people on Twitter, showed the audience pictures of her bike. She then proceeded to go through all of its intricacies — highlighting the aspects of its make-up necessary to help her complete the grueling triathlon challenge.

Other panelists included Austin Allison, dotloop CEO; Jeff Lobb, vice president of technology at EXIT Realty; and Chris Smith, co-founder of Curaytor.

The four industry innovators and leaders discussed the role of the human element in real estate technology and the evolution of an industry. The conclusion: Be more human.

Lobb said that a personal “thank you” trumps any computer-assisted post-close contact. Lobb offered pictures of remodeled retail Realty shops. The phones and desks were gone, replaced by couches and soft furnishings.

Lobb explained that when his offices resemble the inside of a home, people are more comfortable buying a home. And Allison said human emotion-based companies are winning the profits game. 

Frenemies

The typical Gary Vaynerchuk presentation features over 100 four-letter words, zero slides and at least one standing ovation. His presentation at REX Annual was a pretty typical Vaynerchuk presentation.

He is a self-trained wine and social media expert who has revolutionized both industries. There is a reason he’s consistently listed among the 10 best business speakers today, and there’s a reason he’s got nearly 1 million followers on Twitter.

Vaynerchuk’s techniques, however, where challenged by a real estate agent out of Houston named Chris Gross. “I do all of these things, I post on Facebook, I blast on Twitter,” he said. “I put in that leg work and still need to generate more business.”

To which Gary responded (paraphrase): “You can learn to dribble with your left, you can sink every free throw, you can do all of that and you still won’t make it in the NBA,” Vaynerchuk said. “Maybe you just aren’t good enough.”

Approached afterward to find out if Chris found Gary’s advice a little strong, he replied, “No, it was spot-on, exactly what I needed to hear. My colleagues only compliment me and I needed that extra kick to get me charged again.”

And the winner is…

Real estate agent Jay Hendrick rode away in the Ford Fusion given away to a lucky REX Annual attendee. He didn’t have far to go: His Frisco-based William Davis Realty branch is located about 50 miles or so from the Fort Worth Convention Center.

How did he win? Four leading technology companies were inside the Technology Pavilion throughout the show — and the pavilion stage hosted live demonstrations of leading-edge technology for real estate pros from each company. Hendrick attended each show and was automatically entered.

“I am still in denial; my wife has been questioning my calm in the face of winning the drawing; I think I’m still in a mode of disbelief, but will wake up one day and realize what has happened,” he said.

“I appreciate the opportunity to attend REX 2013 this year,” he continued, as should be expected. “The event was extremely well done and very informative. Everyone working the event provided a very pleasant and helpful atmosphere; the vendors were very professional and accommodating when presenting information about their business services.”

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