Me again. Melissa. This week I write to you from a room on the 32nd floor of a hotel in Las Vegas. I’m also eating pretzels if that matters, but I don’t think it does.
There’s this thin, gauzy curtain that covers a large picture window on the back wall of my room and if I press a button, the curtain lifts as if by mechanical magic. I’m not facing the strip, so the unadorned window reveals mostly unglamorous rooftops below, their striated air conditioner units tacked untactfully across peeling white paint. A criss-cross of pipes, rusted, lays cold against concrete slabs and in between these glitz-less rooftops, the streets are mostly empty.
OH! There goes a truck, moving slower than the buffet line for a $35 breakfast at the Bellagio. In my mind, the truck driver is a getaway man, with casino chips stowed inside bronze statues of giraffes. Except maybe not because at this speed, he’d never get away.
Above the mountains, oyster-gray clouds hover. Their gray is getting more intense, as if someone is saucing them up with gravy while I watch and type. (Do you put gravy on oysters? I’m not sure I ever have but in this sky metaphor, you do.)
The view is dark and dramatic. I wouldn’t change a thing.
On a much lighter and brighter note, I’m in Las Vegas for the 2019 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention, working with HomeServices of America, Inc. CEO Gino Blefari and catching up with colleagues and old friends. (I used to be the director of PR and communications for the brand.) 2019 marks my sixth consecutive year joining the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices festivities, though this time it’s as a business owner and not as an employee. That shift, I’ll admit, has so far been monumental not only physically, (I don’t have a long list of places to be or events to cover) but also mentally. It feels lighter in Las Vegas existing in the unscheduled unknown, and my new job imbues each conversation with a different sort of entrepreneurial weight.
“You struck out on your own?” People have asked me, and I nod. I guess that’s what I did. Like excavating gold in the riverbed of my life, I slung my proverbial pick over my shoulder five-and-a-half months ago, setting out for glimmering treasure anew.
My attendance here also has me thinking about how you can make your mark at any conference, because as a conversation I had with a broker/CEO last night confirmed, those who are genuine and willing to connect can turn their sales from stagnant to successful with one well-placed business card exchange. (His loan officer last year saw her business explode after attending Sales Convention and mingling with agents outside of the office.)
Here’s some completely unsolicited advice if you’re in the mood to maximize your own conference experience:
Be smart with social media.
Let me tell you a terribly kept secret: There’s no better evidence of social media’s immediacy, power and promise than when you’re at a large conference. At Sales Convention this year, the hashtag is #ALLIN2019, and just using it in the caption of your Instagram photo will insert you into the hyper-local, brand-specific conversation happening in Las Vegas while also allowing your content to be discovered by other attendees. Tag the hotel, tag the restaurant; savvy social teams will at the very least like your photo and at the most, repost. Also consider publishing your photos on LinkedIn to show outside connections you’re taking the time to work on yourself and your business. Native images show up much larger than images that populate from a URL, which means skip plugging a website for now and instead, share your thoughts about the conference in the status update box with a clear, professional(ish?) photo you took that day. Another point to ponder: Social media is a give and take, a conversation that requires listening as much as it does speaking. In the early morning, when you’ve got your coffee hot and your mind fired up for a day of learning, scroll through the event hashtag then like and comment on posts. Boom. Who said networking had to be hard?
Go to everything.
Sure it may be tempting to sip margaritas poolside or double down when the blackjack dealer is showing a soft hand, but save the aquatics and card sharking for post-conference fun. (Friendly tip: There’s no ROI in tequila.) Think of every session and event as one-time chances to mingle with people who could refer you business … or introduce you to someone who will. If you’re not the strongest networker—and even if you are—you might want to try a trick I learned from a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hawai’i Realty agent years ago. I met her just before the start of the first day’s General Session. She was friendly, warm and when she shook my hand she also gave me her business card, onto which she’d attached a small, glass bottle with sand from Kailua inside. It was a sweet, aloha gesture of welcome, and one I’ll never forget. (I still keep the bottle on my desk because #adorable.) Of course, it’s probably too late to buy tiny glass vessels and stuff them with decorative pebbles from wherever you call home, but the sentiment is one you can carry throughout any conference. When you meet someone new at all those events you’re attending, each opportunity to talk should be like handing that person a symbolic bottle of sand. It’s exciting to share how well your business is doing but it’s pragmatic and unforgettable to approach an exchange with the mindset of giving unselfishly without receiving anything in return.
To bring this little post back to the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices 2019 Sales Convention theme, going ALL IN isn’t a “you versus me” existence. It’s a collective state of being that means seeing the game of business as one we should all win.