Last week, a colleague and I went to Phoenix for the National Multi-Housing Council's Apartment Technology Conference & Exposition, aka NMHC Tech. This trip was an exciting milestone for two reasons: 1) Though I've been in real estate marketing for more than 10 years, I had never been to this particular conference; and 2) this was my first overnight business trip since C was born. (I am happy to report that everyone survived just fine.)
The conference covered everything from revenue management (one of my favorite panels: I took pages of notes!) to social media, to resident/prospect portals and automated payments. The panelists were fantastic, and there were several "roundtables" where conference attendees could really hash through topics. I attended a great roundtable session our last morning, where more than 50 apartment management professionals discussed alternative methods for communicating with residents. I also appreciated the fact that the exhibition floor was fairly small, giving us the ability to meet with vendors, check out product demos, and not feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of booths.
Though overall, I thought the conference was outstanding, I would have really liked a little more unstructured time. Perhaps it was just the fact that I haven't been to a conference in a while, but we jumped right into a session an hour or so after we got off the plane, and the pace never really slowed. We went from coffee to session after session, to a rushed (standing) lunch, to more sessions, to cocktails and then to off-site dinners. That pace made it tough to really absorb much information until after returning home, and made me eternally grateful for the hotel's on-site Starbucks. It also made it a little difficult to have one-on-one meetings with vendors or networking contacts, without feeling like I was missing out on valuable content happening elsewhere in the hotel.
Interestingly enough, the organizers announced that the 2010 Tech Conference would be relaunched as an Operations conference. I personally am very curious to see what that means in terms of both who attends, and what type of a boost in overall attendees is expected. One of the things that I'd heard many repeat attendees say was that they loved attending NMHC Tech because it was a smaller, more intimate conference, with highly relevant content. Perhaps the conference organizers will offer specialized tracks?
In any case, I really enjoyed the conference, and came home with some great information, a stack of business cards, and with a new appreciation for anyone whose job description includes the role of "road warrior." Can't wait for 2010!