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Hosting a Productive Networking Event

  
This interview featured (left to right) Shelly-Ann Campbell, Sylvia Gause, PMN and Emily Wheeler.

by Karen Kroll

Before they decide to attend a networking event, most REALTORS® want to be reasonably confident it will be productive and enjoyable. After all, along with running their businesses, most real estate professionals have families, homes, and volunteer commitments. Their time is valuable.

Several members of Women’s Council of REALTORS® Atlanta shared the steps they’ve recently taken to host events that are both informative and engaging. Because of these changes, their programs are attracting more long-time members, as well as many newer and prospective members. 

Market Your Programs

"Promotion is critical to a solid turnout," says Shelly-Ann Campbell, Marketing Director with Elite Law Group, REALTOR® with Atlanta Communities-InTown, and Program Director, Women’s Council of REALTORS® Atlanta. Without it, members are unlikely to keep the event top of mind. Campbell recommends marketing the program on social media, starting about one month ahead of the event, and posting roughly about every other day. 

Typically, Facebook and Instagram are the online platforms that reach the largest numbers of real estate professionals, says Sylvia Gause, Associate Broker and Rainmaker with Sylvia S. Gause and Associates, and 2019 President, Women’s Council of REALTORS® Atlanta. Facebook tends to reach older members, while Instagram skews somewhat younger.

Campbell also suggests, where appropriate, talking about the event and offering flyers when you’re at other industry get togethers. Of course, you’ll want to first check with the hosts of the events.

The flyer’s appearance also is key. "This year, the Atlanta Network incorporated a more modern spin on its flyers," Campbell says, "with updated fonts and eye-catching colors." 

“With a flyer, less is more,” adds Emily Wheeler, REALTOR® with Ansley Atlanta Real Estate and President-elect, Women’s Council of REALTORS® Atlanta. The goal of the flyer is to capture attention. It can then direct potential attendees to the network website or its social media feed for more details. 

"The Atlanta Network also invites a professional photographer to its events," Gause says. Her pictures help promote the programs, while also providing the photographer a way to get her name to potential clients. 

Aim for Fresh, New Programs

The program and speakers are ultimately what attract real estate professionals to an event. The Atlanta Network is focusing on providing information and insight on emerging industry shifts and trends that are important to Realtors’ businesses. They also look for speakers who can offer insight agents might not find elsewhere, and that they can immediately use. 

One recent program featured experts in international real estate, and another focused on luxury AirBnB rentals. For a panel on real estate investment, the network assembled individuals with experience in house flipping and real estate lending, among other subjects. When developing a program on social media, the network brought in two Women's Council Chicago members who are knowledgeable in the ways agents can most effectively use social media.

Another popular program was a “state of the city” event that featured a builder who’s active in Atlanta, as well as a representative from the city of Atlanta. “Atlanta has been growing so much,” Gause says. The speakers were able to provide an overview of the changes underway, and the likely impact on real estate. 

One perennially popular event is the annual Headshot and Handshake program, during which a photographer takes headshots of attendees. The event also incorporates a back-to-school drive in which members bring items that will be donated to a school within the city of Atlanta. 

Think Creatively When Choosing Food and a Venue

Women's Council Atlanta, like many groups, had been meeting at restaurants and hotels. While these worked fine, they often had little room for networking and began to feel stale. “When you’re attracting a younger, hip crowd, the venue matters,” Campbell says. “They don’t want to feel like they’re in their grandma’s house.” 

Network leadership scouted potential venues and found a meeting place in the city of Atlanta that features an industrial atmosphere, with concrete floors and a large, open area that can be arranged to accommodate dinners or lectures. “This," Gause says, "offers the 'wow factor'." Just as important, it provides free parking.

“Shifting away from meals to substantial appetizers for evening meetings has proven positive, as well,” Gause says. “So many people are conscious of what they eat, and the new menus reflect that.” 

Consider Traffic and Work Schedules When Setting the Time

In Atlanta and many cities, scheduling events near rush hour can make it difficult for anyone coming from outside the immediate neighborhood to attend. “We plan events around traffic,” Wheeler says. Typically, that means either before or after rush hour.

“Most of the network’s best-attended events are those scheduled in the evening,” Gause says. “During the day, many agents give priority to showings or closings, rather than industry events.”

“Since making these changes, attendance at the network’s events has increased by ten to 15 percent,” Gause says. “And, we’re definitely seeing new faces.”

About the Contributor

Karen Kroll is an experienced freelance writer and editor.