My theory about conventions is this: if you plan your schedule well, your convention will go well. If you don’t, it won’t. It’s as simple as that. With Second City, our next destination, good planning could make or break how you measure the success of your NAR experience in the Windy City.

Each year before I head out to the largest annual gathering of real estate agents and brokers, an estimated 20,000+ from across our nation, I like to look sky's limit coverfor some of the golden nuggets tucked away in the schedule and on the Expo floor. I cull through the info that NAR and others send out, as well as share some of the information WAV Group has. Full disclosure: this often includes insider stuff we get from our very own clients. The goal of all this stuff is simply to make your NAR ventures more interesting, and, well, easier to plan.

NAR Chicago 
Officially called the REALTORS® Conference & Expo, November 3rd to 6th, it’s largely held at the McCormick Place, 20 minutes on a good traffic day south of the 27 official NAR hotels that are dotted around Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River. Meetings also are sprinkled among these hotels so the logistics are going to be, well, interesting. A listing of all the official hotels with their locations and addresses are here.

Bus Routes
The 27 NAR official hotels are served by 7 Bus Routes, all color coded and listed online in this handy-dandy PDF here, and in the App. The buses start early and run at least every 30 minutes, and at peak times, they run every 10-15 minutes. The link on the NAR Website for the Shuttle bus frequency is here, as well as the locations at the hotel where the exact pickup/drop-off will be.

NAR Smartphone App
Touted as “the fastest, easiest way to navigate the Conference & Expo from your mobile device,” I would have to add it’s probably the only way to navigate the Expo from a mobile device unless Google Maps has added it.

NAR Mobile AppGood news is all the sessions, meeting schedules and booth numbers for the exhibitors you need to meet with or visit are in the app. One feature that can save you time is you can select the “Star” image next to the event in the top right corner and it will save it to a personalized schedule it will create for you automatically.

Bad news: you better have good cell service as many links, like the bus service schedule is back to the NAR website and is not data within the App itself, so you must be connected to the Internet.

Hint: Install this before you go, as you do have to update the content before it will work.

One nice feature: You can also create your own detailed schedule including your other meetings, lunches, dinners, etc., as it has an Event Planner option. More info at NAR’s website here.

To find the app to download for free, it is in the Apple App Store. You can search “NAR Annual,” or you can download it though this link here. For Android users, the Google Play version is here.

Also, there’s a Web App version, here:

NAR Insiders Guide: Expo
Here is what is on my “hit list” for the Expo floor. I am scheduling my biggest chunk of time for a Sunday visit. Expo hours are 3-6:00 pm on Friday, that’s the Expo “Grand Opening,” with live music and free margaritas! And that also means very long lines for those liquid freebies. Saturday hours are 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, Sunday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, and final hours, and by far traditionally the best day to get around is Monday, 9:00 am – 1:00 pm.

Sunday at 12:15 pm, Revaluate at Booth #5038 has a guest speaker worth seeing: Lane Hornung, CEO from zavvie is going to talk about Zavvie logoHyperLocal and social media marketing – with his talk entitled “HyperLocal: The Best Business in Real Estate.” There’s no topic for agents and brokers hotter at this year’s NAR than HyperLocal.Revaluate has a dynamite schedule of speakers here.

Other exhibitors worth checking out that are showing tech that others either don’t offer or wish they did: Florida Realtors has Tech Helpline experts at Booth 3728, as well as Form Simplicity, transaction management experts on hand; RESO, Real Estate Standards Organization will be at Booth 3626, and their new green standards and ADA standards are worth a conversation to get up to speed; ask RateMyAgent Booth 2347 about their model of ratings that you just can’t “game” – every single real customer is surveyed and all ratings are posted; FBS, the creators of Flexmls Booth 4620 are always innovating as well as hitting the highest customer service ratings – so go ask them what they are doing and how they get NPS marks that Starbucks and Apple only dream of; RatePlug Booth 1117 has something to talk about that’s new and exciting for 2018 that is driving more agents and mortgage folks to partner; WolfNet Booth 930 is a company you may not know unless you are a KW franchise, but with what they are doing today outside of KW, if you are a broker-owner, you probably should; Booth 3818 always has energy and excitement at its exhibit, and you can bet that CoreLogic at 3724 will certainly be talking Trestle!

NAR Key Events
Many of the best events are invitation only or ticketed events that have sold out. RISMedia does a fantastic Power Broker Forum, Reception and Dinner, now in it’s 22nd year. That’s always on Friday evening. It’s attended by the Who’s Who of the real estate brokerage world and traditional real estate’s movers and shakers. I attend the NAR media reception followed by the NAREE – real estate editors – Dinner, as I first joined in 1986 and we always install new officers at the Friday night dinner at NAR.

The Power Broker Session that RISMedia puts on each year at NAR on Friday afternoon is a can’t miss: Gino Blefari, CEO of HSF Affiliates will moderate with RISMedia Founder, John Featherston a panel that includes Paul Wells of RE/MAX, Felicia Hengle of CB Schmidt, John Murray of Key Realty, Helen Hanna Casey of Howard Hanna, and Steve Baird of Baird and Warner, at 1:30 – 3:00 pm at McCormick Place, West Building, Room W184.

The YPN – Young Professionals Networking Reception overlaps the RISMedia reception, as it is at 6-9 pm on Friday as well. But it is already sold out, so if you want to meet with YPR members, the future of NAR, check out NAR After Dark. That’s set from 9-12 pm on Friday, and registration for this event, which includes a drink is $30 in advance and $40 at the door – being held at Sheraton Chicago Hotel, Chicago Ballroom, limited to NAR members and association staff.

BofA has a “Tailgate Party” on Sunday from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm that includes a buffet and “a beverage or two” as you watch sports. But pick up a ticket in advance, as they are limited, so visit their Booth #3911. The Celebrity Concert with John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater fame, sponsored by BofA competitor Chase is that night: Sunday 9:00 pm – 10:30 pm, with doors opening at 8:00 pm at McCormick Place, West Building, Skyline Ballroom, W375.

One final thought
My kinda town, Chicago is….but not for Conventions. I’m going to give NAR Chicago the benefit of the doubt. I pray wrong, but this kid from the north side of the city and life-long Cubs fan who loves the city of big shoulders with all of his heart, simply hates the bus ride from downtown to McCormick Place during Friday rush hour. Please tell me my memory of the last time I was there at NAR in 2001 is faulty and that I didn’t find myself hailing cabs because I couldn’t make my meeting in time back at the Marriott on Michigan Ave and ran up a huge taxi bill after I discovered how much better that was than the bus trek. Well, the good news is that now Chicago had Uber and Lyft. See you in Chi-town.