Flying back to Seattle from San Francisco gave me a couple of hours to reflect on Inman Connect SF. When I bumped into founder Brad Inman mid-way through the event, he looked at me and said with a proud smile and on his face and in his eyes, “It reminds you of the original Connects, doesn’t it?” It sure did.
In fact, there were several moments from the main stage that, for me at least, were so iconic, it brought back memories of some epic moments of Connect over the years. For context, Brad hired me as his first Director of Marketing for Real Estate Connect; I was part of a small team who launched the first “indoor” Connect at the SF Hilton in 1997. Brad’s challenge when he hired me in April was to help him fill the exhibit hall floor with booths and the ballroom with 800 people in July. And we did it. I thought it was a stunning accomplishment.
This year, I overheard the SF Hilton was home to some 4,000 Connect registrants. That’s stunningly massive. It’s remained real estate’s most popular tech show since Brad, real estate’s true visionary, invented it under the stars in his Sonoma retreat in 1996.
Best moments from past Connects
My top selections for the best Connect stage moments from the past? Guy Kawasaki at the first Connect proclaiming, “Beta 1.0 means never having to say you’re sorry.” RE/MAX’s Dave Liniger keynote at the height of the dot-com boom calling BS on the tech industry’s “new business paradigm.” Charlie Rose interviewing Marc Andreessen. The founders of Google Larry Page and Sergey Brin speaking at Connect well before figuring out their path to riches.
There are many others, and I would love to hear about yours (and maybe even share them in a future post). But this most recent Connect has several special moments that had people buzzing. It was the kind of buzz, frankly, that I had not felt in quite a few years.
Best Moments From This Connect
For those who know Gary Keller well, seeing the easel on the stage before he came out was a sign that Keller was about to take control. Gary, as I have written, has teacher in his DNA. Teachers don’t let students talk when they lecture. Gary gave a lecture, not a speech.
But in the end, there was a confidence Keller displayed that to me, feels like hubris fueled it. I’m sure Gary’s KW troops loved it, but I have to wonder if there’s more to this story to come. It was, however, another Connect iconic moment.
But that was not my favorite moment from Connect SF. For me, it was from a most unexpected speaker, Shabnam Mogharabi, CEO & Executive Producer, SoulPancake. I had never heard of Shabnam, and, I will naively admit, never heard of SoulPancake. But that didn’t matter because what she said, and more importantly what she showed, both enlightened and inspired me.
Video Focused on Features vs. Benefits
Video is the most powerful medium. For more than a decade, I’ve extolled the benefits and necessities of video for real estate. Video in real estate, by and large, has not boomed, it has bombed. Compared to any major YouTuber, video traffic in real estate has been equivalent to a flea on the eyelash of an elephant. To me, so far, video has been a complete failure in real estate compared to its potential.
I’ve long thought that video’s failure was due to focusing on the wrong thing. Real estate videos have primarily focused on features, not benefits. For listing videos and home tours, it’s usually a litany of features. Rarely is it about what it means to live in the home. Even the videos that we know will typically attract the most traffic – neighborhood video tours and neighborhood information videos, those hyperlocal gems – don’t focus on the benefits, but show feature after feature.
Humor Versus the Heart
And then I saw Shabnam’s presentation. It was like a bolt of lightning that kicked me on my keister. Her presentation was called “Building an Empire out of Positivity.” It was described as “Getting better at business or at life often means finding perspective and commonality with others. Listen and learn how to find more joy in your day-to-day and see how connected you really are to those around you.”
What Shabnam showed were videos that her production company, SoulPancake, produces. None of which were related to real estate. But all were related to life. Every single one of them had one common element: human emotion.
It seems in real estate, the most successful videos that break the norm focus on parody and humor, not the heart. It’s all gimmicks: Realtors lip-synching to a popular song, or changing the words to match their profession, or dancing the floss in a tour video,
But we are talking tens of thousands of views, not over 5 billion views, like Despacito.
Let’s Aim for the Heart
What Shabnam showed us was that the home is about human emotion. There may be no more powerful human connection than one’s home. It is our respite. Our destination. And for many, home is truly salvation.
As an industry, I believe we underestimate the power of home. We underestimate the emotional draw and connection we have as humans to home. We are missing the entire point in our real estate videos because we fail to connect to that human emotion.
What I learned from Shabnam, at least the takeaway I got, was that videos that work best are the ones that make an emotional connection to people. There is no better way to connect emotionally to people than to tell authentic stories that tug at the heart.
Instead of showing a bunch of neighborhood restaurants: interview the owner. For example, we have two world-class Thai restaurants here on Bainbridge Island (23k people) that were started by the same family. They fled from Laos through Cambodia and were sponsored by a local church, which helped them immigrate to America in the early 90s. The entire family of six worked days and nights to make their business successful. They sent four kids to college. Two now own and operate the family restaurants.
Imagine a video, not about their food, but their stories of human struggles. How they come to America to achieve incredible success. Wouldn’t this instantly create a desire for a new resident to want to go to that restaurant immediately? Wouldn’t stories like this make you want to live where I live? Wouldn’t it make me proud to live where I live and share this video with others?
Remember the AT&T commercials? I’ll admit it, they made me cry, and I bet they still could.
That’s what Shabnam’s talk hit me over the head: this is exactly what real estate videos should be doing – connecting home with heart.
You think I would have figured this out on my own, but it took the session with Shabnam to help me connect the dots.
Ironically, last fall, I finished a series of emotionally-based videos with the high school FIRST robotics team I mentor. Our student marketing team had to convince our jaded sponsors after five years to continue to write checks. To do that, we had to stop talking about the physical things their sponsor dollars bought. We had to show sponsor what their dollars were doing: changing student’s lives, positively, through robotics, forever. So, we had the students tell their authentic, unscripted stories on video, emailing the video to the sponsor. Here are a few short videos, including Chris, Rose, Will, and the one that I bet will make you cry — and cheer, Marie.
Final Connect Takeaway: Wild Ride Ahead
It is clear, at least to me, that the collective “think” among those both speaking and attending this last Inman Connect is that we have finally ascended to the top of the roller coaster. We better have that bar down tight across our lap because it’s going to be on a fast and furious ride on the way down with a lot of unanticipated changes.
We have been waiting for this rapid acceleration for a long time, and it does feel like it is about to happen. And I do believe we best heed the words of Dave Lininger, who said at a Connect NY in 2011, “Change is going to overwhelm those who don’t embrace it.” I’m ready. Are you?