Eight years ago, my friend Andy Kaufman decided that it would be a good idea to bring BarCamp to real estate. BarCamp is an unconference, or a conference without speakers and agendas. I’ll tell you right now that I wasn’t sold on the idea of bringing this radical concept to real estate, but felt that, at worst, a couple dozen of us would get together one day before Inman Connect SF, drink some beer, and geek out about real estate. So I was in.
I helped Andy with the event by promoting it online. I created rebarcamp.com, and started drumming up attention for the event. Because I was a very public part of the original crew that helped organize the first RE BarCamp, many people give me more credit than I deserve for the event. Lots of people helped to make the first event a success and even more people helped to turn the event into a worldwide phenomenon
There’s no doubt that I will forget to name some of the key players in the REBC movement, but that’s only because there are so many. However, I thought it might be fun to look back at the unsung heroes of RE BarCamp.
Besides Andy, no-one committed more time and effort to the original RE BarCamp in San Francisco than Brad Coy. We had funding, venue, food, and other logistics to work out and none of us had done this before, so it was probably harder than it had to be.
Over 200 people attended the first event. More than double what we hoped for. It was actually a little overwhelming. A big reason it went so well was due to the work Brad put in to make it great.
Probably the biggest hassle in organizing the event was funding it. We were lucky enough to generate sponsorship interest for the first event, but we needed a place, or person to manage the money. Jay was a treasurer of sorts for the first REBC. He later went on to plan local REBC’s in Phoenix that generated some of the largest participation in the event’s history.
Keith Garner and Chris McKeever
Keith and Chris were two geeks from NAR’s Center for REALTOR® Technology who not only attended the first event, but helped sponsor it. Having NAR’s backing from the very beginning helped the event to generate even more interest. NAR went on to sponsor and even host several REBC events around the country and encouraged state and local associations to support the effort as well.
While Mike helped quite a bit at the first event, and designed many of the early REBC logos, his greatest contribution to REBC was to plan its second event in Houston. That’s the point when we all started to realize that this was going to be bigger than an annual geek-fest in San Francisco. This was a concept that could work in any market.
Ben helped out at the first event and later organized the fourth REBC in Virginia. As Ben was on staff at the Virginia Association of REALTORS®, this was the first of many REBC’s hosted by a REALTOR® association.
There are too many people to list here, but an amazing number of people got involved early on, and would later play large roles in organizing events around the country. This list includes Ines Hegedus-Garcia, Kim Salmons, Bill Lublin, Tina Merritt, Teresa Boardman, Linda Davis, Gia Freer, Sarah Stelmok, Heather Elias, Ginger Wilcox, Maureen Francis, Drew Meyers, David Gibbons, Ricardo Bueno, Rhonda Porter, Greg Afarian, Nick Bastian, Kristal Kraft, Scott Schang, Nicole and Reggie Nicolay, Sara Fields, Jeff Corbett, Derek Overbey, Morgan Brown, Rob Hahn, Jeff Turner and Daniel Rothamel.
It would have been cool just to get all these people to come to the event. That fact they thought enough of it to spread the idea across the country was amazing to witness.
Sherry Chris and Wendy Forsythe
Lets face it, free events can only happen with the help of sponsors. There were actually quite a few companies that were willing to help sponsor REBC events, but I’m not sure any were more consistent in helping than Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. More importantly, both Sherry and Wendy were extremely respectful of the grassroots movement and never asked for special considerations during the event.
Jim hosted the 2009 RE BarCamp in San Diego. It was the first REBC to take place at the REALTORS® Annual Conference & Expo. Like the events tied to Inman Connect, the audience for this REBC was nationwide. A new generation of evangelists were hatched here and the REBC moment grew even more.
While I helped promote the early events on rebarcamp.com, I quickly ran out of bandwidth. Mike picked up the ball (rebarcamp.com) and ran with it. There’s probably no single person that has volunteered more of their time and effort to helping others organize and promote these events than Mike.
Peter Brewer and Richard Silver
Eventually, these events expanded outside of America. Richard played a big role in bringing the events to Canada, while Peter brought the concept all the way to Australia. REBC became an international movement.
Dan convinced me that hosting an RE Barcamp at NAR’s headquarters in Chicago would be a good idea. He basically did all the work organizing the event. I just got NAR (my employer) to donate the space. Some of the staff participated, but those that did remained pretty hands off. It was an event for the members. At the end of the day, NAR’s CEO, Dale Stinton, volunteered to participate in an open Q&A with the attendees for anyone who wanted to stick around.
The crowd asked Dale some pretty tough questions. They made a few remarks about not seeing the value of the organization. They questioned everything from RPR to the Rose Bowl float. Dale spoke about how the association’s agenda is guided by volunteer REALTORS®, and challenged the crowd to play a larger role by participating in the association’s committees and work groups.
Later, Dale and then president Charles McMillan decided that this challenge wasn’t enough. They wanted to specifically invite people from the REBC movement to participate in NAR’s committees. As a result, I worked with Rob Reuter from the Young Professional’s Network to find over 100 members that would bring new ideas and opinions to the committees. Years later, many of those newcomers would go on to chair some of NAR’s committees.
None of this probably would have happened without Dan wanting to do a REBC in Chicago.
Much of the rise in the popularity of RE Barcamp centered around the disruptive role new media and technology had on the industry at the time. Blogs, social networks, mobile technologies and the cloud were concepts that weren’t really being covered at traditional conferences. There weren’t a lot of proven methods for what to do and what not to do. The collaborative nature of REBC was often the best place to learn.
These concepts are better understood today and it’s probably not a coincidence that the buzz around RE Barcamp has waned over time. Yet Brian Copeland, who leads the REBC event in Nashville every year has continued to produce an event that is highly praised and attended.
In many ways, RE BarCamp Nashville is carrying the torch for the movement. While a lot of the national buzz is gone, it’s awesome to see that people are still getting together to geek out about real estate. I’m looking forward to heading to Nashville in April.