The vacation rental management industry is one built on relationships. And there’s no better way to foster those relationships than at a VRM conference! For an industry as close-knit as ours, conferences are like a family reunion, a good opportunity to connect, catch up, and network.
But it isn’t all just drinks and swag and mingling (no, really). Vacation rental management conferences are an opportunity to learn about new technologies, new strategies, and how the industry is moving forward.
Tip 1: Understand Why You’re Going in the First Place
When you start researching VRM conferences, consider your goals for the conference—as a company, as a team, and for yourself. Conferences can be really fun and a good opportunity to see colleagues you haven’t seen in a long time. If you’re looking for a chance to bond with your teammates and network around, by all means, go and enjoy yourselves!
But some conferences are strictly business—there’s an important keynote speaker or the unveiling of new technology. You’ll want to know that and set the appropriate expectation: Have fun, but also, we’re here to learn. Make sure you and your team know the purpose of your attendance so you can go into the conference in the right mindset.
“It’s essential to have a plan with your team,” Kim says. “Divide and conquer, keep good notes, share notes, and create action items—together.”
Tip 2: Review the Schedule and Attendees Ahead of Time
Once you’ve decided why you’re attending the VRM conference, it’s time to pull up the schedule and make a game plan. Conferences can get quite overwhelming, and it’s easy to get distracted by catching up with colleagues or visiting vendor booths.
“It’s always important to go into a conference with a plan of what sessions to attend, who you plan to see and meet, what dinners or parties to attend to make the best connections,” says Kim.
It’s similarly important to plan out what you’d like to get out of the conference. Are there certain knowledge gaps you’re hoping to fill by attending certain sessions? Is there a competitor attending who’s trying something new, and you’re kind of curious about it? Are there company KPIs you’re working towards that will be addressed here?
Tip 3: Schedule Introductions and Meetings Before the Conference
Conferences are a great opportunity to set up meetings with important industry leaders, peers in similar roles, and vendors you may want to partner with in the future.
“Review the attendee list of those key industry executives and vendors you would like to seek out,” Kim suggests.
And once you figure out who’s going to be there, be proactive and reach out for a meeting before the conference. Kim is a firm believer that if you ask to speak with someone, they’ll respond with enthusiasm. “It’s easy to start a conversation when everyone is excited to talk about what works or has failed for their business,” says Kim.
Tip 4: Set Your New Teammates Up for Success
Conferences are a blast when you know lots of people and have a game plan for whom you want to connect with at the show. But they can be sensory overload for someone who has never attended a VRM conference before, or who is new to your team.
If you have a recent hire on staff, reach out and help them decide what they would like to get out of the conference. What are their career aspirations? What kinds of things are they interested in learning about? Can you (the more experienced conference-goer) make introductions?
This goes for people you meet at the conference as well. If you see someone who has the “deer in the headlights” look about them, approach them, and introduce yourself.
“Networking is key to continued growth at conferences,” says Kim, and that is totally true. So share the love.
Tip 5: Prepare a Note-taking System Before You Go
Keeping track of takeaways, notes, and the names of important people can be a real doozy during a conference. Build a system, like a Google folder or something similar, where you can gather your team’s thoughts and takeaways at the end of each day.
Tip 6: Debrief at Day’s End—Before Happy Hour
Speaking of, agree on a time with your team to gather at the end of each conference day to debrief—before the drinks start flowing. Taking a minute to share what you’ve learned with your team and adding notes to your team’s note-taking system captures everything when it’s still fresh, and before the fun really starts.
Tip 7: Team Up With Colleagues for Takeaways
You don’t just have to rely on your team for takeaways, either! Ask your contacts at the VRM conference if they’ll share what they’ve learned with you, too. It’s a great way to spark a conversation and a brainstorming session, and may lead to a perspective you weren’t expecting.
Tip 8: Reach Out to the Presenter
Presenters at VRM conferences design their decks to be as inclusive as possible. They want their solutions and stories to appeal to companies that manage five properties or five hundred properties. If you have questions about your particular circumstance, approach the presenter and ask! Even if you end up with a card and an agreement to email each other later, you’ll have made a new connection (and you never know what those can bring!).
Tip 9: Use Photos to Keep Track of New Contacts
With an industry as fast-growing as the vacation rental industry, you’re bound to meet someone new at a vacation rental management conference! However, that can become a drag when you get home from the conference with a stack of cards and no memory of who you spoke to and why. The solution? Take a selfie with the person (and their card!) and jot down why you want to connect with them in the future.
Tip 10: Circle Up Post-Conference
Once you’re back home from the VRM conference, meet up with your team for one last debrief, finalize your notes, and divvy up the follow-up responsibilities. And get ready for the next conference!
“There is always an abundance of knowledge at conferences,” Kim says. “Listening, asking questions, and learning what works for other companies always gets me excited.”
If you want even more tips from conference pros in the industry, watch our conference episode of The Art of Pricing now.