Capitalize on your conference investmentJoe AmorosoConferences, trade shows, useful tips When the leaves start to turn in autumn, it signals yet another busy season of mortgage industry trade shows and conferences. In addition to the annual Mortgage Bankers Association convention in Orlando this year, and the Western Regional Mortgage Brokers Conference in Las Vegas, you may be looking forward to the opportunity to attend several other state or regional meetings. Given today's tight training and education budgets, trade shows and conventions still present one of the most cost-effective ways for you, as a broker, to immerse yourself in the industry, as well as meet with current or new wholesale lenders in person. In addition to meeting lenders, there are many "value-adds" to explore, like technology and service providers, appraisers and even credit reporting agencies. It's best to determine up front what you would like to get out of the trade show, whether that means meeting potential investors, software suppliers, credit vendors or perhaps even closing agents. Here are a few suggestions to help you get the most out of an industry conference. Make the connection In my experience, the most valuable and insightful time I spend at a conference is meeting peers from other brokerages or lenders. Don't underestimate what you can learn from talking to your peers and even your competitors. Often, you can find out how they buy their leads or train their people. In addition, when brokers run their own small shops, they often don't have a direct link or strong pulse on what's going on in the rest of the mortgage industry. I recently took one of my sales managers to a show so he could get a better idea of the overall breadth of the industry and the competition out there. It can be beneficial to see where you fit in, and also rather sobering to see what's going on outside your own backyard. Trade shows are excellent venues to learn about new industry trends and hot topics, like interest-only loans, where there is guaranteed to be plenty of buzz. That's why it's so crucial to connect with others at industry shows so you can find out what's out here and who's doing what with marketing, product lines and even training. Scout referrals Another basic element of industry shows is, of course, networking. Where else can you find hundreds of mortgage professionals congregated in one place who specialize in all different aspects of the business? You're sure to be focused on meeting plenty of wholesale lenders while you compare different lender products and services. But besides lenders, take advantage of talking to others in the industry to build relationships. They can be terrific sources of referrals for you down the road. Don't overlook seminars I don't know how many times I've been a speaker at a show and left packed cocktail parties to walk into a room of only 15 people. Seminars are often overlooked at conferences, with most attendees placing strong emphasis on the social aspect and not the educational aspect. Do yourself a favor. Seek out seminars and panel discussions that focus on hot industry topics that are relevant to you and your business, like predatory lending, sales underwriting and compliance issues. These are fantastic opportunities to learn about the issues that matter to your bottom line. Get a handle on the competition There's no question that regional and state shows provide a concentrated opportunity to meet lots of industry people. It's also no secret that conferences often serve as outlets for subtle recruiting purposes and commercial espionage. Say you're looking to hire an originator, for example. If so, conferences are a great place to make subtle hints to your peers, share information and make some good contacts. You may even consider setting up an interview, if appropriate. In any event, you're sure to get the scoop on the competitive marketplace. Put it into play The most important thing you can do after an industry show or conference is to come back with something tangible that enhances your business. Trade shows aren't cheap to attend, so make sure it was money well spent. Whether that means you implement a specific software application you saw demonstrated or you start to utilize a marketing company that sells leads, make it a point to follow up on those items that can significantly enhance your business. That's the real return on your conference investment. Joe Amoroso is a senior vice president with Opteum Financial Services. He may be reached by e-mail at [email protected].
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