Report on a Recent Event I Attended: HousingWire Annual Conference 2021

Conferences are key pieces of the business ecosystem.  They offer a place of immersion, a nodal time of intense interaction with community, content, and commerce.  In my own professional life, I’ve averaged ten conferences a year and have developed a network of friends, collaborators, mentors, and teachers through this investment. 

Still, many are skeptical about conferences in general.  Even before the Covid Pandemic cut a wide swath through business travel and gatherings, many people eschewed conference attendance, and many organizations discontinued event sponsorship.  Of course, to each, his-her own; nevertheless, it’s worth defending an important element in the marketing mix.  Some companies might find them imperfect or unnecessary but for others, they rightly remain an important coalescence point, marketing activation, and team getaway.

Whatever one’s view of conferences, there’s a universal sentiment that’s become a truism:  There are too many conferences to attend, irrespective of one’s role or vertical industry.  To help cut through this thicket of events, it is incumbent upon all of us to express our views so that others can make decisions based on what they glean from our experiences. 

In the Housing/Real Estate/PropTech space, there are literally hundreds of events.  Some are national-level while others are local.  Of the national ones, HousingWire’s Annual Conference certainly has earned its place as an important stop in any Housing-related professional’s calendar of events.

This year, the conference took place in Frisco, Texas at an Omni Hotel.  The conference lasted two full days and boasted a variety of dynamic speakers.  Key industry topics were covered, largely in panel-format, all lead by Journalists or Executives of HW Media.  Key themes this year were Appraisal Bias, The Future of the Brokerage, Fairness and Access in Housing, and Technology.  In the Technology sessions, there were deep-dives on Cyber-Security and on innovative new solutions in the Digital Mortgage space.  The content was excellent but not overwhelming.  Several dozen companies showed their wares from kiosks adjacent to the conference hall, allowing for seamless interaction and conversations. 

The conference was small and mighty.  Given the importance of Community in the entire event experience, I’d like to see a larger group next year.  Network effects make a huge difference so the event will be more valuable with more attendees and a more diverse set of vendors to meet.  This is only the second year of the conference and I am sure it will be stellar next year.  I know the organizers will be doubling down on their strategy to throw an “All Things Housing” event next year and I look forward to it.

Debates continue and each person has the right to an opinion.  That said, there is little debate about the importance of one aspect of the digital content world:  Community.  While communities have existed as long as people have and community formations- guilds, associations, study groups and so on- are not specific to the digital world, the speed, scale, and interconnectivity possible today is unheralded.  The “constancy” of digital content, and the ability to quickly connect it to other relevant content, allow us to build “affinity linkages” with relative ease.  Thus digital content is a gateway to community, which then activates a content generation machine.  Not all the content is useful, but nuggets of gold are often found.

In terms of recommendation, I’d give this conference high marks and encourage attendance next year.  I left the conference with many ideas and a bunch of contacts to follow up with.  I’m glad to be leaving the Texas heat but then why be nitpicky? Or why not?