By Tony Wilbert, Wilbert News Strategies
SAN ANTONIO - (June 20, 2011) - Record-setting heat, kick-ass real estate stories, speed dating, quick tweeting and a six-sided transaction in Ski Country created a buzz last week at the annual NAREE Spring Journalism Conference. Oh, yeah, and the host hotel next to the Alamo was haunted - allegedly.
The conference, put on by the 81-year-old National Association of Real Estate Editors, attracted a good mix of mainstream media powerhouses and online media startups and bloggers. The strong turnout by reporters from The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, Smart Money and freelancers who write for other national publications helped attract lots of PR people (in a good way).
NAREE knows its crowd and did a good job making sure each day ended with camaraderie, cold beers and some breaking local news.
Given that NAREE 2010 took place in Austin, I'm not sure why the NAREE board selected San Antonio as the location. Maybe the board thought four consecutive days of 100-degree-plus temperatures would remind participants that real estate could be hot again (one day).
That said San Antonio did not disappoint. Most panels were more than informative, and some even were entertaining. SDS Real Estate's Steven Shane's stories about a six-sided, multimillion dollar, multinational transaction captivated the crowd, and a Texas A&M professor's colorful comparisons and language cracked up the crowd. Here's a list of bests and not-so-goods from the 45th annual conference.
Best Event: NAREE Awards. NAREE kept things moving while handing out awards in 25 categories. The Riverwalk restaurant where it took place was cool, the beer cold and margaritas frozen.
Best Move: One NAREE attendee asked to switch hotel rooms because of the perception the room at the historic Menger Hotel was haunted. The hotel, which opened two years before the Civil War started, proved an adequate home base, and no ghost sighthings were reported. (However, "room service" delivered a meal at 3:30 a.m. Saturday to no one in particular.)
Best Venue: Pearl Brewery Reception area. This event space provided just-right A/C on a blistering day. The haunted Menger, on the other hand, had warm common areas and freezing ballrooms. Only thing missing from the Pearl venue was...
Biggest Disappointment: Discovering no beer is brewed at Pearl Brewery, despite the huge Pearl beer can out front. Still, the property was pretty cool, and they offered an alternative selection of beer and wine.
Best Awards Response: Kris Hudson. The WSJ's retail and hospitality reporter ran through the crowd high-fiving attendees as he accepted one of several awards won by his paper's real estate team.
Best Tweet: Texas A&M's refreshing take: national indices don't mean crap to a local buyer. #NAREE. This one comes from Smart Money's Alyssa Abkowitz, who won two awards, including The Ruth Ryon Best Entry by a Young Journalist.
Conference MVP Award: Conference Chairman Ralph Bivins of Realty News Report and NAREE Executive Director Mary Doyle-Kimball put in numerous houts to ensure members got what they came for.
Conspicuous No-Show (Not in a Bad Way): Some big winners sent no one pick up their awards. People who made the effort to enter and won should have been there. However, this left more Dos Equis for everyone else.
Conspicuous Interloper: Self-proclaimed Menger Hotel resident who hung out around in his bathing suit and wished everyone "Happy Father's Day" or "Happy Mother's Day." He even greeted NAREE convention-goers as they departed at 5 a.m. Saturday. Nevertheless, he was harmless.
Best Impromptu Speech: Shannon Behnken, real estate reporter Tampa Bay Tribune and News Channel 8. NAREE officer and Sarasota Herald-Tribune real estate editor Harold Bubil put Behnken on the spot in the Menger's Presidential Suite by asking her to discuss her stories that earned her the Best Overall Entry by an Individual. She performed admirably.
Best Overall Part: Meet the Press. In this event, loosely based on speed dating, PR people get three minutes to pitch their stories, clients and selves to journalists they've been dying to meet. The time went by way too fast, but we PR people can talk quickly.
Best Decision: Moving the conference out of Texas for 2012. While everyone loves Texas, it was hotter than hell. Next year's show in Denver will be cooler, in several ways.