Congratulations to Steve Lefkovits and the folks at Apartment Internet Marketing (AIM) for putting on another great conference. As usual, it seems to bring out the best people and companies in the industry. In no particular order, here are my thoughts on my three days spent last week in Southern California …
A social event: Social media once again dominated the conversation. And like much of the buzz on the Twittersphere, there seems to be general agreement that the industry is beyond both “if” and “when” and finally moving into “how.” And that’s when the conversations really start to get interesting, when the “how” isn’t just about how to generate leads but how to manage reputation, build community and brand, etc.
Start me up: Judging the start-up competition was a blast, even if most of my attempts at humor fell terribly flat. (But, really, Gerry Wiatrowski from ResidentGifts is a dead sound-a-like for Alan Alda. Close your eyes and it’s like being transported to the set of “M*A*S*H” or a late-period Woody Allen movie.) Anyway, we got to hear great pitches from five really interesting start-ups, including the winner, RentMineOnline (in keeping with the social media theme). Kudos, as well, to my co-judges and our emcee, Kate Good.
Best session from industry outsider: Greg Sterling was funny, insightful and unabashed during his “57 Channels (and Nothing On)” presentation, telling it like it is about social media and search to the capacity crowd.
Best product demo: RentSentinel’s new tablet solution for properties is really nice, a great way of utilizing new technology. With tablet in hand, leasing managers can walk (on screen and on foot, simultaneously) a prospect through the entire process, from property tour to reservation. That this is a truly native app, not a series of web screens, makes the experience seamless.
Weather or not return to Huntington Beach: Those of you who attended last year’s AIM might have wondered why Steve chose to have the event in Bangor, Maine, what with the wind whipping off the ocean, and temperatures barely rising into the 60s during the day, dipping into the 40s at night. Turns out, last year’s AIM was at the same splendid venue as this year’s, the Hyatt in sunny Huntington Beach, California. It’s just that this year mother nature cooperated and provided cloudless skies and warm temps in the 80s, making the entire event that much more enjoyable. Lefko, if you can guarantee the same weather next year, I vote to keep it at the Hyatt!
Session I most regret bailing early on: “Resolving the Data Controversies.” Unfortunately, I had to duck out early, but what started out promising ended up being one of the most talked and tweeted about sessions of the conference. Look forward to seeing the slides.
Event I most regret missing entirely: Recess. Leave it to Mike Whaling, Mark Juleen, et al, to put together a “real” foursquare tournament, complete with red rubber utility balls, tube socks and cold cans of beer. Next time, I’m there, and I’ll be out for victory!
Best of all, I got to spend both business and pleasure time with a number of our top customers, out-of-the-box thinkers and industry leaders, learning firsthand about the challenges we all face. That’s ultimately the best part about AIM: the conversations over lunch or cocktails, the sidebars between sessions, the quick product demos. The hallmark of any good conference, after all, is one that is educational and inspirational. Done and done.