This was our first year “attending” NAA’s Apartmentalize. And when I say attending, I really mean meeting with clients at coffee shops near the convention center, scoping out the lay of the land, and chatting with other vendors on tips for how to maximize our presence at one of the largest conferences of the year. While I have no insight on the actual sessions, Kelly Clarkson’s new dance moves, or the sail around the harbor, the trip was definitely worthwhile. Here are a few takeaways from an outsider’s perspective.
Go Big or Go Home
The Exposition Booth Contest is no joke. And that should be no shock to anyone considering the BYOF (bring your own flooring) requirement. Walking through the expo hall, yes okay fine, sneaking in… is equal parts overwhelming and energizing and the vendors came to play. From personalized demo stations to private meeting rooms, customized lighting, and PUPPIES, the booths were seriously impressive and cost a pretty penny. While we expected big presences from Apartments.com, RealPage, and Entrata, we were also surprised with some players we hadn’t heard of before stepping up their booth game. We’ve been in the Apartment Marketing industry for 4 years, but not until NAA we were introduced to Apartments 24/7. They seem to be doing some really cool stuff and we’re thinking Lisa and Fiona could totally be friends. On the other hand, Knock, a company who we are super familiar with and just raised a bunch of cash, had a very underwhelming 10 by 10 booth. Clearly two very different strategies. While we would love to learn more about both, all this left us wondering. What is the the true ROI of some of these more extravagant booths vs just being there?
With NAA in our backyard next year, we have some decisions to make. . .
Next year, we will be sure no one puts baby in the corner!
Fluidity is Key
A lot of vendors, ourselves included, use NAA as a great opportunity to meet with key clients, prospects, and other vendors in person. The downside of the telecommuting, digital world we live in is that we rarely get face time with people we talk to on a weekly if not daily basis. We packed our schedules with confirmed meetings and happy hours, only to be let down by multiple cancellations and re-schedules. We ran into an NAA veteran friend of ours and found out that the shuffling is totally normal. At this event there is so much to do and so many events and activities competing for people’s time. On the plus side, just walking through town we bumped into clients we didn’t plan to meet with so grabbing a few minutes on the sidewalk was icing on the cake. We definitely learned our lesson to be as fluid as possible when setting up outside meetings, and stay an extra day or two, in the hopes of snagging a late happy hour or dinner rendezvous. Also, if you’re looking to bandit the race in Denver next year, a few local spots that could work well for meetings are Backstage Coffee, Perks Coffee, or Novo.
Last but not least, NAA did a great job of involving the community. We stayed about half a mile from the conference and nearly every shop and restaurant had signs welcoming NAA attendees, some were even offering a discount if you showed your badge. I think this truly added to the high energy and positive vibe of the conference. It felt like the entire city was decked out in NAA banners, posters, and street closure signs. I mean they even shut down the street for a block party! And we can’t forget about the sponsored bus tour…
Overall, we got a lot of great insight and heard from our clients that this was the best NAA yet. Denver, challenge accepted? We are looking forward to representing in our hometown at next year’s NAA!