JF1398: How to Make A Real Estate Meetup Worth Attendees Time #SkillSetSunday with Troy Miller
Troy is here today to tell us all about meetups. We’ll hear what a good meetup does, vs what a bad meetup does. He ran a REIA for years, now he is able to travel while working and is talking to us today from Thailand. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
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Troy Miller Real Estate Background:
- Indirectly grew up in real estate with directly over the past 14 years
- Works with REIAs, REIA Leaders, and Local/National organization to set a new standard in our industry
- Developing the ways Real Estate Entrepreneurs connect/learn through a “Learn, Do, Teach” Education Model
- Started Miller Construction in 1994 in remodeling homes and then moved into New Construction
- Based in Cincinnati, Ohio
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Troy Miller. How are you doing, Troy?
Troy Miller: Doing excellent, Joe. How are you today?
Joe Fairless: I’m doing excellent, and nice to have you on the show. A little bit about Troy – well, he indirectly grew up in real estate and has been in real estate for the past 14 years. He has a consulting company that works with real estate investment associations and real estate investment association leaders, and national and local organizations to set a new standard in how to engage their customers in a meaningful way… So our conversation is gonna be about engaging our customers – engaging whether it’s investor or whether it’s attendees at our meetup, or whether it’s people who are selling their house if we’re a real estate agent… Engaging our customers in a meaningful way, and also as attendees of meetups, being able to look at how we should evaluate if we should attend a meetup, because we’re gonna look at it from the other side of the spectrum. We’re gonna be looking at it from the people who are putting on the meetup. So a couple things we’re gonna be talking about today…
Troy is based in Fort Collins, Colorado, but he is not there right now. Troy, where are you?
Troy Miller: I am in Chiang Mai, Thailand, currently.
Joe Fairless: And what are you doing over there?
Troy Miller: Everybody talks about that lifestyle design stuff… If you are a Tim Ferriss fan — I stepped away from running a local real estate investor association in Colorado because I wanted to acquire that desired lifestyle, and have been able to take my consulting business on the road with me… So that’s what I’m doing.
Joe Fairless: Outstanding. So you’re basically doing it because why not, why wouldn’t you be doing it, right?
Troy Miller: Absolutely.
Joe Fairless: The question is why aren’t you doing it, Joe? Not why am I doing what am I doing… [laughs] Well, Troy, how about you give us a little more background on how you got to this point and what you’re focused on right now?
Troy Miller: Well, as you said, I’ve sort of indirectly been involved in this industry all of my life. My mother was a property manager and my father was a GC, both in Kentucky and Cincinnati area, similar to yourself currently… And from that, my background was in Arts Administration, and I worked with theatre companies around the country for several years; then I became a meeting and event planner for a [unintelligible [00:03:29].26] in Southern California, and that’s what sort of got me into the meetings and events industry… And I took a position with a national real estate organization doing planning and development for that, and I came across this wonderful place called [unintelligible [00:03:46].09] and I was sort of caught off-guard by it, because I had worked in some organizations that worked for the Cincinnati Apartment Association, I worked for the Kentucky chapter of CCIM [unintelligible [00:04:00].23] and then when I got involved with the real estate investor association, it was a completely different animal. I just sort of sat back and absorbed most of that for a long period of time, and I was like “You know what, I really think that there’s some opportunity here”, and I sort of developed my professional development – I became a member of the American Society of Association Executives, and then also the Professional Convention Management Association. Those are organizations for other trade associations in other industries where you come and share best practices and talk about how to assist the end user…
And most organizations out there I feel are either for advocacy or to create a gold standard for their industry… And I sort of began to take that information back to real estate investor associations, and everybody, for the most part – and this may be just my own perception, but it just felt like everything was sort of status quo… And when I worked with organizations, they said “This is the way that we’ve always done it”, and I’ve always been somebody that sort of sits out there on the fringe, saying “Well, how can we make this better?”
Joe Fairless: Okay. As far as most organizations focus on advocacy or adhering to or helping reach the gold standard, how is that not like the real estate organizations? Because you’re saying other organizations, not real estate related did that, and then you were involved with some real estate organizations and they weren’t… Did I hear that correctly?
Troy Miller: Yeah, and when I started working with real estate investor associations, most of the organizations I worked with were not for profit organizations – 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(6), and most of the REIAs that I came across were more for-profit organizations. So the people that were creating these organizations were generally product and service providers in the industry that were creating a lead generation for themselves… So then I began to understand that there was some intent or there was an intention behind just exactly why they were providing this service for their tribe or their group of people surrounding them.
Joe Fairless: Okay… So other organizations not trying to make money on the people, real estate organizations trying to make money on the people who attend, and that’s a main complaint that a lot of people have who attend real estate meetups – it’s just a pitch fest and/or they don’t focus on what is relevant to me as an attendee… So you identified that issue…
Troy Miller: And I would say that another complaint that I hear with real estate investor associations is that there are products and sales at most turns, and there are two sides to that… I think that, for one, a friend of mine in Knoxville, Tennessee told me, he said “Nothing in this industry is free” and he said that “Education without action is nothing more than entertainment” and he said “It takes $25 to go as a guest to your local meetup, on average, and if you’re not gonna do anything with that, 1) you should take that $25 and go to a movie and get yourself a ticket and some popcorn and be entertained…” But there are a great deal of people in the industry that aren’t going to take the action necessary to do that.
So what I’m saying here is that good information is worth the price that you’re going to pay for it… However, I think that there’s another side to that, that with the education, especially now, I think that you really have to understand what the end user is looking for, and for the most part, I think a lot of the information out there is very general, and mass appeal to people. I call it sort of like “the box store approach”, like your Walmart or Target – you’re simply just gonna put all of your wares out there and let people pick and choose.
But I think that we have evolved as, for example, the adult learning model. When you go to an education platform or go to a meeting, you’ve got different generations of people in the room, and you’ve also got different learning styles… And then on top of that, in our industry you’ve got people investing at all different types, so what they’re really looking for is not necessarily just the education, but they’re also looking for some sort of consultancy. So I think that there is an opportunity to begin to change the way we deliver and present information so that it’s not just blanket presentations, it’s not just the sage from the stage, but it’s a conversation.
For example, look what’s happening in social media – the way that we engage and interact with each other has changed dramatically with social media… So when you got an event, you’re often called an attendee, and I would rather call you a participant, and I would like the person from the front of the room to be guiding the conversation and then we as a room or we as a community having a conversation around that to bring up 1) the quality, bring up the delivery of information and create these best practices, and then begin to hone in on what are the needs of the room versus simply delivering information because you think that is what is needed.
Joe Fairless: I certainly agree, and the challenge – and this is probably why companies or individuals who are putting something on hire you – is to be able to structure that in a way that generates engagement while it also doesn’t create madness… Because what I heard you say is — and by the way, as we’re flowing through our conversation, it really sounds like people who are putting on events, we’re talking about ways to maximize engagement and get the best experience for the attendees… So really, that’s the primary person that we’re talking about. Anyone who has a meetup or puts on a large conference or wants to put on a large conference, or maybe can have suggestions for the meetup they attend, then this is really who we’re talking to.
Now, as far as what I heard you say is that it shouldn’t be a presentation, it should be a conversation. Instead of having mass appeal, it should be specific to those in the audience… How do you plan for that as a meetup organizer?
Troy Miller: Well, I think that there is a substantial amount of vetting that should take place before the event even starts. An event that I’m working on right now, we’re about two months out from the event and we’re already doing a substantial amount of vetting and creating criteria, not only just for the speakers on the stage, but also attendees, as well.
We have criteria that we have created around what we need our speakers, our experts to be knowledgeable on, what we want their background to be, and we’re also having them go through a criminal background check because we feel that it sets a precedent that has not existed up until this point. And the same thing from the attendee. And with this vetting, we feel everyone will be on the same page in terms of the playing field.
Joe Fairless: Criminal background check for attendees?
Troy Miller: Correct.
Joe Fairless: Wow, I like it. Okay. What if you have a misdemeanor?
Troy Miller: They’re all criminal.
Joe Fairless: Wow, alright…
Troy Miller: And we feel that that’s going to really step up and change the way that we do business. As a participant coming into this and knowing this, it should make you comfortable that there has been a substantial amount of due diligence done, knowing that the people that you’re gonna receive information from and also the people that you’re going to be participating and networking with have all been through the same screening that you have.
Joe Fairless: Okay. So you’re doing planning. One is just a background check, but that’s probably a bullet point of the overall thing… In terms of the planning, what are you exactly doing to make it not madness?
Troy Miller: Well, from there we have identified a pain point… What is a pain point that the participant is currently dealing with in their local market, and one that happens to be is that the event will be in L.A., and a lot of investors are having a hard time investment opportunities that make sense for them. So we have identified five key markets within the United States that make sense, that are becoming emerging markets, and we’re going into those emerging markets and identifying with our criteria in mind market experts, who not only know the market by the numbers, but also either have clients or are investing themselves actively in those marketplaces, doing our own due diligence on them, and then bringing them to the stage.
Then before they even make it to the stage, we’re doing a slow drip of content and information to prime the participant so that they’re not coming into the event itself cold. They’re being warmed up with information and engaging with the speaker ahead of time, so that the conversation begins even before the event. About 5-6 weeks out they’ll begin to have that conversation. Then when they come to the meeting, there’s an expectation that this event is a business place, it’s a marketplace… So while they have time to sit and listen to presentations and participate in discussions, there will be time for face-to-face meetings between the participants and the speakers as well. So you’ll get one on one time with every single speaker that happens to be across the stage.
There you get to talk about what your strategy is in terms of investing and how the informations they provided connects to you and creates that relationship so that they can come back to after the event… And then following the event, the attendee will have a chance to, in this instance, since it is an out of state investing summit, the attendee will get to either participate in a webinar or be invited to the local market where the attendee will get a live property tour of some of the information… So they’ll see the information in action should they choose to.
Another thing about this is that it’s sort of a salad bar approach, so that the attendee can pick and choose what they choose to engage in. They can either listen to the presentations, they can just directly to the meetings, they can also take advantage of the call to action at the end and participate in the local marketplace… So not only will there be multimedia, but you’ll learn a little bit, you’ll do a little bit, and you’ll actually be able to walk away and do this on your own, which for the most part I feel doesn’t truly exist in the marketplace because there’s always the up sell to the next level, either to the home study, the course, the mentorship. Here it’s about giving you the information and vetting that information, doing the due diligence up until the point to get to you, then letting you decide what’s important to you and letting you take action on the things that make sense to your business.
Joe Fairless: And you mentioned not a presentation, it should be a conversation, earlier… It sounds like that’s really in reference to the macro-level approach to the event, because as you mentioned, there’s a lot of different ways you can have that dialogue with the speakers, but then also there is a presentation by the speaker… So just so I’m clear – they are actually presenting something at a certain point in time, but then you can also have a conversation with them before or after… Is that right?
Troy Miller: Well, the conversation before, but at the actual event there has to be some sort of priming to set the stage, to begin the conversation, and after that is done, then you can sort of format it so that the attendee is taking that information and digesting it by either going through case studies and having them go through case studies, so it’s real-time, so that they’re either working in groups, so that not only are they just processing information themselves, but they’re having a conversation with like-minded individuals who are also participating in this around the information, and then they’re taking that information back to the front of the stage… So it’s a nice ebb and flow of participant to presenter, back to the participant.
Joe Fairless: Got it. And that comes in the form of the information that is sent out prior to the event. But just so we’re speaking apples to apples, there are speakers at the event and they present – true or false?
Troy Miller: True.
Joe Fairless: Okay, got it. So there are presentations, but then it’s packaged around conversations and kind of an evolving dialogue – is that accurate?
Troy Miller: Absolutely.
Joe Fairless: Okay, I’m with you now. I was like, “Well, there has to be presentations…” – okay, there are. It sounds like the selling from stage – there is not selling from stage; instead, it is participate in a webinar or do a live property tour in that particular market afterwards.
Troy Miller: Yes, absolutely. I think the level at which I’m developing content, – I would say not for the beginner investor; this is focused at more of an intermediate to experienced investor that actually has or is in the trenches and has a few deals under their belt and they’re wanting to elevate their business to the next level, or they’re simply wanting a trusted and safe platform where some due diligence has been done, in this particular instance – and I keep going back to this, because this is the project that I’m currently working on… But at this out of state investing summit, the participant – if they were to do this legwork on their own, they would literally have to go out to the marketplace, travel there, and then try to attempt to find all these resources… And what we’re doing is by doing the legwork for them and bringing all of these resources in one centralized location to save them both time and money, and more importantly, the time… Because I think most seasoned investors, the most important resource that we have, far beyond money, is time.
Joe Fairless: I agree. Absolutely, 100%. For an investor who is putting together a meetup and they are looking to replicate this approach, what are some tactical suggestions you have for him or her?
Troy Miller: Well, I recall there was a pretty well-known national podcast that did an event on how to start a REIA for a lead generation. I saw it on social media, and I commented and I said “Let me tell you 100 reasons why I think this is the most affordable idea possible.”
Joe Fairless: Huh!
Troy Miller: [laughs] …because it is the most over-saturated thing that’s currently happening out there across the country. I see this both in Colorado, and I see this across the country – it’s all just lead generation, and if you are going to start a real estate investor’s association, I think there has to be a little bit of altruism, a little bit of holistic sense that what you’re trying to do is make things better for the community, not just for yourself… And there has to be, obviously, a leader that is gonna take the time to do the vetting.
And this is a really good point as well – I often hear people wanting to make recommendations or put people in front of the stage, because somebody did something for them and they’re simply returning the favor… And I think that it is paramount that if we’re going to make a recommendation, that we literally have to sit down and understand what the end user’s wants and needs are.
For example, I was looking for a speaker for an event, and I asked a colleague of mine and he gave me a list, and when I started to do my due diligence, it was clear that he had absolutely no clue what I was looking for, and simply because these people that he recommended to me had done a favor or had done some business with him, he wanted to help them out… But the thing was I was asking for the recommendation, and he wasn’t nearly as interested in what I needed versus how he could help them out… And I think if you’re going to start this type of organization, I think yu have to sit down and put your interest and your intentions to the side and say “Do I really wanna help people, or do I simply wanna build a business and create a lead generation tool for that business?”
Joe Fairless: Absolutely. Thank you for sharing that; it’s a powerful point, and it’s a point that will have major impact for everyone who has a meetup or is going to create one, because “Service to many leads to greatness” – I think it’s a Zig Ziglar quote, or someone like him, and I whole-heartedly believe that. How can the Best Ever listeners get in touch with you?
Troy Miller: My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe Fairless: Good stuff. Well, as real estate investors, as you mentioned, prior to starting a community, a meetup, we need to make sure that, well, it’s recommended, that we have some altruism there quite frankly at the forefront to make things better for the community, put the community’s interest at the forefront, and then we will benefit in the long run. Tim Ferriss talks about playing the long game.
Some tactical things that you’re doing with the event that you’re working on to deliver on that is a criminal background check – no one can have any crime whatsoever; by the way, for the record, I’ve never been arrested, I don’t have a crime, I was just curious about that.
Secondly is solve a pain point – you have structured that event to solve a pain point that people in Los Angeles have, and then approaching it accordingly with the speakers and the flow of the content. Give them content leading up to the event, that way they don’t come into the event cold, and during the event have time for face to face meetings… And ultimately, have it be a conversation, a dialogue, not just a static talking to them; you’re talking WITH them, and however you can structure that that best suits your format, then go ahead and do it.
Thanks for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Troy Miller: Alright, thanks, Joe. Have a great day.