2015 NAA Education Conference Recap


The excessive Las Vegas heat probably kept many National Apartment Association conference attendees from stealing away to the golf course. Good thing, because they would’ve missed some cool stuff. This year’s Education Conference & Exposition at the Mandalay Bay in June was much more than four days of industry banter. As record heat basted the Strip, inside an all-time high of more than 9,000 attendees perused high-tech exhibits and heard from industry leaders about how to maintain the apartment industry’s sizzling pace and get positioned for the future. And laugh a little along the way.

Sessions were packed and hallways jammed for much of the event, which was devoted to connecting, learning and growing business and relationships. Talk abounded of new technologies, fresh spins on resident engagement and who was going to win a luxury car loaded with cash. On the technical side, one session explored how to measure the customer experience through new data-driven marketing software that can track resident engagement. Closer to the heart, guest speakers for NAA’s Game Changers series served up a helping of the human experience through laughter and emotional connectivity, and offered an appetizer – a real one – of a towering Italian salad with a very multifamily touch.  

— Lisa Trapp of Sequoia Equities, Inc., and Chris Eckert of G5 spoke about how predictive analytics can be used to determine the likelihood of residents and prospects to lease and renew in one of the 60 education sessions. Lead-scoring and demographic-based personas can be created through data to track engagement, satisfaction and preferences that will determine how likely residents and prospects will engage. Comedian Jay Leno’s highly anticipated message at the Opening General Session on Thursday was not one of character building or motivation, but simply that of enjoying a good belly laugh through his Las Vegas-style standup routine.

Former Harley-Davidson Motor Co. director of communications Ken Schmidt explained how the iconic motorcycle manufacturer rose from near bankruptcy by branding its product as a lifestyle, and Zipcar ex-CEO Robin Chase said her company created a bond with consumers by seeing them as co-creators. Chase, who founded the largest car-sharing company in the world, realized shortly after launching her company that it was destined for success when Zipcar had made an impact in the apartment industry. “The best moment was when I saw an advertisement for an apartment,” she said. “It said something like a two-bedroom, this and that, and Zipcar nearby. Yes! We’re the big amenity!” On Friday, the hand-tossed food demonstration by TV cooking star and restaurant entrepreneur Giada De Laurentiis, with culinary helpers NAA Chairman Tom Benton and Azuma President Phil Bogucki, whet appetites and tickled the audience.

Later, in between talking about how to make Tuscan Kale more palatable, De Laurentiis said the key to balancing her success as an entrepreneur and mom is having a strong support network, That was a theme reiterated a day earlier in a light-hearted education session on employee engagement by apartment industry duo Jacqueline Ramstedt and Toni Blake.


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

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Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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