If you’re a fan of virtual reality art exhibits and planning to attend the National Association of Realtors’ annual conference this year, you may be in for a treat. NAR is rebranding the event and spending the cash it needs to make it “iconic.”
Formerly known as the Realtors Conference & Expo or “NAR Annual,” the conference takes place every November and will be held in Orlando, Florida, this year. But it will do so with a new moniker: NAR NXT, The Realtor Experience. NXT is pronounced as “next,” according to NAR spokesperson Troy Green.
“The event is not just about the experience, inspiration, or the ‘hot ticket’ to have, it’s all about ‘What’s Next,’” he told Inman via email.
“This is conveyed through ‘concept X’ and it’s focused four key points: Creating your own eXperience; eXchanging ideas with fellow practitioners; eXperimenting on the Expo floor; and getting top information and education from eXperts,” Green added.
“NAR NXT will feature fresh, future-focused content, rave-worthy speakers, elevated programming, facilitated networking, an exceptional expo, offsite field experiences, and many other features that add value.”
The 1.5 million-member trade group said it decided to make changes to the event after more than two years of analysis and research. Asked who conducted the analysis and research, NAR did not respond.
“The changes elevate programming and ensure attendees are finding relevance and value in the event, year after year, both now and for years to come,” NAR said in a press release.
“The [name] change is supported by key messages that position the conference as the ultimate, experience-centric event for everyone in real estate, no matter where you are in your career or what field of real estate you are in,” the trade group added.
Asked whether a goal of the rebrand is to increase the number of attendees at the event, NAR did not respond. According to the event’s website, the trade group expects 10,000 attendees this year. NAR expects the annual conference will bring in net revenue of $1.5 million this year, though its meetings and events overall are expected to come to a net expense of $7.6 million, according to the trade group’s annual Finance Committee report, issued this month.
NAR described NXT as “the innovation incubator at the heart of the real estate industry” and said it would be offering some sessions virtually, but otherwise did not offer specifics as to exact changes the association will be implementing to make this vision a reality.
The Finance Committee report offers some clues, however. The report includes budget adjustments that can indicate when the trade group has chosen to divert more resources to particular line items than anticipated the year before.
The 2022 report includes requests for 18 operating budget adjustments adding up to $5.13 million, all of which were approved by NAR’s board of directors earlier this month. That amount is offset by an increase in NAR’s membership count, which added $6.03 million more to NAR’s coffers this year than expected.
More than half of the budget adjustments were for events, including one that asks for an additional $125,000 for production costs related to NAR’s annual conference and indicates the event’s production team has big plans.
“The additional funds allow NAR to explore the latest in technology and stage design giving NAR the ability to create more immersive and cutting-edge events for our members, allowing NAR to continue to be an industry leader on our large-scale productions moving us from truly fantastic to iconic events,” the team said in its funding request.
“By creating more dynamic holistic experiences catered to the needs of our members, we demonstrate that NAR is committed to their success and to their pride in being a Realtor and the value they bring to the real estate transaction.”
The team outlined potential uses for the funds, including “projection mapping” to create immersive experiences using projectors and lighting, “like the immersive art exhibits that have become so popular lately.”
“Funds would also be used to create more dynamic stage sets that are not currently within our budget that reinforces our branding including custom pieces specifically created to highlight the Realtor brand,” the team added.
“These examples are just a couple of ways for us to create fun and exciting sessions that reinforce NAR messages and provide attendees with unforgettable events and WOW moments.”
NAR did not respond when asked what kind of immersive experiences and stage sets the team was referring to. A separate budget adjustment request for an additional $150,000 indicates NAR is planning similar immersive experiences for its Leadership Summit.
The funding requests also make clear that NAR is spending more on providing virtual access to the conference following a recommendation from its presidential advisory group on governance. In August 2020, NAR’s leadership team adopted a policy recommendation from the PAG to allow NAR members “to participate in governance meetings electronically” and to ensure “proper security measures are in place to limit access to NAR members and voting by committee members only.”
To that end, NAR will be spending an additional $325,000 for visual, audio, internet and electrical equipment for more than 100 governance meetings at the annual conference and an additional $35,000 for production equipment and labor to stream the NAR board of directors meeting at the event to members and to offer the meeting to NAR’s directors via Zoom, according to the report.
NAR will also be spending an additional $155,000 to provide a virtual platform for the conference’s general sessions and two tracks of education sessions, including production costs and platform costs for members to participate in the conference remotely, the report added. No governance meetings will be held on that platform.
It’s not clear at this point what NAR has planned for its booth at the newly rebranded event, but the Finance Committee report indicates the trade group will be spending an additional $240,492 “to cover the increased industry expenses related to shipping, exhibiting, and storage of the NAR Booth” at both the midyear and annual conferences. Below is a photo of the booth at NAR’s midyear conference earlier this month.