You know it has been a good conference when you get to wrap it up with a meet and greet with the former Prime Minister of Canada!
This was destined to be an epic conference from the outset. I mean when you are working with a venue that some call the eighth wonder of the world you are definitely off to a good start. Niagara Falls is by far the most stunning, picturesque location we have held the conference since it’s inception.
In this article I will give you a feel for the flavour of the conference and a couple of my favorite moments and take aways. To try and summarize the entire content of the conference would soon become a book of many volumes. Instead I will give you my highlights and links to further resources should you wish to dive deeper.
First off, if you are a mortgage broker who has never been to National Conference you need to. Full stop. Period. End of story. I understand that getting to conference has a considerable investment attached to it but you need to realize and acknowledge that it is exactly that, an investment not a cost. I have never been to a conference where I haven’t either picked up one new idea, built one new relationship or simply found myself moved, touched and inspired to execute on ideas or techniques.
One of the things I love most about National Conference is the opportunity to connect with industry members of varying degrees of experience and success in this business. Conference kicked off on Saturday night with a welcome reception where over 250 delegates stopped by to mix and mingle. This reception is a great place to get the lay of the land in a relaxed environment. An opportunity for the rookie broker and the hall of famer alike to come together and share a cocktail and a story.
The astute broker will take this opportunity to strike up a conversation with an industry veteran and soak up the plethora of wisdom that most vets are more than happy to impart. Doing a little research in advance can go a long way.
Bonus Tips! Here are a couple of ideas to help you get the most out of your conference networking opportunities.
- Mortgage Conference usually publishes a list of delegates well in advance. Take a few minutes to go through the delegate list before hand and single out a few industry leaders or participants whom may be valuable to network with. One of the things I truly love about our industry is the amount of knowledge that is readily shared. All you have to do is ask.
- Think about what you would like to learn and prepare questions in advance that you can ask if the opportunity presents itself. Now this is not to suggest you should run around the social gatherings ‘interviewing’ people but as the old adage goes ‘it is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, then have an opportunity and not be prepared.’
- If you want more a quick Google search will give you lots of articles to look up.
Conference is as much a time to celebrate existing relationships as it is a time to build new ones. Saturday night was host to a few stakeholder parties as well, though I did not attend any. From the welcome reception to lobby bars to formal parties the opening evening of conference always provides great opportunity to connect.
Sunday was the formal kick off to conference. A small group run organized for a 7:30am start allowed those who needed to burn off a few calories from the night before a scenic place to do so. If calorie intake rather than expenditure is more your thing then you may have preferred the breakfast at conference center from 7:30 right up til 9am where our host Ron Tite kicked off the formal program. This was Ron’s second year hosting our conference which I think added to the ambiance as he had a bit of a flavor as to the ilk of the Canadian Mortgage Professional.
Ron kicked off the program introducing our first keynote speaker Amanda Lang. Amanda recently published her new book ‘The Beauty of Discomfort’ discussing how discomfort is the foundation for change. Probably the most shared quote from her presentation was “Systems are the enemy of curiosity”.
If attending conference and hearing her speak were not value enough, everyone in the audience received a copy of her book. In fact if you are reading this and prone to take action, the first five people to find this little ‘easter egg’ I will send a copy of her book. Simply subscribe on this site or email me at email@example.com with the subject line ‘I LOVE DISCOMFORT’ and I will send you a copy. UPDATE: Books are all gone (But you can still subscribe to my newsletter).
After Amanda finished we heard from the Mortgage Brokers Regulators Council with an update. Unfortunately I was hosting one of the breakout session rooms so had to leave the main hall to setup before the MBRCC update. You will find a full transcript of the presentation here.
Dan Albas, MP for central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola gave a parliamentary address after the MBRCC. Another one I was not able to attend but Dan has been an industry supporter in parliament through all of the legislative and regulatory changes in the last few years.
One of the most popular additions to the conference in the last few years was the introduction of concurrent breakout sessions. This year we had a dozen different breakout sessions to choose from. The concurrent sessions focused on three different streams: Technical, Management, Sales and Marketing. Presenters ranged from professional speakers, authors as well as the best of the best of the mortgage industry. The room I hosted held a broker panel as well as a session on the Digitization of Consumer Behavior.
The broker panel was moderated by Dustan Woodhouse and included industry veterans Joe Jacobs, Corinna Smith-Gatke, Danielle Hill and Jason Henneberry. There was a lot of great information shared though my favorite tidbit was when Joe conceded that his business had predominantly been refinances and that given the regulatory landscape he recognized he needed to pivot and put more emphasis on purchase business. This meant that he would turn his focus to an area he had previously neglected marketing; Realtors. Joe went on to disclose that he sent a pair of Sax underwear to a Realtor he had never met in an effort to gain his attention and garner a meeting. His tagline was something to the effect of “If you work with me there will be no dropping of balls.” As you can imagine it worked. He got the meeting and now has a new referral source.
The luncheon featured keynote speaker, author and radio host Terry O’Reilly. Terry talked about the power of counter intuitive thinking. He shared some fascinating stories of successes based on counter intuitive thinking. My big take away from his presentation was the reminder that the solution is often found in the problem itself.
Unfortunately I had pre-booked a meeting over this time slot and had to miss the lender panel. You can find the panelists here. If you have ever seen Jason Ellis speak you know you are usually in for a treat (as well as the odd F-bomb) when he takes the stage. Apparently he did not disappoint this time either. All reports suggest that this panel was extremely entertaining and informative.
From 3pm – 6pm the trade floor was open with over 75 exhibitors showcasing an incredible number of products and services. This was a great opportunity to network with your favorite lenders and suppliers. The majors did not disappoint with some massive exhibits and demonstrations of technology and talent. I enjoyed MCAP’s talk show setup where they had an actor interview top industry brokers in a talk show fashion every hour on the half hour. I also enjoyed seeing the continued evolution of the WIMI lounge where I had the opportunity to visit with some of my favorite women in the industry. The more I write the more I look forward to Montreal next year!!
Sunday evening was aplenty with more social opportunities. I kicked off the evening with an intimate comfortable dinner with some of Axiom’s finest at Zappi’s Italian Eatery. It was nice to decompress a little in a casual environment with colleagues I would call friends. From there we headed to the First National Financial party. This one is always one of my favorites and they did not disappoint this year. A classy, yet comfortable golf course venue with an amazing band set the stage for a great time with good industry partners and friends.
After the First National party my next stop was Street Capitals shin dig at the Dragon Fly night club with DJ, food, drinks and dancing options abound to party well into the wee hours. In my old age I pulled the chute at about 11:30 and went back to the hotel. Scotia Mortgage also hosted their party that evening as well as some of the other brokerages. Once again there was something for everyone looking for nightlife options.
Monday again opened with the option of a 5km fun run and/or a continental breakfast from 7:30-8:45. The opening education session was an Economic Roundtable. Now I am not going to lie, these are not my personal favorite sessions. I am not much of an economics guy though there was certainly a lot for them to discuss. The discussion covered topics like interest rate environment, the impacts of NAFTA, as well as the impacts of the regulatory environment. I deal of respect for all of the panelists but failed economics badly. As such I am not the guy to recap any discussion on economics.
The consensus from those I talked to was that the information was extremely valuable and gave some perspective for the future.
Again I hosted one of the rooms for the concurrent sessions. This time I had Scott Peckfords How to Survive a Rocket Mortgage Attack as well as a second round of the same broker panel. Scotts session was excellent and focused on building your process. Personally, as someone who built his first process binder in 2001, I found it fascinating to see that we are still trying to get it right. Scott recapped a number of ideas from industry experts he has interviewed over the years and inserted them at appropriate places along what he called ‘The Customer Journey’. As an old dog in this business I found it interesting to see how many ideas have been passed from generation to generation of broker. What it reinforced to me was that there really wasn’t a lot of new information. That really we shouldn’t focus on that shiny new thing and we should really focus on simply executing what we have.
I feel like we spend an inordinate amount of time looking for the next best thing when we haven’t even gotten good at the current ‘thing’. Great ideas I had taken from the generation before me were being presented again now to the next generation of brokers. Fuck I feel old ;0) Scott did a fantastic job of tying the ideas all together. I for one do not want to be discussing these same ideas a decade from now. If you were in the audience I implore you to get off your ass and execute, execute, execute!!
From noon til 2pm the trade floor was open again and lunch was served. I did another few laps of the trade floor and had lunch at the WIMI lounge where I spent some time with Kyra Wong discussing her Magical Unicorn project. If you have ever met Kyra you know she is an absolute gem! A real breath of fresh air. I also took the opportunity to sit in the ‘studio audience’ of MCAP’s talk show where Frances Hinajosa and Kerri Reed talked about amalgamation.
Stephen Harper Keynote
Our closing keynote was former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Right Honorable Stephen Harper was much more personable than I ever remember him in office. He talked about the populous movement we are seeing around the globe and why we are seeing upsets and unlikely results. The divide between the elite and the populous is widening and people are tired of it. One of the key messages I took from him was that ever more the power will be less on contracts and more on the strength of relationships. At the end of his presentation he sat with host Ron Tite and took questions from the floor. It was an incredible way to wrap up a fabulous conference.
Bonus Session: Mastermind
As an add on MPC added a Mastermind session hosted by Dustan Woodhouse. This was something we added last year and was very well received. I was unable to attend this year but heard great things.
Mortgage Hall of Fame
Every year the black tie gala Mortgage Hall of Fame dinner is where we celebrate the best of the best of the industry. This is a separate, ticketed event requiring a fair investment to attend. The event is always incredibly well run with amazing food, entertainment and opportunity to visit with your peers. This year we celebrated the induction of 4 industry veterans into the hall of fame. You can see the details of the inductees here. The evening is spectacular as far as a black tie gala goes and I love listening to the history of our industry in the speeches of our inductees. I have started to wonder however, over the last few years, whether it might be time to freshen up the evening and make it more appealing to that next generation of mortgage broker?
After the gala we had a party with booze, band and appies upstairs that was open to all conference delegates. I did a few laps of the after party, visiting with industry friends, enjoying the music. From there I ended up over at the Hilton on the 33rd floor, overlooking the impressive falls. CMLS hosted their broker partners in an exquisite venue with fabulous food, drinks and company. I’m sure many brokers stayed well into the night but I decided to head home at about 11:30pm to get a good night sleep before the long journey home the next day.
To sum it all up, if you did not attend you should have. There was an incredible amount of opportunity to enjoy the spectacular scenery the falls provided, learn more in a weekend then most learn all year and ample time to celebrate past and future successes.
It would be hard to imagine coming out of the conference without at least one executable that would provide a significant ROI on your conference investment. I look forward to seeing you next year in Montreal!