I recently attended my first live conference event in several years, along with our Sales and Marketing Director, Alayna Gardner; National Sales Executive Isaac Strader and Marketing Content Manager, Tim Austen. You may recall that I have some strong feelings about the place of the live trade conference in the modern business world. Apparently, I’m not alone! But I will freely admit that our time at the 2023 ICE Encompass Live event reminded me of the reasons we press on with onsite conventions. There were a lot of positives to come from our trip.
One thing I’ve said repeatedly is that “nothing good happens at a convention after 9pm.” I stand by that claim, although I will begrudgingly admit that there are some exceptions to the rule. That having been said, I also remain convinced that a Google Meet or Zoom meeting will never completely replace the nuances of an in-person meeting. And I’m not sure if AI or any other technological breakthroughs will ever change that completely.
Alayna and I provided a complete debriefing of our experience at the ICE event, post jetlag, on our podcast, LodeStar Lending Leaders.
As would be expected with overall mortgage origination down this year, attendance was a bit down as well—although much better than what we’ve experienced at a few other events in 2023. That meant that the lenders in attendance weren’t trying to shoehorn 30 minute meetings into 10 minute time-slots. We actually had conversations. And unlike past down cycles, the focus for lenders—at least the ones we talked to—isn’t just keeping costs low until volume rebounds. It’s automation. Lenders are looking to use this slow period to not only prepare for the next surge, but to have a depth of scalability in order to handle downturns.
This, I have to say, was extremely refreshing. Perhaps we really are starting to break the age-old cycle of “ramp up/scurry around like chickens with our heads cut off” during volume spikes and “ramp down/batten down the hatches” when volume dips. Perhaps we are using the slow period to improve ourselves and improve the way we deliver mortgages.
Of course, transition was another theme running throughout the course of the show. The stark contrast from the peaks of 2021 to the valley in which we are now has brought the predictable wave of M&A, office closures, cut-backs and layoffs, start-ups and job changes that tend to come with a market shift. In some cases, the people we talked to couldn’t honestly tell us who our new point of contact might be in the aftermath of personnel changes.
It was also a lot of fun to see the team that’s built LodeStar from its infancy to current success absolutely kick butt! Of course, like any conference held across the continent, the team was tired after running hard for several days. As Alayna told us, “We’re dead but we survived!” But it’s clear that the experience was very positive for us. It’s one thing to check in with customers occasionally via email or a call. And any business that has customers tends to hear from some more than others. So for Alayna and the team to be able to sit with any number of our own customers to hear about their experiences or what they liked (or didn’t) about our product was extremely helpful.
All in all, this was a worthwhile exercise for the LodeStar team. Can some things be improved about the way we produce conventions? Yes. Is it worth it to attend a few conferences each year? Also, yes.
Finally, although Las Vegas is always a gracious host for events like this, I have to say that we’re also looking forward to an event that will require a lot less travel later this year. We hope to see you in our hometown of Philadelphia in October for MBA’s Annual Convention! We’ll have some announcements about that as the event draws nearer.
We at LodeStar are grateful to all of our clients, friends and colleagues who take the time to view Deeper Thoughts. Please consider having a look as well at some of our other great content, including our podcast, “LodeStar’s Lending Leaders,” and “A Tale of Two Mortgages: an original webcomic for the mortgage industry, presented by LodeStar.” As always, your feedback is welcomed and appreciated!