As the National Open House Weekend quickly approaches, the Tacoma-Pierce County Association of Realtors kicked off the festivities with its 2012 Sales Rally today.

“We are very pleased with the turnout and with how many people stayed until the end for the iPad drawing,” said Amy Remington of Guild Mortgage, who co-chaired the rally with Wendy Lunt of WFG National Title. “The purpose of the sales rally is to expose TPCAR members and agents of varying experience to ways of doing business – adding value and reaching out to their clients they maybe haven't considered before.”

The event featured an Open House Panel – Justin Nimick of Prudential Contact Corp., Michael McNiel of Windermere Real Estate, Sharon Benson of Coldwell Banker Bain, Debbie Ruvo of Keller Williams Realty and Heidi Hurst of RE/Max Professionals– that focused on tips for holding open houses.

Ruvo said that beyond online and print advertising, signage is important to getting people through the doors. But for those who are going to advertise their open houses McNiel said “to make sure you advertise really early.”

Nimick said brokers need to ask a lot of questions and really listen to people's responses so they can appropriately help potential clients. Hurst said listening also can help agents know which clients really want to buy or sell.

“I focus on the people that want to engage with me and have a conversation with me, and want to really tell me what they are looking for,” Hurst said.

Of course, when the discussion went to customer service and communication, technology could not stay out of the conversation. And when it came to tools that were discussed, the iPad and Facebook received high praise.

“If you are afraid of using Facebook set a plan out,” Benson said. “The more you are engaged you will start making new connections.”

Nimick, however, reminded the audience that “not everyone lives on their iPhones and iPads as we do.”

And most of the panelists warned that technology is not always the key to success.

“What I have impressed people with is hand-written notes,” Ruvo said. “They like that personal touch.”

The finale of the rally was Howard Chung's keynote speech, which included social media advice, referral improvement suggestions and strategies for success.

“I don't just want you to get pumped up, I want you to think a little deeper,” he said.