General Real Estate Appraiser Shares Highlights of IRWA Education Conference in San Antonio, TX

Anthony Alderman, MRICS, SR/WA; Christina Thoreson SR/WA, MAI; and Kris Koehler in San Antonio, TX at the IRWA International Annual Education Conference

Kristopher Koehler is a Certified General Real Estate Appraiser who has been doing contracted appraising work with North by Northwest for the past two years. 

North by Northwest was able to interview Kris about his regular participation in IRWA conferences, and in particular about his recent trip to Texas for the 67th Annual IRWA International Education Conference, which was held this year in San Antonio.

IRWA Conferences are Great Networking Opportunities

Interestingly, Kris told us that he first met NxNW CEO Anthony Alderman three years ago at a similar IRWA Conference in Edmonton, Canada. He spoke of how invaluable the conferences are for networking, as well as education. After meeting Anthony at the IRWA Conference, he started doing work with North by Northwest the following year. So the conferences are a great resource for connecting people and organizations within the industry.

“I’ve been going since 2015 when I went to my first IRWA conference in San Diego. I started going because I was then president of the Illinois Chapter. And I had voting duties as part of leadership. But I’ve been going back ever since” 

What Makes an IRWA Conference Unique?

“I think the IRWA conferences are especially beneficial for Right of Way. Because all of the appraisers I’ve met through the IRWA are very willing to share information and ideas. This is unlike appraisers I’ve met through other associations who aren’t always as open with information and education. Everyone at IRWA has been extremely friendly. And some of the people you meet you only see at these events. Because they live across the country or even internationally. So it is fun to catch up and reconnect with the friends you make at these events.”

Kris first became a member of the IRWA in 2012 when he got into ROW work. Shortly after that he began getting involved in leadership in the organization, and is still involved now. Currently he is the vice chair of the International Nominations and Elections Committee.

IRWA Furthers Education

At the Education Conference, Kris gave a talk with his committee on what the committee does and how to submit for awards. “It can be tough on Chapters to run elections. We had a lot of information to impart. So to keep the presentation interesting and fun we broke it up with 15 minutes of information. Then we did a 15 minute interview with our past International President Pat Petito. And finally we had 15 minutes of an IRWA themed Jeopardy game where we had members of the audience come up and participate to help make it interactive.”

“All of the questions were based on our presentation. As long as you were paying attention you’d answer the questions correctly. I think people had a lot of fun with that,” Kris shared. As part of the talk, audience members who participated in Jeopardy were rewarded with free drink passes, and the overall winner of the game got three free drink passes. 

The 67th Annual International Education Conference in San Antonio, TX

There were other memorable events at the conference, too. These included the Monday night event which featured a live band, great food, drinks, and games. And though it’s an event members have to pay for, all of the money raised goes to fund the education foundation. “The two biggest components of the IRWA are education and networking, so that funding is a key part of being a member,” Kris said. 

“The highlight of that event was watching armadillo racing, which was pretty entertaining, and it was also exciting that they gave us free cowboy hats, so everyone there got to pretend to be a cowboy that night.” There was another more lowkey event on Sunday night at Alibis Bar where everyone got to do karaoke. The IRWA conferences are a good balance of educational presentations and fun, social events which are great opportunities for networking. 

Kris spoke about the benefit of the conference now offering virtual sessions and participation options as well as in person, because even if you’re physically at the conference you might not be able to join every presentation you’d like to see in person, especially if you’re busy and involved in leadership. “One of my favorite presentations I saw was by Frank Mundy from South Carolina. He gave a talk on drones and how the technology is generally progressing, and how in turn, the technology will impact the right of way community,” Kris shared. 

Looking Forward to Future IRWA Events

“Also, even though the conference really gets started on Sunday, most people arrive in the area around Saturday afternoon or evening. So the Young Professionals group have started to host a Saturday night social event now, which has been so successful and probably one of the best networking opportunities because everyone is really amped up and excited to be arriving at the conference,” Kris explained. 

Kris said he will definitely be at future IRWA events and conferences. “Because of my work with the International Nominations and Elections Committee I have to go to every event and conference at least for the next three years, but I think even when that is complete I will still go to all the conferences because it’s so interesting and fun. There are topics for every discipline within the industry. And there are very many people there that I only get to see at these events. For all of these reasons it’s a great place to be and I’m grateful to be a part of it.” 

Were you at the IRWA International Education Conference in San Antonio, as well? Please reach out to us if you’d like to connect, we’d love to hear from you. 

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