Speaking as a veteran of storage conferences and often frequenting the ISS (Inside Self Storage), SSA (Self Storage Association), and CSSA (California Self Storage Association) conferences it took some trial and error to really get in the groove and do these conferences the right way. If you, or your company is spending the money to send you to a conference, you are going to want to do what you can to take full advantage of the opportunity and get the most of your money.
Why go to a Self Storage Conference?
If you are new to the industry in ANY way, there is no better way to jump right in than going to one of these conferences. I especially recommend the SSA and ISS conferences in Las Vegas, NV because they are the largest ones and tend to have fantastic speakers, seminars, and networking opportunities. Whether you are looking to invest in the industry, a new owner of one property, an experienced owner of 60+ properties, real estate mogul, broker, site staff, or in sales of a particular product or service, I highly highly suggest you give the conferences a shot at least once. I have attached information at the bottom for firsts-timers on how to get involved and seek information on these.
First things first, you are representing your company, boss, and yourself. While there is a wide variety of people from all over the US and even outside of the US, it is important to look nice when representing your brand. Business casual is recommended for these events- but it’s always better to dress up rather than down. Also, in many of the conference halls, they strategically keep the temperatures much lower than it is outside so be prepared with a sweater, jacket, or pants. As far as shoes, it definitely is a good look when you wear dress shoes, however do make sure that they are comfortable! Chances are you will be walking, standing, and sitting for a long time in these shoes and you do not want them to drive you crazy. It really helps to wear the name tag that the conference provides you at check-in as this is the best way for others at the conference and yourself to identify the people you interact with. Also, ALWAYS bring business cards- I made this mistake of forgetting one year and it was irritating.
Don’t Miss the Round-table Discussions
The round table portion of these conferences is very similar to old-school speed dating. I’ve never done speed dating but it’s how I would imagine it to be. Many people tend to not enjoy this portion because it consists of many people in one giant room with many tables that have numbers on them and you have 10 minutes to sit down with a vendor or storage expert and hear what they have to say and discuss a topic, then you switch about 5 times. However, every year I find some of the most beneficial conversations that I have will be during the round tables. You can see a list of all of the different table topics there will be beforehand, therefore you can have a plan of attack upon entering the room so you don’t have to waste your time at inapplicable tables. Also, some tables with important and helpful speakers tend to fill up fast so it helps to know ahead of time which topics or vendors pertain to you best going into the event. The vendors tend to provide information on their expertise and also give the table time to discuss, share opinions, and compare among themselves what works for them and what does not. The topics of these tables range from everything: tips for development, new storage technology, new developments in advertising, storage disruptors, manager training, best way to rent units, how to deal with conflict, how to gain investors, and so much more. There have been times where I will see a potential business opportunity with a vendor or I will have a very interesting conversation with a storage owner and will exchange company cards here and reach out to them at a later time. Do not miss out on this opportunity to network your brand.
Do go to the Trade Show
The trade show is a giant showroom floor with hundreds of different companies and vendors showcasing their product and service for owners and storage personnel to compare. This is a great time to network with already existing clients, or a great opportunity to check out a new lock or aggregator that you’ve heard so much about. It can be overwhelming because of the amount of booths and people but it is very worth your time to checkout. Many of the vendors would love to pitch to you, demonstrate a product, or give a presentation. In order to make this less overwhelming, it definitely helps to check out potential vendors you would like to see ahead of time, reach out to them, and introduce yourself to plan a time to meet up and personalize the meeting. One benefit of the trade show is many fun free products, pamphlets, and prizes that the many booths will handout to anyone interested – there are many great things to see.
Do Bring Site Staff
Every year we enjoy bringing high performing managers, assistant managers, and maintenance staff from our sites. There is so much to learn from the show and with all of the high quality speakers it gives the site staff a great opportunity to hear different perspectives of the job. This is also a really great way to treat your site staff to a mini informational vacation and show to them that you are willing to invest in them to grow with the company and how much you appreciate their hard work.
Do Look Up the Schedule Ahead of Time
I typically plan several meetings with vendors and aggregators ahead of time so scheduling is very important. I like knowing which classes and sessions will be the most beneficial for me to attend ahead of time, and to see who is running these sessions. You can also pay extra to take crash courses in particular sections like an all day marketing or legal course if you are just getting started.
Do Bring Vitamin C, Emergen-C, or Hand Sanitizer
I didn’t get this idea until noticing a trend of my coworkers getting sick after arriving back after the conference. A lot of the time the conferences take place in Vegas. The culmination of interacting with many people, shaking hands, sharing furniture, the drastic changing of temperatures (inside and outside), lack of sleep, travel time, time change, and more can be the perfect recipe for getting sick. Make sure you sleep when you can, rest up till you leave, and wash your hands to prevent getting sick!
First Timers and Signing Up:
Inside Self Storage: https://insideselfstorageworldexpo.com/
Self Storage Association: http://www.selfstorage.org/Events-Education
California Self Storage Association: http://www.californiaselfstorage.org/
Or look up your state for your state self storage association
Written By: Lauren Gronna, Advertising Coordinator