Peer-to-Peer Interaction and Learning Abounds at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in New Orleans

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While hundreds of self-storage professionals will flock to the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in New Orleans, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, for the unmatched education program and vendor exhibits, there’s another enticement to the show: community interaction and opportunities to learn from peers. For facility managers and owners, the event is a chance to talk shop with other operators, sharing information, stories and a few laughs.

“This is where the industry meets—where we come together to discuss the ideas that work, the challenges we face, and the new strategies that allow us to become better operators,” says Benjamin Burkhart, industry consultant and owner of StorageStudy.com.

With the quest for knowledge a top priority, information is freely shared among vendors, managers, owners, developers and consultants at the expo. “I’m always amazed at the candor and camaraderie among perfect strangers at the ISS shows. I've been privileged to have in-depth conversations with attendees from all parts of the globe,” says Gina Six Kudo, a past attendee and manager of Cochrane Road Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif.

Justin Jones, owner and manager of Monument Court Storage in Concord, Calif., says the “real world” information he gleans from other owners and managers is invaluable. Many attendees find that contacts they make at an expo lead to profitable, long-term business relationships. They network before and after seminars as well as in the exhibit hall, comparing notes, trading business cards, and discussing their operations. In addition, the following special events allow for peer-to-peer networking.

Open Forum

The networking begins on day one with the lively Self-Storage Q&A.  This interactive event is attended by folks from all walks of life: managers, owners, investors, vendors, consultants and newcomers. Moderated by industry veterans Jim Chiswell and Mel Holsinger, the forum allows participants to ask their most pressing questions and interact in a casual setting.

“Most of us live in our own self-storage world, and it really helps to hear from others about their challenges and opportunities,” says Bob Copper, owner of Self Storage 101, a consulting firm specializing in operational improvement, training and market studies. “Owners should seek out those who contribute specific ideas and flesh out the particulars. Most owners are transparent with their operations and are more than eager to assist others with similar issues.”

Topics discussed at previous shows include grassroots marketing campaigns, what to do with a vehicle in a lien sale, crime prevention, employee training, manager wages and much, much more. It’s anything goes at the Q&A. Attendees share experiences, get their questions answered and can even win great giveaways.

Cocktail Reception

Leave your business hat at the door for this happy-hour experience. An expo favorite, this year’s reception kicks off the grand opening of the exhibit hall. Mingle with fellow attendees and chat with exhibitors over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

Technology Marketplace

Before heading to the info-packed seminars on day two of the expo, stop by the Marketplace and explore the latest in self-storage technology including software, security equipment, kiosks, online directories, call centers and more. Meet with the people behind the scenes and demo products. It’s a great way to meet tech experts away from the hustle and bustle of the show floor.

Buyers & Sellers Meeting

If you’re in the market to buy or sell a self-storage property, this is the networking event for you. Sellers can post information about their properties on the community bulletin board in the expo hall where all potential buyers can view it. Buyers, be sure to meet up with sellers in your region on day two from noon to 5 p.m. The community board will list the designated area of the exhibit hall and meeting times.

Roundtable Discussions

The roundtable event on the last day of the show is an ideal place to get even more one-one-one time with industry experts. Topics cover everything from building a website and getting most out of your management software to improving or adding ancillary services such as records storage, retail and boat/RV storage. Learn more about how management companies work or the current state of the financing market. Roundtables are led by expo speakers and exhibitors and other industry professionals.

“Many attendees take the roundtables for granted,” Copper notes. “We find these to be a great source of information and encouragement, and the format allows attendees to focus on their specific area of concern.  Attendees should make a point to plan out their roundtable visits for the most effective use of their time.”

Self-Storage Talk

Want to meet other managers and owners to swap stories? Head over to the Self-Storage Talk member lounge in the exhibit hall, booth 126. The official ISS online community now boasts more than 3,200 members. Many are expo regulars, so expect to see them at the show. Sign up to become a forum member yourself or meet up with your online friends.

Another SST networking opportunity is happening right now on the Web. To connect with industry experts, speakers, suppliers, managers and owners attending the show, visit www.selfstoragetalk.com and participate in the thread, “Inside Self-Storage World Expo New Orleans 2010.”

Regardless of which networking events you attend, make the most of them, advises Beverly Docktor, co-manager of All American Self Storage. “Bring lots of business cards and talk to all the friendly people at every possible opportunity, including while sitting in the hallways between sessions and on the tradeshow floor,” she says. “The networking we have done at the expo has given us great ideas to resolve potential problems and makes us feel less isolated.”

For the complete agenda, including information on the education tracks, add-on workshops, exhibitors and the host hotel, visit www.insideselfstorageworldexpo.com.

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