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Making the Most of Your Tradeshow Dollars: Self-Storage Operators Get Tips for Maximizing Their Conference Experiences

Tradeshows designed for the-self storage industry provide a wealth of new information, updates on industry trends, education and networking opportunities. The key to making the most of your tradeshow dollars is proper planning and good follow-through.

Tradeshows designed for the-self storage industry provide a wealth of new information, updates on industry trends, education and networking opportunities. They serve many valuable purposes for attendees including professional development and business growth.

But attending an industry event can be costly. Show registration and travel expenses can have a big price tag. Factor in the time youre away from your business, and its no small investment. Is it really worth it? Absolutely.

The key to making the most of your tradeshow dollars is proper planning and good follow-through. What you get out of a conference is directly proportioned to what you put in! How you plan for and follow up on the event will determine how much value you receive. Here are some steps you can take before, during and after to make the most of your experience.
Before the Show

Review the agenda. Choose the sessions of interest to you, and then create a schedule. Look for specific opportunities to learn things that directly impact your business. Plan to attend a seminar during every available time slot. Determine which roundtable discussions will benefit you most. Look at specialized sessions that fit your business such as legal seminars or management workshops.

Maximize your coverage. If more than one person from your company is attending the show, split up and attend different sessions. Each person should take notes and be ready to share what hes learned after the show.

Expand your horizons. Attend at least one session that shows the industry from a different perspective than your own. For example, if you work on the operational side of the business (management), attending a session on the development side could bring you fresh insight.

Meet others. Make a list of the people you want to see at the show and schedule time with them in advance if possible. Set a goal for how many new people youd like to meet, including industry leaders. Pack plenty of business cards. 
During the Show

Stick to your schedule. Its easy to get sidetracked, skip sessions or change your agenda once youre there. Only make changes if you really think it will be beneficial. Its also easy to get distracted by wanting to sight-see or have a good time. To make the most of the show, remember youre there to learn.

Take notes at the sessions. First, itll help you remember everything youve learned. Second, youll want to share this information with your colleagues. Jot down all inspirations you get from the information presented, even if its just a short note to jog your memory later when you can more thoroughly explore the idea. Stay to the end of each session. Its rude to the presenter to leave early, and often the good information is at the end.

Participate in sessions. Ask questions, and share ideas and information. Seek the people who seem to have the resources or information that could benefit your business. Sessions often encourage participants to open a healthy discussion.

Consider new ideas. Listen to your peers at the show. Different things work for different people. The show is an opportunity to try on different concepts for your business and see if they fit.

Step out of your comfort zone.  Introduce yourself and network. You may see vendors or others youve only spoken to on the phone. Collect business cards from the people you meet; jot down notes on the back of their cards to help you remember key points about them.

Find solutions. Make it a point to seek resources and solutions for your problem areas. For example, if youre consistently having gate issues, talk to the gate vendors and see what solutions they have. Explain the issue, determine who can help, and schedule time to follow up after the show.

No clumping. Dont spend too much time with your fellow staff or company representatives, especially if you see them daily. Youre at the show to learn from others. Separate yourself from the other staff and schedule time to regroup at specific times or places.  Breakfast or a late dinner can be a great opportunity to talk about the show while not consuming valuable event time.
After the Show

Group pow-wow. Schedule time to recap the show with the key players in your company. Let each attendee share his thoughts with the group.

Review your notes and ideas. Create a plan and timeline to implement those ideas within the next 90 days. Do this the first day youre back in the office. If you wait, youll lose the urgency, and a lot of those good concepts (along with potential profit) will fade away.

Reach out. Call or send a note to the people you met and follow up on any action items you discussed. Use this as a chance to solidify new relationships and continue the knowledge sharing.

Get involved. Think about what skills or knowledge you have that could benefit the industry and consider how to get involved at a future show. Maybe you could be a roundtable leader or session speaker. Contact the show presenters and offer your services for the future. Getting involved is a great way to step up your exposure in the industry, enhance your own personal growth, and confirm your commitment to being proactive in your business.

Considering the value and importance of what you can gain from an industry tradeshow experience, its a bargain.
Linnea Appleby is president of Sarasota, Fla.-based PDQ Management Solutions Inc., which specializes in the management of self-storage properties and offers complimentary services such as operational consulting, new-facility startup, property audits and the Income Finder Service.  For more information, call 941.377.3451; e-mail [email protected]; visit

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