ISS World Expo Delivers a Feast of Education, Networking and Exhibits to a Hungry Audience

Self-storge professionals are simply ravenous for connections and knowledge, and this year’s ISS World Expo in Las Vegas delivered both, plus so much more. Read highlights and first-hand experiences from the event, which whet the appetites of facility owners, managers, investors, developers and complete newbies.

April 16, 2024

7 Min Read

After retiring from a career in the housing industry, Ron Dirks joined Trojan Storage as a property supervisor. He heard about the Inside Self-Storage World Expo and decided to go, so he could gather as much information as possible.

“You come to events like this to meet people, learn about new technologies, ways to positively impact the environment and get an understanding of what’s out there to be successful in self-storage,” Dirks says. “I had never heard of ISS until recently, but I’ve learned a lot here that I can bring back with me. I’ll definitely be back.”

The theme for this year’s event was “collaboration, connection and community,” an extremely apt description for the show, held April 2-5 at Caesars Forum Conference Center in Las Vegas. Though it’s a billion-dollar industry, self-storage often feels like an intimate community, perhaps even a family. Veterans are ready to guide newcomers, who are eager to learn. It’s one of the reasons the ISS World Expo is such a huge draw.

“I like the spirit of community and giving back to those who are coming up behind them. At this show, there is a real opportunity to learn from the people ahead of us who have already traveled on that roadmap to success,” says Brian Barry, owner of Barry Storage in Clemmons, North Carolina. “I can see myself coming here every year. It’s a long trip for me to come to Las Vegas from North Carolina, but it’s well worth it.”

Whether this year’s attendees were new to the business or seasoned pros, the ISS World Expo offered a feast of education, networking, and products and services that satisfied even the biggest appetites. The dynamic event delivered 42 seminars and nine workshops, and showcased more than 250 exhibitors. Participants also enjoyed a special keynote address, a facility tour, an international program, roundtable discussions, vendor presentations, and many other opportunities to connect and learn from one another.

Hungry for Knowledge

A main attraction at every ISS World Expo is the outstanding education program. This year was no exception, and every session was well-attended. Day one kicked off with comprehensive workshops focused on development, legal issues and digital marketing.

In the afternoon, Women in Storage Education (WISE) drew more than 100 ladies for a discussion about their evolving role in the industry. The three-hour event was led by seven women with a combined industry experience of 152 years. Following the presentation, they enjoyed a cocktail hour that allowed everyone to mingle.

Day two kicked off with an entertaining keynote address from Anne Ballard, aka The Hat Lady. She shared gems of knowledge gained from her 32-year career in self-storage. In addition to a healthy dose of laughter, the crowd was treated to helpings of Southern-style sweet tea, Ballard’s favorite drink.


Keynote speaker Anne Ballard posing next to On The Move’s
Barbie-themed moving truck in the expo hall, which featured her
as one of several women icons in self-storage

Freshly inspired, the crowd next headed off to explore the conference’s six education tracks, including the all-new Big Picture Track designed to provide a macro view of factors driving self-storage investing, development and operation. Additional tracks delved into building, finance and real estate, management, ownership, and technology.

While every seminar was stellar, there’s only so much you can learn in 50 minutes. Overtime With the Experts enabled attendees to engage with presenters after each session in a dedicated space. It was an opportunity to ask specific questions and meet other like-minded professionals in a more personal setting.

The show also included a program for the international audience and those looking to invest outside the United States. These sessions provided insight to what’s happening in established and up-and-coming markets including Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Canada, Europe, and others. It included two expert panels, one focused on investing and development and the other on facility operation.

The second day of the event closed with the Party on the Plaza evening cocktail reception, which was co-hosted by Storage Gives, a nonprofit organization that helps facility operators support charitable causes. Attendees were treated to delectable food, drinks and music, with the renowned High Roller Observation Wheel serving as a backdrop. The evening provided an excellent opportunity for everyone to relax and enjoy quality time.


Attendees enjoying cocktails under the High Roller
Observation Wheel during Party on the Plaza

The concurrent education program continued on Thursday with fresh topics and speakers. In the late morning, attendees funneled into the three themed Self-Storage Q&A sessions. Though they were each led by two experts in their fields, participants were also able to hear advice and anecdotes from their peers. Later in the day, they were able to join in the always popular Legal Chat with Jeffrey Greenberger, the perfect place to get answers to risk-management-related questions in a dynamic, no-hold-barred environment.

Also on Wednesday and Thursday, attendees had the option to view several vendor presentations in which some of the industry’s top companies shared proprietary insight to industry trends and resources. Topics included development, facility renovation, property taxes and vehicle storage.

The education program concluded on Friday with four more half-day workshops focused on investing and facility operation, plus a full day workshop focused on boat and RV storage, presented by Toy Storage Nation.

An Extra Helping

The expo hall, open on April 3 and 4, was packed with self-storage professionals looking for new trends, suppliers, products and services. Attendees explored offerings in every segment of the business, from building components, finance packages and management software to security equipment, marketing services, retail products and much more.

It was exactly the environment new investor Rhonda Adams was seeking. Having just launched Jet N Go LLC in Bend, Oregon, she was on the hunt for supply partners. “You really get to meet a lot of vendors and find out about their products. It’s also given me an opportunity to familiarize myself with the industry,” she says.

There were plenty of products on display including unit doors and hallway systems, access gates, portable containers, kiosks, and retail merchandise. Exhibitors provided an abundance of fun freebies, too, including tote bags, back scratchers, flashlights, pens, stress balls, cell-phone holders and plenty more. One company set up a putting green in its booth, while another had a giant Jenga game. Elvis made an appearance to take photos with fans. Several vendors also held raffles for amazing prizes.


Making connections on the show floor near the ISS booth

But the exhibit hall wasn’t the only venue for making coveted business connections. The show brought together attendees for a variety of networking events including the popular Buyers & Sellers Meeting and Table Talks, which covered more than 35 hot topics. Back again for a second year was Speed Networking for Facility Operators, which brought owners and managers together for candid conversations about operational challenges. Dozens joined this lively, interactive event, walking away with new business relationships and possibly even friends.

A Big Treat

This year, the ISS World Expo partnered with two charitable organizations to raise funds and awareness for a variety of worthy causes. For the second year, Charity Storage hosted “Hoops for a Cause” during expo-hall hours. Attendees had their chance to play Pop-A-Shot and show off their free-throw basketball skills for a modest donation. Participants were entered into a raffle to win one of several great prizes. The event raised an astounding $12,000.


Competing over Pop-A-Shot in the expo hall to raise funds for Charity Storage

In addition, Storage Gives offered raffles as well as silent and live auctions to raise funds for the many charities it supports including Autism Speaks, Mission Feeding, Homes for Our Troops, Sparrow Foundation and Water for Life. The organization also sponsored a Bingo game that encouraged attendees to stop by various booths in the expo hall for stamps. Each winning card earned one entry toward a chance to win a $1,000 gift card and other prizes.

The ISS World Expo will return to Caesars Forum Conference Center next year, April 22-25. Details about the event will unfold at this fall.

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