After a long hiatus due to the pandemic, the Inside Self-Storage (ISS) World Expo returned this summer with an all-new education program, two days of exhibits and multiple networking events. With well-being protocols in place, the show drew thousands of people from all 50 states and even some from around the world to The Mirage Hotel & Casino, July 13-16. It also attracted more than 1,000 first-time attendees eager to engage with others and learn about self-storage.
“To describe in a word what it felt like to be back in a physical event format, engaging in person with all our industry friends and followers? Incredible! Though the show functioned a bit differently this year due to necessary guidelines, everyone was tremendously supportive and eager to reconnect, reap knowledge and propel their businesses forward,” says ISS Vice President Teri Lanza. “Drinking in the energy of this crowd was a bit like shot-gunning a really good cold brew, and we loved every minute! Big thanks to all our attendees, speakers, exhibitors and sponsors who came together to produce a stellar, post-pandemic win for the ISS brand and self-storage community.”
Seminar presenters Tron Jordheim (left) and Pamela Alton, hanging out in the ISS booth
Glad to Be Back
Though ISS produced two well-attended virtual events during the health crisis—one in September 2020 and another in April 2021—there’s simply no experience like attending a live conference and tradeshow. This sentiment was expressed enthusiastically during the event by attendees, exhibitors and presenters.
Masha Klapanova, owner of Top Choice Investment Group in Miami, likened the vibe of being at an in-person event to visiting an amusement park. “The exhibitors are terrific, and the sessions were impactful,” she says. “We chose to attend the expo this year primarily to connect with like-minded individuals, strengthen relationships and be a part of this amazing industry.”
Returning to a live event was like having a “fog” lifted, says Kevin Kerr, marketing manager for Storage Commander Software and a show presenter. “Being able to join the ISS World Expo and connect with other professionals in our industry was a much-needed breath of fresh air.”
The building-themed Storage Talks, in which industry experts made short,
Ted Talk-style presentations on multiple topics
Jumping Back In
Attendees were eager to soak up knowledge after missing out in 2020. Thankfully, this year’s show still offered 42 seminars across six education tracks covering many aspects of industry building, customer experience, investing, management, ownership and technology. Attendees also enjoyed eight deep-dive workshops and not one, but two invigorating keynote sessions.
Roman Basi, president for The Center for Financial, Legal & Tax Planning Inc., kicked off the education program on July 14 with his presentation, “The Vaccination for Taxation: How to Reduce Your Self-Storage Tax Liability in 2021.” He focused on new tax laws and how they could impact self-storage owners, offering advice on how to minimize liabilities. Though you might not think an 8 a.m. tax seminar would go over well, attendees found Basi to be refreshingly entertaining and enlightening.
In the room next to Basi, Anne Ballard, president of marketing, training and development services for Universal Storage Group, hosted a session titled “The Worst Seems to Be Over … It’s Time to Reboot, Reconnect and Re-Energize Your Self-Storage Operation!” Designed to help operators get back in the game, she provided advice on everything from technology and facility websites to customer service and community events, and much more. And, of course, she looked lovely in one of her many chic hats!
The Buyers & Sellers Meeting in the expo hall
In all, there were more than a dozen brand-new presenters to the education lineup this year in addition to the many well-known industry experts. In fact, the star-studded program was a draw for Noelle Geraci, an asset manager for Osprey Management, an Atlanta-based commercial construction firm. “I attended to learn about new products and attend classes to learn from experienced people in the industry.” While she enjoyed many presentations, a session by the CEO of XPS Solutions, focused on how to adapt to the new reality of self-storage in a post-pandemic environment, hit home. “I really liked the session with John Traver. He was one of the best speakers I saw. He was engaging, relevant and knowledgeable,” she says.
Vicki Haney, a facility manager for Heritage Self Storage in Oakdale, California, appreciated the focus on issues managers face every day, including practical solutions on avoiding and resolving conflict and marketing. “I learned some very creative and innovative ways to get the community and businesses in town involved to market our facility,” she says.
While seminars and other learning events were happening throughout the day, such as vendor presentations and Storage Talks, the expo hall was continuously open. With extended hours, there was less frenzy to get in and race around the hall, and attendees and exhibitors were both pleased with the quality face-to-face time they were able to enjoy.
A storage-building replica produced in-booth by Nexus3 Manufacturing
& Engineering using a 3D printer
One of the best parts of a live event is connecting with peers, presenters and exhibitors. The show’s networking opportunities, which were open to all attendees, were retooled this year to accommodate social distancing and other health-conscious mandates. Even so, they still managed to pack in a lot of information.
This year’s Self-Storage Q&A Sessions were expanded from three to six topic-focused events across multiple rooms. Each was hosted by two hand-picked experts with proficiency in building, investing, management, marketing, staffing and technology.
The pandemic also changed the format for Storage Talks, formerly Table Talks. The roundtable discussions included 30 unique topics, organized by theme and spread across six rooms. Rather than move from table to table, attendees remained seated while presenters rotated on stage. Each 10-minute segment included a speaker introduction followed by audience Q&A.
Though the traditional evening cocktail reception didn’t take place due to safety protocols, an all-day ISS Lounge was provided, offering complimentary coffee/tea service in the morning and soft drinks or cocktails throughout the rest of the day.
Even when living and working in a pandemic, the ISS World Expo continues to be a draw for those who operate, develop and invest in self-storage. Rick Beal, co-founder of Atomic Storage Group, noted that our industry is small in nature, but rife with possibilities. “To come back to a large event makes you feel part of something bigger than yourself,” says Beal, who co-presented the two Management Workshops (Fundamentals and Advanced). “As I spoke with many of the attendees, their spark was further fueled by the industry's growth and what opportunities are in front of them.”