Attending Self Storage Conferences should be part of every Self Storage Operators yearly routine, Inside Self Storage and Self Storage Association put on two conferences a year as well as each state’s individual self storage association which put on conferences and events throughout the year. Whether your goal of the trip is to network with others in the industry, learn new tips or tricks or find new business opportunities, it’s important to get the most out of your conference attendance. If you’re unable to attend the conference and you’re sending someone in your place remember to choose someone who will put into practice what they learn during the conference and are interested in improving your business and doing what’s best for your self storage facility.
We’ve put together some of our top 15 tips for making the most of your expo trip, where to invest your time so you get the most for your money.
1. Schedule your days. Starting with the sessions and speakers you want to attend. Most conferences have their agenda’s available weeks ahead of time. Print out the tentative schedule and circle which sessions you know you want to attend. Do some research if there’s a speaker on the list you haven’t heard of, so you can better assess the speakers and sessions you want to attend. If there is a conflict in your schedule and you don’t have someone else to split the time with try to attend the first half of one session and catch the last half of the other one. You can always switch up your schedule once you get to the conference, but having a plan before you head out to the conference will make the rest of your trip run smoother.
2. Stay at the conference hotel. This will allow you to network with colleagues after conference hours and will make for an easy commute from your room down to the conference.
3. Pack accordingly. Check the weather of the location of the conference so you can be prepared for any weather conditions. Is the dress business or casual, will you be entertaining clients, will there be a formal occasion? Consider the company that you are representing and how you want your colleagues in the industry to view you and your company.
4. Explore the hotel and conference center. One of the first things you should do after checking into your hotel room and dropping off your baggage is to walk around the hotel and get the lay of the land. Find out where the vending machine is, the ice machine, gift shop and pool, etc. If there’s not any restaurants in the hotel then find out what’s within walking distance, where’s the closest convenience store and what other sources or entertainment are close to the hotel. Also look for the conference center and locate the bathrooms, meeting rooms, and power outlets in case you need to recharge your laptop or phone during the conference.
5. Plan for breaks. Schedule breaks between sessions, go back to your room or head out for a walk. Remember to schedule time for eating and bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. If you don’t think you’ll have time to take a break to eat bring some granola bars or a quick snack you can eat between sessions. Sitting through sessions with an empty stomach can be distraction so take the time to eat and rest so you can be prepared for the sessions.
6. Check your email. Just because you’re away on business doesn’t mean that you should use the motto “out of sight out of mind” with your business at home. Check your email regularly and call your office to check in with a quick five minute phone call, updating them on the conference and making sure there are no problems to be addressed.
7. Ask questions. While attending the sessions write down questions that you have throughout the session, since the Q&A portion is typically at the end of each session you’ll want to write down your questions so you don’t forget.
8. Get a seat. Register early, book your flight and hotel so you can guarantee your spot at the conference. Also get down to the conference early so you can find a seat at the sessions you want to attend.
9. Bring plenty of business cards. Don’t miss out on a business opportunity because of a simple mistake. If you’re worried about of the stack of business cards you’ve collected of the years at conferences using Shoeboxed is a great took to organize all of your contacts and get rid of saving business cards.
10. Find out what else there is to do there. Other than attending the conference sponsored events, find out what other fun things are going on such as vendor parties. It’s a great opportunity to network and have fun while you’re working.
11. Ask the pros. If you find yourself speaking to someone who has been successful in the industry shoot them a few questions, although they may be your competitors it never hurts to ask. You never know it may be the key you need to unlock the doors to success in the self storage industry.
12. Walk the exhibit hall. Check out each booth and get a good idea of each vendor and what they offer. Also stop by and speak with old vendors you may have meet at other conferences and see if they have anything new to report. Not only is this good networking practice, it may also put you in touch with your next vendor.
13. Network. Don’t spend your time talking and sitting with the same people throughout the entire conference, branch out making some new contacts. Remember to touch base with your old contacts to continue your business relationship.
14. Take notes. Bringing back notes to share with your company will increase the value of your trip. After the event, most conferences provide access to conference attendees to the presentations. If the presentation isn’t available try emailing the moderator, these presentations will come in handy when you recap the conference at a short company meeting where you can share what you’ve learned, tips and tricks, and contacts you made.
15. Follow up. Connect with the contacts you made during the conference within the next week or sooner by email or a handwritten note. Can’t keep everyone straight try writing some keywords on the back of their business cards reminding you who they are and what you talked about.
The next conference is the Self Storage Association in Colorado Springs, here’s the schedule at a glance
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