What I’m Looking Forward to at ISA22

MDM Executive Editor Mike Hockett shares what he's anticipating at the Industrial Supply Association's ISA22 Convention, which runs April 11-13 in Houston. It's ISA's first in-person convention since 2019.
ISA22

Monday marks 1,098 days since the last in-person Industrial Supply Association convention. It’s also when it makes its long-awaited return, and I’m psyched for it.

ISA22 kicks off Monday in Houston, the site of the last in-person ISA show in April 2019. ISA20 was one of the first industry events impacted by the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, though the association was able to quickly pivot the show to a virtual format. But there’s nothing quite like the in-person element of an industry event, and after attending several others earlier this year, it’s been great to be back out there having face-to-face conversations and taking in educational sessions.

The tagline of ISA22 is “Not Your Typical Convention,” and it’s that factor that intrigues me the most. ISA has long-promoted that this year’s convention is quite different from years past, and I really think the changes the group has put in place will make it more attendee-friendly than ever.

As an editor, I’m particularly interested in ISA22’s emphasis on education and thought leadership. That’s right in my wheelhouse for providing MDM readers with the industry insights they want. I’ve always liked walking the expo floor and talking with vendors at conventions – but it’s the keynotes, speaking sessions and workshops where I gain the vast majority of the material I use for in-depth blogs and articles.

Convention-opening sessions are a reliable source for that, and I’m looking forward to new ISA President Brendan Breen’s first such state-of-the-association speech and other market updates shared there, followed by the opening keynote from futurist Daniel Burrus. Tuesday’s agenda includes speaking tracks on “The Voice of the Customer” and a panel on “Future Trends in Technology,” while Wednesday’s tracks focus on “The Workforce of the Future” and “Future of Sales and Marketing” before popular economist Alan Beaulieu gives his outlook that is sure to be interesting. Expect to see follow-up coverage and insights on MDM out of ISA22 over the next few weeks.

Concurrently, ISA22 attendees can virtually attend the opening and closing keynotes, and ISA is holding virtual programs on April 19, April 26 and May 3 that take deep dives into sales and marketing, talent and digital transformation, respectively — keeping the convention momentum going for weeks.

Mike Hockett
MDM Executive Editor
mike@mdm.com

I’ve only been MDM’s executive editor for two weeks, but I’ve already added some great industry contacts to my Rolodex in that time, and I’m looking to growing that considerably further at ISA. I’ll get to hand out my new business cards for the first time.

While not my strongest suit, I’m also looking forward to mingling with executives from distribution firms and service providers. I’m an introvert at heart, but open up when discussing something I’m interested in. This industry becomes continuously more interesting to me as the years have gone by, which has made it easier and easier to strike up a conversation with a stranger at these events. And with no shortage of topics to chat about — from pricing/inflation, to supply chain headaches, to labor, to digital operations — there’s plenty to talk about.

It’s in those 1-on-1 individual chats that I can learn what the general vibe in the market is. Are distributors feeling confident overall? Concerned? If so, about what specifically? Each executive has their own viewpoint, so I’m looking to collectively take a broad temperature reading of what distributors are saying.

I’ve been to Houston once before, but only visited the airport and Johnson Space Center. So, I’m looking forward to seeing the downtown area for the first time.

And of course, I’m looking forward to some cocktails and food at any hospitality events happening in conjunction with ISA. I’m open to any invitations! ISA’s opening reception at the rooftop pool deck of the Marriott Marquis Houston sounds fantastic.

I’ll be joined at ISA22 by MDM CEO Tom Gale, so we’ll be well-represented at the show. We hope to see you there!

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