It’s a Match: Attendees’ Expectations and Program Content
A great convention can provide franchisees with tools for business efficiency, programs for success and spark enthusiasm for growth.
Planning a convention for franchisees requires advance planning and communication as well as creativity, innovation and execution. In some cases, franchisees are required by their franchise agreement to attend the franchisor’s annual convention, but franchisors need to ensure that convention sessions are meeting the needs of their franchisees so they will want to attend their convention.
Engaging franchisees and meeting their expectations requires strategic planning and imagination, but more importantly: asking the questions, “How will the franchisee benefit from this session, topic, keynote speaker and vendor expo?” and “What is that single take-away that will help grow their business?”
Franchisees need to see how attending the annual convention will bring value and help them.
One of the best ways for franchisors to find out in advance what franchisees expect is to present your convention ideas to your national franchise council or franchisee advisory board. This allows you to solicit feedback about convention workshop topics in advance of the final planning. Changes can be made based on their recommendations to ensure the topics covered provide the most value to the franchisees, while meeting the goals of the business. Franchisees should be asked to serve as workshop presenters or as part of panel discussions whenever possible, so they can share firsthand their experience with the business systems and other company programs. Franchisees will listen to their peers, especially the top franchise leaders.
Mix Things Up
Be innovative in your agenda, mix things up. Don’t always have the schedule laid out the same way year after year. Start with your awards banquet, rather than end with it. Your award winners can then share their best practices with other franchisees throughout the convention. This gives new franchisees a chance to seek out the winners and make that connection while networking with other franchisees.
Franchisees like to make the most of the time away from their businesses and optimize travel costs. If they can arrive early and take in a pre-convention technical training class or certification before the start of the convention, they can get more bang for their buck. Successful franchisees take advantage of these early sessions for key staff members to help expose them to the broader franchise experience.
Training is important, but you cannot underestimate the importance of recognition to acknowledge the top-producing franchisees during convention. Offer a variety of award levels so as not to alleniate the newer or smaller franchisees. The award winners deserve their due; as a result, keep these recognitions short in consideration of the majority of the attendees at the banquet. Consider hosting a reception to honor award winners, which provides an additional networking opportunity for them.
Drive Message Continuity
A keynote speaker is a great way to kick off and close your meeting. Make sure the speaker can address at least one of your key messages for continuity. Schedule a call with your speaker and your company president to discuss your conference. Most speakers like this opportunity and it helps them make a better connection with your audience.
In addition to offering workshops and sessions that talk about the basics, franchisors should also ensure that there are some advanced breakout sessions for the well-seasoned franchisee. One way to accomplish this is to host roundtable sessions of best-practice sharing for like-sized revenue producing businesses with key leaders at the table. Following the convention, it is a good idea to publish the best practices information on your company website.
What do Franchisees Expect During a Program?
- A dynamic and relevant keynote speaker
- Introduction of new products or services
- Pre-convention certification classes
- Training for growth at various levels
- Learning best practices
- Recognition and awards
- Networking opportunities
- Key messages from leadership
- Sufficient time in the exhibit hall
- Fun activities
- An easy to use convention app
- Good food
Networking opportunities always score high on convention surveys, so build adequate time for informal interaction outside of general sessions. Franchisees want time to visit with other franchisees, reconnect with old friends, make new acquaintences and share best practices. Another great networking option is a first time attendee orientation. This type of session will put even the most apprehensive people at ease, as they will get to meet other new franchisees, forge new relationships, meet the leadership team, and feel welcome and included from the very beginning.
In recent years, we have offered a convention mobile event app to help attendees keep track of schedules, view maps of the hotel or convention venue, network with other attendees, share pictures from the event and link to vendor websites for additional information. It is a good idea to promote the app in advance. Consider having an app station located close to your registration desk, to provide additional assistance or help franchisees load the app onto their devices. Contests or scavenger hunts that utilize the app are great ways to encourage attendees to learn how to use the technology.
Meal time is an important part of the convention. Meal events provide an excellent time for networking, as well as an opportunity for management to spend quality time with the franchisees. Good food is a key aspect; keep it simple. Don’t try to be too exotic with food choices and try to offer a variety – not chicken, chicken and more chicken.
Many attendees will bring family members to the meeting. When announcing the convention content, communicate the fun activities that are also available in the city where you are hosting the convention. You can work with a local destination management company to offer optional tours for your attendees that they can pay for themselves. These tours or activities also provide additional networking opportunities for your franchisees.
Franchisees love to visit the vendors in the exhibit hall, therefore craft your agenda giving ample time for franchisees to do just that. If you have the time and space, offer a lunch buffet in the exhibit hall to provide franchisees additional time to visit with the vendors.
Hosting a first-class convention will motivate and inspire new enthusiasm for your brand and help to further solidify the franchisee-franchisor relationship. Your annual convention provides an opportunity to showcase the brand and value of the franchise to potential new prospects, which is a great opportunity for market expansion to help close the deal with new franchise sales. Most of all, a great convention can provide your franchisees with tools for business efficiency, programs for success and spark enthusiasm for growth that can invigorate your entire organization.
Anita Kellerhouse is a meeting planner for ServiceMaster Family of Brands, which has a global network of more than 7,300 company-owned, franchise and licensed locations, and is one of the world’s largest residential and commercial service networks. Find her at fransocial.franchise.org via the directory.