It makes great sense that franchises and many other business models can benefit from conventions that enable employees across locations to interact with one another. Planning franchise conventions doesn’t come without its challenges. These challenges, in my experience, can be solved by implementing some franchise convention planning tips.
For example, event sessions that are too long can be draining or exhausting for their audiences. Sessions also often attempt to deliver too many messages at once. In both instances, there’s a high chance that franchisees will walk away feeling talked at rather than communicated with.
The best way to make a franchisee convention — or any convention, for that matter — successful is to identify and highlight a single, strong message. Even an event without complex, expensive staging can be engaging with a clear and focused message that resonates with your audience.
Why Planning Franchise Conventions Matters
Franchise conventions give their leaders powerful opportunities to sell their brands. They can tell impactful client stories, recognize employees for important work, and invigorate their companies’ entire ecosystems.
But the only way to do that effectively is to curate every touchpoint at the convention — to bring the brand to life for your audience. And that means making every contact count. Pre-event communication, the event itself, post-event communications, and follow-up surveys should all be impactful.
Making leadership accessible can deliver another meaningful touchpoint. When leaders are available, the company feels more authentic — more transparent — and more credible. The key is to extend the availability beyond the large general sessions. The more personal the access, the more powerful the impact. When you offer times for a “leadership chat,” you create a special opportunity that is just not possible in the usual course of business. These kinds of conversations are energizing. They create memories and often light a fire that leads to innovative solutions and ideas.
Creating Value for Franchisees
When it comes to planning franchise conventions, don’t forget key items that might be important to your audience. What do they most want from the convention? Who do they most want to hear from? What topics do they most want addressed? You can gather this information before the meeting using simple survey tools. The results will help you build the agenda, and the surveys will help you earn credibility from your audience.
Let Guests Choose Their Own Adventures
When you empower franchisees to “choose their own adventure,” you maximize the value of the experience for all involved. Think about the impact of personalized agendas. Consider the value of a deep dive into topics like profitability, labor best practices, or local marketing to multiple generations. Listen to your audience, and they’ll tell you what they need to grow their businesses — and, in turn, the company.
When Planning Franchise Conventions, Create Communities of Interest
Another powerful way to add value and impact is to think about the power of “communities of interest.” This means taking the time to learn what most interests your franchisees. Then, you must leverage that information to create tracks that help your audience group themselves into communities. That gives event marketing a powerful message to share. It also means you can keep the promise of an event that really reflects your audience’s needs and priorities. When franchisees attend an event where everything is curated according to their interests, they’re likelier to make the most of it.
The number of businesses organizing 20 or more events each year is rising. The proportion increased 17 percent between 2017 and 2018. That said, you might find yourself needing to balance planning a massive convention with smaller events. Planning a franchise convention, or even just a corporate meeting for your franchise, is no easy feat.
Identifying the ROI of Planning Franchise Conventions
Franchise conventions are meant to help motivate both your franchisees and your company as a whole. They’re the key to creating an even better future because — if they’re a success — they’ll inspire and breathe life into your corporation, encouraging franchisees to find new ways to make the company even better.
Of course, many measurement tools rely on emotional responses, which can make reliable measurement of true ROI elusive or impossible. The key is to use targeted post-event survey tools that measure several things. You need to know how attached franchisees feel to the brand and the company. Then, you should ask how confident they are in the strategic planning and how clearly they understand the organization’s direction. Finally, find out how well they understand their roles in keeping the company growing.
Building these surveys is well worth the trouble. In fact, organizations that over perform on live events see significant ROI 26 percent more often than underperforming or steadily performing organizations. But here’s the challenge: How do you know if you’re overperforming when you’re involved in the planning?
How to be Successful Planning Franchise Conventions
If you want to overperform and see valuable ROI from your event, start with learning what franchisees want from it. Once again, it’s the immense power of listening, learning, and then leading the planning process. We know most franchisees attend events to hear about the company’s strategy, to learn how to grow their specific profitability, and to get a clear idea of the expectations moving forward. They’re asking, “What do you want me to do differently on Monday morning?”
Discuss Company Growth
In terms of strategy, they want to know where the company is headed. They want to learn enough to be confident in the plans and in the leadership. Franchise conventions are a great place to learn the details behind a company’s long-term growth plans: what the company is planning, how they’ll achieve that plan, and why that plan is the right one.
Address Franchisees’ Needs
Of course, franchisees are important business people in their own right. And they have more immediate needs: “How can I grow my business right now? And what will the corporation do to help me grow?” Dedicating part of the meeting agenda to tips for growing sales and market share can help your corporation long-term. It can also give franchisees a reason to engage in this event (and attend the next one).
Creating a franchisee convention without a focus on important action steps — or on the mindset shifts that the market demands — will not only muddle your message, but it will also leave franchisees dissatisfied.
How to Start Your Franchise Convention Checklist
Franchise conventions involve a lot of moving parts. Creating a meeting that will reach and appeal to all of your franchisees is a serious challenge. It’s also a lot of work. You may know in theory what you need to do, but a concrete event management checklist will help you execute your plans. Here are several tips for planning franchise conventions planning tips that will help you get started on that list:
Call on Engaged Franchisees for Help With Programming
Your audience has a voice, and waiting to listen to that voice until the actual event only weakens your messaging. Why create a convention without the help of some of your target audience members? It just doesn’t work. If you held an event last year, you might already have an idea of what people want to see because of post-event surveys or communications you sent out then. But even if you have this information, change can happen quickly.
Build a Franchisee Convention Planning Committee
Instead of hoping the intel you gained after a previous event still works, conduct a pre-event survey and organize a franchisee convention committee of engaged franchisees. These franchisees can represent the ongoing concerns and priorities of your broader audience and provide you with “street level” feedback on what does and does not work. Meet with them at regular intervals as you plan the event, especially in the early stages, so they can see that their input is reflected in your plan — and in the final product.
These committee members can offer ideas about how to personalize content, which 56 percent of marketers say drives higher engagement. Offering customized content helps the rest of your franchisees see and believe that their needs matter.
It’s easy to fall into a pattern of putting on the same event over and over again. However, that not only makes for a less interesting event, but it also tells franchisees that their new struggles aren’t that important to your company as a whole. That message erodes attachment and undermines commitment to the brand and the business.
Create Internal Advocates
Moreover, building the franchisee committee creates internal advocates. By participating in the event creation, they’ll likely feel a greater degree of ownership of the event. They’ll also share that spirit with their colleagues, influencing more franchisees to attend. Take advantage of this potential by sending franchisee committee members promotional materials that they can pass on to other franchisees. Keep them apprised of the best cadence and type of messaging to start building anticipation and awareness of the upcoming convention.
Incorporate Franchisees Into Every Aspect of the Event
It’s important to feature your audience in your events — and that includes giving some key franchisees a respectful amount of stage time. If the only presenters are the executives, the audience can quickly begin to feel excluded, or at least less important. The convention needs to create a connection to, not distance from, leadership. As I’ve discussed, the goal is to position leadership as more available, and the strategies more achievable, so consider featuring franchisees as presenters — and as people who have real stakes in the future of the organization.
Bring Franchisees to the Stage
If franchisees speak alongside your leadership team, your franchise convention generates more buy-in for important initiatives. You can honor franchisees who have stood out within the corporation as experts on certain topics, and you can invite them to the main stage as part of a speaker series or a panel discussion. You can also ask them to lead breakout sessions, facilitate networking events, or take on other prominent roles at the event.
Invite Franchisees to Share Content
You can invite franchisees to share their own photos and videos — with your approval, of course — rather than visuals your planning team has created. The added personal touch will make your event one that’s truly made for and by franchisees, rather than just another large branded affair. While you’re at it, take photos and videos of them on stage, and give them access to those photos. This helps franchisees become even bigger brand advocates and entices them to share the photos and videos among other franchisees, encouraging more people to attend the following year.
Create “Wow” Moments That Can Happen Only at Your Convention
Yes, franchisees attend your event to learn more about your company’s overall strategy and to connect with colleagues and vendors. But they also want to see real evidence that they’ve made the right choice to work with your brand, that they’re part of a brand with which they feel a connection. The planning of franchise conventions needs to incorporate everything that makes your company special. That means there’s also a need for some “sizzle with the steak.” Fun is important: It’s often the way the spirit of the organization and the event come to life.
Build In a Surprise
No matter your company’s size or budget, you can still create some fun and delightful moments throughout the convention. They can include anything from surprise outings to entertaining performances to branded corporate gifts. Augmented reality apps can help create a truly special event by incorporating a gaming element into your convention. You can also use them to simply share information in creative, fun, and unique ways.
Focus on Design
The event’s design is a great place to share the spirit. Even just the shape, texture, and color of the design elements at the center of your event can evoke the right mood in your audience. Your event’s design should be something attendees enjoy seeing as they walk through the front entrance each day. Your scenic design and conference staging are great opportunities to include your franchisee committee. After all, their ideas can help you understand what will appeal to everyone from the beginning.
Ensure Your Environment Is Balanced
Sitting in sessions all day is certainly not effective for everyone. Variety counts, and creating opportunities to simply move can be extremely impactful. People need a change of pace to stay interested. Even just a break for lunch between sessions and a little time to catch up on emails will be refreshing and appreciated. It’s important to remember that for many members of your audience, this convention is largely a networking opportunity and a chance to talk about shared successes and challenges. The event is also a time to talk with important vendors and to take a break from the daily routine.
Give Franchisees Space
Everyone will be more engaged if you create the right balance of connecting, relaxing, and engaging with serious content and messaging. Your agenda needs to give franchisees space to attend the sessions they want, explore the exhibit floor, and meet with colleagues and leaders. Give your audience the time it takes to rest, to eat, to charge their phones. These are all little things you can do to help your franchisees “recharge” between sessions, and they’ll appreciate it. In fact, some corporate events are now providing features like massage stations, VIP lounges with bars, and spas to help combine business with pleasure.
Don’t Forget the Food
Of course, food is a primary satisfaction driver. Encouraging your attendees to sit down and talk over a shared meal fosters networking and connection better than anything else. But if the food is not high-quality or does not reflect the tastes of your audience, your attendees won’t soon forget — or forgive you. Believe it or not, food is usually near the top of the list of what live event attendees remember. If food makes it to your post-survey, it should at least be for good reasons. Within your franchise event planning timeline, make sure to squeeze in food tasting and quality testing.
Lead Your Leaders
While incorporating franchisee speakers is certainly beneficial, your executives still need to lead the event. A major aspect of developing an effective franchise convention is ensuring your franchisees are confident in the corporation’s leadership. But if your leaders aren’t confident in what they have to say or how they appear on stage, then your franchisees walk away feeling confused at best.
Schedule Presentation Rehearsals
Keep in mind that the stage at your franchise convention might be the largest some of your company’s leaders have ever seen. Extra time and guidance will be much appreciated by speakers and audience members alike. Set aside plenty of time for presentation rehearsals and practice sessions so that leaders can feel confident and communicate effectively as the strong, clear authors and drivers of company strategy and direction they are.
Review the Team’s Speeches
Presentation content counts, so plan to review your leaders’ written speeches well before the event. That way, you can help them deliver clear, succinct messages. Your leaders are doing more than simply speaking — they are inspiring commitment and building belief. They want to move your audience to take action. To do this, your speakers must each deliver on-brand messaging, and they must all be aligned (and not redundant). Audiences have little tolerance for repetition.
Tell a Cohesive Story
Help your speakers each tell a cohesive story rather than just presenting data or graphs and charts. Without appropriate storytelling, executives — and really all speakers — can come across as cold and distant, ultimately alienating the audience. Instead, create a message map for each individual presenter so they know where to add anecdotal experiences to help keep speakers human and believable. And don’t forget to let your speakers know the correct format they should use to create their visual presentations. Creating a presentation in the wrong size or program can cause A/V headaches and disengage your audience.
Supporting your speakers might mean you need to engage an outside presentation expert to provide a range of editorial support from writing to coaching. Considering that 25 percent of people say they experience an acute fear of public speaking, it’s likely you’ll have some executives and other speakers who need more coaching than others — and that’s OK!
Putting These Franchise Convention Planning Tips to Use
Learning how to plan a successful franchise event is a challenge all on its own. It takes a willingness to pivot from your mistakes each year and an understanding of when something works for the entire company. Planning absolutely requires listening to the needs and priorities of attendees. Given the incredible evolution of available technology, there is simply no reason to create a new event that is the same as the one before it.
Ultimately, I’ve seen many companies, franchises included, gain immense value from conventions. Your franchisees will have opportunities to learn from one another and to feel more connected to your brand and your company. They’ll gain confidence in your leaders and align with your strategies. But without cohesive and aligned messaging and communications from all across the company rather than just the leaders, you can still alienate the very people your company needs to grow and succeed.
So if you’re ready to get on the right track with your franchise event, begin to form franchisee committees, have more franchisee speakers, make more “wow” moments, develop a balanced event, and keep your leaders on track with the overall message, use these tips for planning franchise conventions to fashion a cohesive event where everyone wants to attend and participate. This franchise event planning guide will help you reach the ultimate goal: increasing and enhancing your company culture and boosting business.