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4 Pieces of Advice for Your Time at a Franchise Convention

This coming week is the annual International Franchise Association Convention. So, as I head to Phoenix for what I believe is my ~15th franchise convention in the last four plus years, I thought I’d put some thoughts down on paper for those of you who may not be as seasoned.

(I also realize that there are many franchise professionals who show count is well into the triple digits! Seek them out and get their advice too! See how our wisdom compares…)

1. Know Everything About Your Business

No matter which show you go to, you are bound to have myriad number of conversations about your business. Doesn’t matter if you’re a franchisee, franchisor, or supplier to the industry. Throughout the course of these many convos, you will find yourself discussing many different aspects of what it is that you do or hope to do. You should expect to be asked A LOT of questions about your operations.

In seeing these conversations transpire, it seems that an exceptionally high number of these end up with one party saying something like, “You know. I don’t actually know the answer to that. Why don’t I find out and I’ll get back to you?” This is a very bad thing. Everyone is there to do business. Not knowing about your own will simply be a hinderance to your ability to be successful in the few days you’re at the convention.

2. Separate the Sizzle from The Steak

The show floor at a franchise convention is quite the sight to behold. Almost every time, something along the lines of “Are there really this many players in franchising?” goes through my mind. Aisle after aisle of 10x10 booths await you. (I’ll be there!) When you’re navigating the booths, you’re going to presented with complete information overload.

It’s certainly not important to retain everything. That would be impossible. But what you should do is fast-cycle analysis as to whether or not what you’re hearing is the real deal or not. The worst thing to take away from a conversation is “I have no idea what that person was talking about.” Yet, more conversations than I’d like to admit end up just there. What is it that you need to know? And focus on figuring that out quickly.

3. Take Everything One Step Further Than You Think You Should

With only slight exaggeration, every single convention interaction ends up in the same place, “We’ll follow up next week…” After my 15 shows, I think that I’m ready to say that the informal motto of franchise conventions should be something like “NEXT WEEK, WHERE BUSINESS GOES TO DIE.” I understand that consummating deals is unlikely at a show, getting close isn’t.

The exchange of contact information represents the minimum that you can get from someone you meet at a convention. It’s not the goal, it’s the minimum. Advance the conversation. Discuss pricing. Show each other what a contract may look like. Get into the onboarding details. If you’re simply in the business card acquisition game, you’re not going to be happy with what you’re able to accomplish.

4. Focus on What Comes Next

I was in a discussion this past November when a man who works at a potential partner said, “This is the meeting, so I can figure out what the next meeting should be.” I loved it. It’s exactly that type of attitude that leads to success at a franchise show. Since deals aren’t getting done at the show, when are they going to get done? Who else needs to be involved?

As you’re speaking to various people, think about what the agenda for the next interaction is going to be be. Don’t simply leave it at “We’ll be in touch.” When are you going to speak again? What is it going to be about? Do other people need to be involved? Between the work you eschewed while you were at the convention, the work that normally comes with the next week, and the work that you need to do coming out of the convention, you’re going to have a busy week. Make plans while you’re still there.

Eli Robinson is the COO of Metric Collective, the parent company of FranchiseHelp. He’s going to be in Phoenix for six days and is excited, regardless of what people say about Phoenix.

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