Last week, I attended my third Canadian Franchise Association National Convention. It was the best one yet, and I’ll share the highlights, as well as tips for attending conventions which will be helpful for newbies considering going to the convention next year. Actually, these tips are useful for any convention.
My first convention is a blur. The content and learning was overwhelming. Every face I saw meant a new introduction, a new name. And I was still fuzzy from morphine and other pharmaceuticals – I’d had surgery 5 days earlier. I had been told to take 3 weeks off work – but you don’t say that to an entrepreneur/franchisor booked into her first CFA convention.
Last year was exciting. I knew what to expect, I knew people, and I was receiving an award. Concierge Home Services had been awarded the CFA Franchisee Choice Designation. It was a great honour and a testament to the work being done to build a strong system.
This year, I selected the roundtables and workshops with more precision, to fill gaps in my learning. Entering the crowds felt like a reunion when I encountered all the contacts made last year. And I came to understand that half the value of the convention is the networking. Being at the CFA convention is an opportunity to be with peers. People who understand that franchising is a whole new business venture, and who are dedicated to doing it well. Anyone serious about franchising needs to attend this convention. Here are some tips to help you get the most from it:
1. Drink lots of water. Between the lack of fresh air inside the hotel and the hours of talking, it is easy to get dehydrated. Especially considering the after effects of the after party on Gala night.
2. Visit all the vendors. Really. Even if you scan the signage and don’t think your business can use it. Talk to them anyway and learn about technologies, platforms, and resources. Knowledge is a good thing.
4. Pack snacks if you are vegetarian. Or health conscious. Because the meals provided may not cut it. (Ice cream at afternoon break? Did a 10 year old set the menu?)
5. Pack bandages to treat blistered feet from the after party dancing. Seriously. Franchise folk love to dance. Prepare to party with the likes of Fred De Luca and the Chair of the CFA.
6. Introduce yourself. It may be a room full of strangers, but if you are in franchising, these are your peers. People are very supportive, friendly, and open to conversation. Make meeting people one of your goals for attending.
Whatever your industry, attend the annual conferences. The learning and the networking is well worth the time spent away from the office.