How to organise a networking event

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How to organise successful franchisee events

Networking events are a great way to inspire and motivate your franchisees. Many franchisors organise at least one a year to make sure that everyone involved in their business is up to date with any changes that have been made and that it is operating as successfully as it should be. Getting a franchise show right can have a positive effect on your franchisees’ productivity, profitability and passion for your brand.

However, it is easy to overlook key aspects of a good franchise show, which can leave attendees feeling tired or dissatisfied. A great event requires a lot of planning, so here’s our five-point guide to making your next franchisee event the best it can be for all involved.

1. Not too long, not too short.

One of the ‘make or break’ factors for your conference will be its length. Too short, and franchisees will see the cost of attending as pointless; too long and you risk franchisees being unable to attend at all.

Even the most focused listener can be overwhelmed by too much information presented in a relatively short time span. Similarly, having to concentrate for days on end can also be emotionally draining. Information overload in any form can detract from the message you want to share and, worse, leave attendees wondering why they bothered showing up at all.

The perfect length for a conference is one and a half to two days. An overnight stay gives attendees time to absorb large quantities of information and encourages networking in a less formal environment.

2. Getting the agenda right

If you want your conference to be well attended without making it a compulsory event, you need to build an impressive agenda. There are several core elements that franchisees will expect to be included if they’re to benefit from the franchise show.

The most important of these elements is time to network with other franchisees. The peer-to-peer support available will have been one of the main reasons for them choosing to become a franchisee. Being a franchisor that proactively encourages sharing of franchise ideas and stories sends out a strong message that you understand the importance of learning from each other and discussing issues with people that may have already experienced them.

Another critical factor is for franchisees to learn from the expertise of others. This may be from you, other franchisees or outside presenters chosen for their expertise in a particular field. You could incorporate training on new systems or products. This way, you can ensure that your franchisees are up to date with the latest developments.

Finally, you should include an update on the performance of the franchise. If your business has done well over the past year, inspire franchisees by telling them how their hard work has paid off. If the company’s performance hasn’t been quite so positive, draw out high points and discuss your plan of action for future improvement. However, make sure you don’t spend too much time talking about operational issues. This can cause franchisees to feel bored, harassed or patronised.

If you dedicate at least half of the time to interactive activities, such as networking and group sessions, your schedule should pack a punch. Also, try to use an interactive activity like a Q&A session to conclude your event. These are well-received by franchisees and will ensure that the conference ends on a high.

3. Supporting your speakers

Bear in mind that the people you’ve asked to lead discussion sessions or give speeches might not be accustomed to doing so. They’ll have to stand up in front of a lot of people and have the confidence to provide advice and accurate information. Don’t assume that they can do this without checking with them. They feel nervous about public speaking or being onstage.

In the planning stages, schedule time to discuss their role with them and identify any problem areas. If they need it, offer support with public speaking and time to rehearse in the venue. This will not only benefit them, but also your franchisees, who will feel more comfortable and be more inclined to take on guidance if the speaker is calm and confident.

4. Maximising the day for your attendees

Many of your attendees will have chosen to become a franchisee because of the support, training and networking opportunities on offer. If your franchise show is to be well received, these three essential elements should be incorporated.

Here are some tips to help you maximise the success of your conference:

• Incorporate key messages. Decide on the messages that you want your audience to take away and make these the theme of your conference. Don't fall into the trap of trying to communicate too much, as your message will get diluted. Have two or three central topics and make sure that all the speakers and activities reinforce them.

• Showcase franchisees. Ensure you give successful franchisees the chance to share their story with their peers. There’s nothing more powerful for new franchisees than hearing about how someone who was once in their position has grown in confidence, experience and profitability, simply by following the business model. Franchisees can grow bored or feel excluded if they only hear from business executives, so giving franchisees the chance to lead discussions or give lectures can be refreshing for attendees.

• Make time for networking. Because networking is so important to franchisees, make sure there are plenty of opportunities for your attendees to do so – both formally and informally. Try to incorporate team-building sessions and group discussions, as well as time for franchisees to meet over dinner or during breaks. This will encourage the sharing of franchise ideas and stories.

Make time for relaxation. You should give your attendees time to switch off and unwind in between organised sessions. Most event organisers understand that participants appreciate time to relax, charge their phones and grab a bite to eat, which is why some corporate events offer dedicated bars and food stations and even massage treatments.

• Make it fun. You don’t have to focus on business matters all the time. For example, you could set up interactive games with VR, offer gift packs or organise a day trip. Not only will this help to break up the itinerary of talks and discussions, it will make your conference memorable and hopefully put a smile on your franchisees’ faces.

5. Following up

The conference is over and you’ve received positive feedback – how do you ensure that your objectives for the event have been met? How do you make sure that your franchisees put what they’ve learnt into action? The key is to view the follow-up stage of the conference as necessary as the planning phase.

• Give all attendees the chance to create an actionable plan to take away. After each session, encourage franchisees to make a note of what they intend to change or improve as a result of what they’ve learnt. By the end of your conference, your franchisees should have a plan of action that they can’t wait to implement.

• Get the information to a wider audience. Your franchisees have the luxury of listening to franchise ideas and discussions first-hand, but their employees often don't get the chance to attend events such as these. Provide presentations from the day in the form of PowerPoint slides or a DVD, so that your franchisees can share the messages of the conference with their teams. Nowadays, it is also important to regularly update your social media platforms. Why not post photographs from the event on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep those involved in the business updated? This will also encourage employees to interact with the content or provide ideas for future conferences. The event will take a lot of organisation, so the more people who get to benefit from it, the better.

• Don’t forget those who cannot attend. Just as you share the day with the employees of franchisees, you should also ensure that any franchisees who couldn’t attend are brought up to speed. If you fail to share conference material with them, both them and their teams will miss out on the educational and informative content that the rest of your business has received.

• Use feedback to influence your next franchisee conference. Knowing what went well and what could have been improved will be enormously helpful when it comes to planning next year’s event. You just need to work out how you can make those improvements within your budget.

The success of your conference can be measured by how many franchisees choose to attend the following year. But in the meantime, attending the event should motivate and inspire your franchisees to perform to the best of their ability and make improvements where necessary. The bottom line is: investing your time, effort and resources into organising regular conferences for your franchisees to meet, share and learn will generate driven and successful franchisees.

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