The lifting of pandemic restrictions brings the long-awaited return of welcoming and buzzing events and exhibitions, designed to help you make meaningful connections
The franchising calendar has always been full of events, exhibitions and conferences, but many have been cancelled or postponed during the past two years. However, as we return to normality, at last, we can expect to see a ramping up of these all-important face-to-face gatherings which are so vital for fact-finding, networking and feeling your way into the franchise market if you’re new to the sector.
As a leading UK franchising expert, Richard Pakey is a regular attendee and speaker at expos and conferences. In this column, he explains why attending exhibitions is so useful when it comes to finding the perfect franchise, and also passes on his best advice on how to ensure you get the most out of your ticket.
They’re free to attend
This might seem too good to be true, but exhibitions are very well supported by the franchise sector and often don’t charge entry. They are instead funded through sponsorship and via franchise brands, which pay a fee per stand to be in the mix of flying their franchise brand to you. Attending one of these events really is a great opportunity to potentially meet hundreds, if not thousands, of people over one or two days.
Prep before you go
If you register early for an event, you’ll automatically end up on a mailing list. Use this to your advantage and scour the follow-up emails for further information about who is attending, marking the brands and speakers that look interesting.
On the day itself, you can seek out these specific companies and speak to their representatives in person. From a list of potentially 200 exhibitors, whittle your hit list down to a few dozen – this is a manageable figure to aim for on the day, and a good way to make sure you use your time most productively while you’re there.
Even if you don’t get a chance to plan beforehand, on the day you’ll be given a show booklet featuring all the exhibitors and where to find them. Before you start wandering around the hall, sit down with a coffee and plan your day ahead. Then take a walk around the entire hall before you talk to anyone. This way, you’ll familiarise yourself with the event and have a better feel for where everything is located.
Franchisors want to talk to you
Don’t be intimidated by the slick and colourful branded stands and suited and booted consultants and employees. Many franchisors have spent considerable sums of money and time in preparation and travel just to have a conversation with you. You’ll receive their undivided attention, as ‘potential franchise enquiries’ is often the main purpose of attending the event for them.
Go to the free seminars
Seminars are another free resource for you as a visitor. You may be able to simply walk into any that you see are taking place, or book ahead to guarantee a seat.
Use the show programme to see if any of the planned seminars are on topics or brands that interest you or are run by experts who have the knowledge that you want. Remember, there will be a Q&A session at the end of the seminar, or if you wish to discuss a matter in private the host will often make themselves available for you if you ask.
Don’t expect to sign up on the day
If you’re concerned that you’ll be confronted by a hard sell, or you’ll be pressured into committing to something that you are really not ready for, then don’t be put off. The art of franchising is ensuring that you make a considered purchase after you have all the information you need.
While great to do, franchise exhibitions should only form a part of your research into buying a franchise. You probably won’t be able to dig too deep into a specific franchise at a show, purely because there really isn’t the time to go into great detail for either you or the franchisor. Expect instead for a brief discussion and for details to be taken. After the show, you’ll receive a follow up from the franchisor offering further information. You can then engage further with the franchisor if the brand is still of interest to you.
Research into a franchise is often done in several stages, and opting to give the franchise brand your name and details in exchange for further information is considered by the franchisor to be only the beginning of this journey. In fact, if you try and ‘buy’ a franchise at this early stage, you will often rule yourself out!
You might think that the purpose of exhibiting for franchise brands is to sell more units or territories. Sure, it’s a numbers game, but you must also bear in mind that they’re looking to find the right fit for their brand above all else. They’re not after your details so they can bombard you with further information and unwanted sales patter. Franchisors would rather spend their time with people who have a genuine interest in their brand and will respect you for saying if their one isn’t quite right for you.
Be open to meeting others
Franchise exhibitions are great networking opportunities. Attending an expo is to surround yourself with franchise brands, suppliers and consultants, and of course the several thousand people who have come along to do the same. Franchising is never a lonely place – come along and be part of it!
Richard Pakey is a franchising expert and managing director of the award-winning Lime Licensing Group.