How to Run A Truly Great Franchisee Conference

While I don't usually talk about our work with specific clients, I do occasionally share examples of best franchising practice such as the recent Narellan Pools conference held at Waikiki beach in Hawaii.

Yes, great location (with great ukulele shops). But this is not what made it a great conference. In fact the program ran from early morning until after 5pm for three straight days. And refreshment breaks barely allowed time to eat, let alone to get out on the beach. Furthermore all sessions were held in an internal room with no windows or natural light whatsoever!

Just before the conference started I was concerned about 70 pool builders couped up for three days in a boring function room while the warm sun, amazing surf and beautiful surrounds beckoned outside. “You are going to have trouble keeping them in the sessions.”  I whispered to Narellan's CEO, Chris Meyer. To my surprise he just gave me a knowing smile and whispered back, “That won't be a problem, you'll see.”

He was right. Not only did all franchisees willingly attend all sessions, so did members of their family. Partners and in many cases sons and daughters too. In every way it was a great success.

So what was their secret? Here are a few observations.

Focus focus focus

There was an enormous amount of planning around session goals and how these would link back to the conference theme and business strategy. As a speaker I had five separate briefing meetings on the company’s strategy and how the conference would support this. There was no doubt that this was a serious business event.

The conference organisers also clearly understood the company’s goals and culture. They went way beyond the usual logistics and were totally focused on helping participants enjoy the sessions and helping the speakers achieve the conference goals. Their flexible, “can do” manner was inspiring.

There were no high powered celebrity speakers. Just lots of down to earth interactive sessions, many run by the franchisor team, suppliers and franchisees. The content focused on personal development, franchisee profit maximisation and the power of collaboration. The conference MC, Jason Travis, clearly understood the company’s goals and managed to cleverly link all sessions back to these.

There were relaxed, family-friendly networking sessions every evening, including the formal Gala Dinner, which included no less than 20 awards for excellence in business management, sales performance and franchisee citizenship. In many cases kids proudly came on stage to accept an award with their mum and dad.

You could sum it up by saying everyone understood their focus for the conference was to learn how to run a better business and to also contribute to a wholesome franchising culture. While many franchisees stayed on a few extra days to have a holiday, there was no confusing this with their serious, though enjoyable, conference experience. You might like to reflect on these points when planning your next event.

Speaking of highly focused, content rich, collaborative learning events, registrations are now officially open for our own 3rd Annual Field Manager Summit. While we can’t offer you Waikiki beach, we can offer you great company, great presenters and great sessions — all at amazing prices, especially if you send the whole team. For full details and to register, simply click here.

Until next time,

Greg Nathan

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