In 2010, we transitioned to a virtual business. This means the FRI team have been working from home for some time. So when much of the world was forced to go virtual in March, we were able to apply what we’d learned and quickly transition away from our face to face training. Over these past seven crazy months, we’ve conducted 146 virtual programs, ranging from Bootcamps with 12 people through to Forums with hundreds of attendees. We're proud to report we’ve supported 938 franchisees and 2,359 franchisor executives from around the world with a range of professional development programs. And participants have told us, while they miss the social aspects of hanging out together, their virtual learning experience has been as good, if not better, than face to face. In our Best Practice Insights below, we share 10 tips, based on what we’ve learned, to help you enhance the effectiveness of your virtual events. By the way, we recommend you assume you’ll be using virtual formats, or at least a blend of these, for at least the next 12 months.
The FRI Team
These 10 tips are based on feedback from thousands of people who have attended our virtual programs.
#1. Keep it tight and space it out. If a session goes for more than one hour, provide a stretch break. Just getting people to stand and stretch together with cameras on is one fun way to break things up. And don’t do more than two sessions in a day as sessions spaced over a few days helps people digest the learning.
#2. Use small group discussions. Our most popular activities by far are breakout groups where people can connect and learn from each other. Craft your discussion questions carefully so they are simple, practical, and address issues that are meaningful to participants.
#3. Get straight into an activity. If you want your participants to fully engage, start each session with a question that gets them involved from the get-go. If you leave your participants listening passively for more than 10 minutes, you're at risk of losing them. And skip the unnecessary niceties when introducing speakers.
#4. Cameras on for everyone. One of your goals in running a virtual event is to recreate the face to face vibe as much as possible. It helps a lot if everyone can see each other. If someone has their camera off when most have their cameras on, most will assume this person is doing something else (which is probably true). Make the use of cameras mandatory, unless something important interferes.
#5. Call on people. Engagement of a group can be enhanced by randomly calling on individuals from time to time to contribute a comment. This should of course be done in a safe and supportive manner so as not to embarrass anyone, and with people you believe can add value to the question being discussed. You might keep a tally of the people who have been contributing in case you want to draw out the quieter people. (Sorry introverts - we don’t mean to pick on you).
#6. Use the chatbox and polls. The chatbox is an amazing feature that enables everybody to share their questions, thoughts and insights in real-time. This helps create engagement and connection within the group. It also means you can respond to questions at an appropriate time. Polls enable you to gather relevant, real-time information on what's hot for the group, and keep people engaged. We recommend sharing live feedback on the poll results.
#7. Test comprehension. There are a number of interactive quiz platforms, such as Kahoot, that work well in a virtual format. Use these to anonymously test comprehension of key concepts, and reward winners. The competitive culture these live quizzes create is a safe and fun way to also increase engagement in a meaningful way.
#8. Start and finish on time. Sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many virtual sessions we have attended that start and finish late. We let people into our forums 5 minutes early and use this as an opportunity to informally get to know people, and thank them for being early. This also allows time to sort out any technical glitches.
#9. Prepare thoroughly. Virtual meetings create a type of attention compression where facial expressions and tone of voice are magnified. Part of this comes from people being conditioned by on-screen presenters, such as newsreaders, to expect smooth and engaging delivery of content. We recommend scripting and rehearsing virtual presentations to ensure presenters are crystal clear on what they will say, and to help them minimise filler words such as 'um', 'so', 'okay', etc.
#10. Have technical support. If you are presenting to more than eight people, you need your mind and attention free to focus on the group’s learning needs and your content. So ensure there is someone separate available to resolve any glitches and look after the technical needs of participants. This is especially important if you're running breakout groups. Your technical person can also keep an eye on the chat feed for you.
By the way, if you would like some help with your virtual events we offer this as a service. Email Amelia at email@example.com.
A recent FRANdata survey found the greatest concern for Australian Franchise Systems in the September 2020 quarter was the wellness of their franchisees and support staff. Of the 109 franchisor companies responding, 48% rated this of high importance, higher even than the financial performance of franchisees!
As business picks up heading into Christmas, now is the time to ensure your field managers are equipped with the right skills to get your franchisees quickly back into top shape. Note, these are our final events for the year.
Field Managers have a challenging role working with franchisees at the front line of the business. The Foundation Field Manager Bootcamp will give them a boost of inspiration, and equip them with a powerful set of tools and strategies for improving franchisee engagement, profitability and brand alignment. Given the current climate, the Bootcamp particularly focuses on helping field teams navigate the pandemic and support franchisees to recover and, in time, thrive.
"Really enjoyed it. The tips were very useful and the sessions were so positive. My only qualm is that it ended so soon."
Peter Markovits, Specsavers
Price: $595 per person. Discounts apply for bookings of 5 or more people.
Have you completed the Foundation program and are keen to learn more? The Advanced program provides fresh insights into the mechanics behind certain techniques and introduces participants to new and exciting tools and models to enhance their credibility and effectiveness. Participants must have completed the Foundation program so they have a grounding on the models of which this is based.
"I loved this Bootcamp, particularly the psychological and financial concepts we covered. I feel refreshed and motivated."
Chris Thorpe, O'Brien Group
Price: $595 per person. Discounts apply for bookings of 5 or more people.
For the past 10 years, thousands of franchise executives around the world have enjoyed receiving a regular email tip from FRI’s Founder, Greg Nathan.
These short stories on the psychology of business and everyday life have been likened to “mind brightening pills” as they open our thinking to fresh insights for improving wellbeing, business performance and franchise relationships.
Sign up now to receive your regular free tip from one of the leading thinkers in the world of franchising.