By Terri Benson posted October 6, 2022

A highlight of the recent Franchisor Executive Forum was the quality of the round table discussions. If you want to see this in action, check out this short LinkedIn video clip. We are often asked how we generate such high levels of engagement. With face-to-face meetings coming back, we thought we'd share our 10 strategies. 

#1: Have a bright room with lots of natural light. This generates energy and awareness. If you want to put people to sleep, hire a dark room with no windows or if there are windows, close the blinds.

#2: Position round tables in an informal café-style format. This is more conducive to relaxed, natural conversations. If you want to inhibit conversation, line people up in straight rows. 

#3: Have no more than eight people per table. This will help to ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate in discussions. Too many people at a table makes it difficult to be heard and can inhibit people from sharing.

#4: Appoint facilitators to keep discussions on topic. Ensure facilitators understand their role is to create space for others to talk. Facilitators that talk too much or let their groups wander off topic generate a disappointing experience for all.

#5: Select topics of high interest to your group. Ask participants beforehand what they would love to talk about. Many franchisors get this wrong by choosing topics of interest to them rather than asking what will be of interest to their franchisees.

#6: Use vivid questions that are easy for people to relate to. Practical questions that tap into our everyday experience, such as "What helps you to get going in the morning?" are more likely to generate useful discussion than conceptual questions such as "How do you improve motivation?" 

#7: Provide written guidelines that encourage safety and trust. Remind everyone of the need to listen to others, stay on topic and keep discussions respectful. Don't assume everyone appreciates how important this is.

#8: Allow a few minutes for people to gather their thoughts. Encouraging people to jot down their ideas is helpful for introverts as they have something to refer to when asked for their views. Going straight into discussion encourages extroverts to take over and ramble.

#9: Provide just enough time for discussions to run their course. Keep your eyes and ears open to the flow of the conversations. Too much time will drain the energy of the group when they run out of things to say, and too little time creates frustration. 

#10: Restrict how many points facilitators report back to the room. Ensure everyone has an opportunity to contribute something different. If the first few facilitators share all the good ideas, others may get disappointed or annoyed. These tips can be applied to all types of franchisee and franchisor meetings and conferences. Good luck.

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