The IFA Convention is coming up from February 15-18 in Las Vegas (don’t forget to visit us at booth 309).
If this is your first convention, or even if you’ve been to one before, the event can be overwhelming. To help, we spoke with the highly regarded Nancy Friedman, president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service. Nancy is also an author and much sought after keynote speaker on customer service and sales in the franchise industry. Nancy was nice enough to take time out of her very busy schedule to discuss with us ways to have your best, and most productive, convention experience.
Be prepared for the energy of the event.
“It’s a WOW! An 11 on the 1 – 10 scale,” says Nancy who, despite numerous business convention visits before, actually attended her first IFA Convention just last year. “The overall energy is on HIGH ALERT most of the entire conference. IFAers don’t let down, get down, or frown. Franchisee or franchisor they are ON all the time. And that’s a good thing. They really love their business, industry, and what they do. You can feel the energy running thru the conference all the time. Be prepared. And yes, wear comfortable shoes.”
Prepare your tentative schedule well before you travel.
“Like most well run conferences, a schedule is sent far enough out so you can review what’s going on and when,” she notes. It’s a good idea to carefully read the convention schedule – not just skim over it. “There is a lot packed into just a few days. It’s easy to miss good stuff. But if you go thru the conference agenda – and really read it – you can circle what interests you, thereby not missing things that are valuable and important to you.”
Nancy suggests making your decisions on what to see by using tips that usually apply to suitcase packing. “Over indulge [at first], then go back and remove things you can afford to miss or might not need.”
There are literally dozens of reasons to go to the IFA Convention, including: buying a franchise, selling a franchise, networking, vendor research, etc. “Knowing WHY you’re going to the IFA Convention is critical,” Nancy says. Once you’ve clarified why you’re going, you can prioritize your list.
Don’t be afraid to reach out ahead of time to make an initial introduction or get more information.
Social media is a good place to start with finding franchising information. “I strongly suggest Franchise Foundry (Website; Facebook; Twitter) – with Deb Evans (LinkedIn; Twitter) and Paul Segreto (LinkedIn; Twitter). They know what they’re doing and their way around.” But that’s just a start; there are so many ways to get information across the social networks and online in general.
Don’t forget to mind your manners.
What should attendees avoid doing at the convention? “There’s probably a long list on this one,” according to Nancy. “At the top would be the old adage, ‘if you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything.’ Bad mouthing and knocking folks at IFA (or anywhere) gets around real fast.” It is also advisable for attendees to be judicious with alcohol consumption.
Take care of yourself mentally and physically, but don’t forget to have fun.
“It’s a very hectic, large conference. If you don’t pace yourself you will wear yourself out,” says Nancy. “And that’s no fun. So go back to your preparation, and read the conference agenda, find the programs and booths you really want to visit. Do those first, then party on. If you party first, chances are you might not get to the things you really wanted to hear, see and do. But, this is VEGAS – the epitome of party town USA. Get the picture?”
There’s no bad time to meet people – it is a networking event, after all – but there are MANY programs especially set up for it.
“The Taste of Franchising (held Sunday night, February 15 at 6:30 pm) is a night to enjoy. The networking at this function was beyond anything I had ever been to. The folks are beyond friendly…helpful and fun. [During my first IFA Convention] I wasn’t able to get to any of the meetings, but there are dozens to choose from and who can say which is best?”
To Nancy’s point, there are numerous events including, but not limited to Franchising Gives Back (which opens the convention), the New Member & First Time Attendee Reception, the Networking Lunch with Exhibitors, the Prayer Breakfast, the VetFran Chairman Corps Reception, the International Reception, the Annual Leadership Conference, etc. where attendees can meet and mingle. Be sure to check out the revamped Franchise Party on Tuesday night for another dedicated networking opportunity. Plus, some of the strongest connections can be made in informal situations. On a personal note, I made many of my connections at the IFA Convention during lunch, in the lobbies of the convention hall and hotel, and even at the airport.
Don’t be shy about asking how to contact someone after the convention is over. There can be as many ways to follow up as there are people you meet.
“Getting leads at a conference is what so many go after, and when to follow up will be different for everyone,” Nancy says. “My suggestion is to ASK the person you want to talk with further when to follow up with them. Ask them when the best time is to reach them. That really worked well for me. So ASK and you can’t go wrong. Making a cold call after the conference isn’t the best idea. Having an idea of when to call, is a mark of a PRO.”
Quick Hits for IFA Conference Success:
- This can’t be stressed enough: WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES!
- Do NOT run out of business cards. EVER.
- Carry a bottle of water with you.
- Keep a smile on your face. You never know when your picture will be snapped, or where it will appear.
- Learn to read name badges quickly so you’re not staring. It’s an art, but it can be done.
- Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to anyone. It’s an incredibly friendly group.
- Want to meet someone special, ask others if they know that person. Maybe they can get you an introduction.
- It’s the networking party of the year in franchising. Take advantage of it.
Again, we would like to thank Nancy for her time and her great advice! If you are going to Vegas, Nancy is speaking at a mini-session on February 16 from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm. Her program is titled “7 Traits of a Successful (Franchise) Leader.” All attendees will receive one of her best-selling books, “Hidden Gems of Customer Service.” She can be reached at online at email@example.com and www.nancyfriedman.com. Or, as you might figure, she loves to speak on the phone. You can reach her at 314.291.1012.
Also, as always, you can check for upcoming franchise shows, conferences, and expos on our Expos and Events Calendar. We look forward to meeting you at IFA 2015!