Attending a franchise exhibition

Franchisors want to meet you! They want to show off what they do and hope you'll engage with them. But why would you go to a franchise exhibition and what's in it for you? And how might you get the best value from a visit.

Attending a franchise exhibition

There are several franchise exhibitions in the UK where franchised businesses exhibit to attract you to their business. Importantly too, you will find speakers delivering on various topics. They aim to help visitors to understand the wide variety of opportunities, the best way to find what’s right for you and acts as guides to franchising as a whole.

Having attended these exhibitions as a novice, a franchisee, a franchisor, and now as a supplier to the franchise industry, I’d like to give you some advice. Go prepared but have an open mind.

There are many opportunities on offer that you won’t have considered – people have franchised all sorts of things that you won’t have thought about – trust me on this one, I heard it many times as a chimney sweep franchisor.

Consider what you’re really looking for –write it down. It might be to build a sellable asset, work part-time, work from home, replace a salary, work with children, give back to the community, work IN the business, have multiple businesses, build on the skills you already have. It will help guide and inform your research.

You can research in advance if you have time. The exhibition website will have details of all the exhibitors. Make a second list of those would like to talk with.

I recommend getting to the event early. Locate a Show Guide. Head for the café and read the content – make your plan around the speaker events (these should also be published on the exhibitor site…), and to make sure you see everyone you want to.

The speakers will usually be telling their story – and they are a wealth of information and open for questions. They will typically be successful franchisees or franchisors– and it doesn’t matter if it’s not a brand you’re interested in. Their stories may help guide your enquiries and even your decision making about a franchise opportunity.

Approach stands – all of them if you fancy and have the time. Exhibitors are there to meet you. They will want to capture details of people who meet their criteria – if you don’t like what you see, tell them it’s not for you and move on. Or give them your details – you can unsubscribe if it’s not what you want.

When you approach a stand, you should, to a point ‘judge a book by it’s cover’:

– If you like what you see and feel some engagement with the people there, you’ve made a good start. Do you like the branding? Because this is going to be the brand that you’re representing if you buy it.

– Do you like the person you’re talking with? Is the ‘boss’ at the exhibition – if you want to meet her, or him, ask.

– If the people on the stand look exhausted, they might be – it’s hard being on the stand all day. But if they ignore you, you might want to ignore them too.

– if the people want to talk to you, talk to them. Or not. It’s your show.

I liked meeting people who visited the stand and were open. They might have said – I don’t know about your business, please tell me a bit. Or, I’ve done some research and like the idea, can you answer some questions for me? Whatever the approach, the fact that you’ve spoken to them is very encouraging – and you might just find yourself falling in love with a business opportunity that you weren’t necessarily there to see, but ticks all the right boxes.

The goal will be to have a conversation to understand the overview of the business. You might receive some literature – I recommend you make some notes on it about how you felt and anything you heard that you liked or didn’t like.

Franchisors have a process for disclosure of the information on their model. They aren’t going to tell you everything straight away. Think of it like dating – you have to build some rapport first. Making sure you like them, and they like you is a simple but important factor in awarding or buying a franchise. Once you’ve got to know each other a bit, you share a bit more in depth information.

At exhibition you’re likely to connect with the brand at a superficial level only but you will have a feeling about whether it is something you might like. And then you get under the skin of the business following their process of discovery.

Not every franchise is right for every person, and not every person is right for franchising. But exhibitions are a great way to explore opportunities on your terms. You never know what’s in store.

Louise Harris
Louise Harris