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Looking Ahead: Fall Franchise Conferences

As states reopen, members of the franchising community are starting to ask the question, “Sooo… fall conferences? 😏”

The International Franchise Association recently hosted a webinar with executives from several franchisors and conference organizers to discuss just that: are franchise conferences in the second half of 2020 happening?

The general consensus is yes, it’s full steam ahead on franchise conferences for the fall. (I’ll give you franchise road warriors a second to do your happy dance, fist pumps, and the like.)

Currently, major shows from Franchise Update, MFV, Winsight, and others are planned for September and October, with many franchisors moving forward with their own annual conventions. Given the world we live in where terms like “social distancing,” “face coverings,” and “hand sanitizer” are now part of our everyday, organizers are being smart, planning their future events based on attendees’ concerns today and the general state of things.

While none of us are fortune tellers, here’s what we might expect franchise conferences to look like in the fall:

  • Fall shows are likely to be smaller, in-person events for those comfortable with and able to travel, with others (attendees and speakers) joining virtually.
  • There will be a soft ban on handshakes and hugs (😭), and no shortage of hand sanitizing stations.
  • Social distancing will still be the norm, whether enforced or not, so we all should just be prepared to try to have conversations from six feet away in a loud hotel bar.
  • Goodbye, breakfast buffets and passed hors d’oeuvres. (And those that know me know I will particularly mourn the loss of community candy jars. 🍬 🍫)
  • Some sort of screening process, whether temperature checks or a verbal, “You alright today?”
  • In-person networking will, in part, be replaced by Zoom meetings. (We can still have wine, though, right?)
  • I’ll bet anyone $20 that at least one vendor will put a branded face mask in the swag bag, if those will still exist. (Anyone else really looking forward to seeing what fun swag Cheng Cohen comes up with?!)
  • Some sort of “COVID Conference Bingo.” (Awkwardly dodged a handshake. Got real anxious when someone invaded your social distancing bubble. Saw someone wearing a face mask with their company logo. Lost your personal hand sanitizer for the fifth time.)

Personally — and I’m sure I’m not alone — I hope everything magically returns to normal, so we can get back to the franchise conferences of days past. Otherwise, we’ll have one hell of a party in 2021.