The Screenmobile Franchise Corporation started humbly enough in 1980 with one used tent trailer and a vision - to follow a proven business model and equip hundreds of well trained independent operators to custom build, repair and replace window and door screens, on-site at the customer’s convenience. In 1984, the company began franchising and today has 98 franchise owners operating across 26 States.
For the past twenty-six years, the hosting of annual conventions and regional meetings to interface with franchise owners has been an integral part of Screenmobile’s successful and time tested business plan.
“It is absolute essential that the latest industry happenings, vendor news, construction techniques and company developments be shared with our franchise owners on a regular basis so that we are all operating from the same playbook,” said Monty L. Walker, vice president and one of the original three founders of the company. “Our annual conventions and regional meetings offer opportunities for invaluable face-to-face interaction with the best champions for our brand.”
The company’s annual get-together has grown steadily in size since the very first convention was hosted in a small conference room at a Desert Hot Springs’ hotel near corporate headquarters. These days, 140 attendees, 20-30 vendors and corporate staffers gather at that same place they have for the past nine years - The Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Walker has been in charge of coordinating every convention since the corporation’s founding and offers the following tips for success.
PLAN PLAN PLAN
You can never “over plan” for a convention and planning should start at least 6 months in advance. Once the convention has started, there is little room for course correction.
DEVELOP RELATIONSHIP WITH VENUE
It is important that a good working relationship be maintained with the personnel at your host venue. Make friends with them and open the lines of communication early. Let them know what you are planning to do and work with them to identify any possible issues in advance. You don’t want a shortage of rooms or unexpected paperwork to pop up at the last moment that leaves you scrambling and stressed.
PREPARE YOUR CORPORATE STAFF
All personnel that are involved with the convention should know each other’s assigned roles and anticipate the needs of the attendees as well as event sponsors and vendors. You should have methods of communication tested and in place. A variety of smartphone apps are available that enable group texting or act as two-way radios.
RESEARCH AND SET EXPECTATIONS
Don’t rely on your own understand of what programs you think should make up the convention agenda. Ask your attendees what they would like to see, what they would like to learn or what issues they would like to be addressed. Based upon their feedback and prior to the start of the convention, convey to the attendees what programs you have in place, what knowledge they will take away and what return on investment they can expect to realize. You do not want to offer programs that are not relevant to their business needs. They will not appreciate their time and money being wasted if the convention fails to hit the mark.
Nothing can ruin an otherwise stellar convention faster that a microphone that doesn’t work of a presentation screen that no one can see. You can rely upon the venue’s A/V equipment and technicians but that does not guarantee there will be no issues. One option is to rent new equipment in the host city or bring equipment you are familiar with along with you. Be sure to arrive early enough for set up and testing.
D.Winters. (Top Sales)
EXECUTE - 30% SOCIAL, 30% BUSINESS, 30% PEER-TO-PEER
Once you have decided on a program agenda, you may be tempted to stray. Don’t. Stick to it and execute. A good convention program is made up of three components - social, business and peer-to-peer. A good host city and hotel will have plenty of opportunities for socializing and the planning of fun activities, like a bowling tournament. An awards ceremony is also a vital social element that should not be overlooked. The business portion should be made up of presentations and programs hosted by corporate or by invited vendors of sponsors. Remember to stick to the time table. And lastly, your attendees can be your best source of valuable information. Allow time for peer-to-peer interaction by facilitating roundtable discussions or open mic forums on topics of interest. Keep everything as lively and fun as possible. Nobody likes a boring convention.
FOLLOW UP WITH SURVEYS
Upon completion of the convention, poll the attendees. Figure out what worked and what didn’t work. What activities were appreciated, could be improved upon or should be scrapped all together. After several years of survey results are in, a pattern will be established that reflects what your attendees like and what they don’t like.
And finally, many convention planners believe that booking a high-profile speaker to deliver a speech is key to a convention’s success. Regardless of how dynamic a speaker’s address may be, if it is not highly relevant to the audience’s business goals your attendees will feel let down.
Monty L. Walker is Vice President of Screenmobile Corporation. He along with his father Monty M. Walker and brother Scott Walker are the original founders of the franchise company headquartered in Thousand Palms, CA. For more information visit: www.screenmobile.com