1851’s Guide to the Conference: How to Navigate the IFA
1851’s Guide to the Conference: How to Navigate the IFA

Don’t know what to expect when attending your first International Franchise Association (IFA) annual convention in New Orleans? Or, you don’t know how you can make the difference to new or previous attendees? All in all, it can be a bit overwhelming. Don’t sweat it. 1851 has got you covered and chec.....

Don’t know what to expect when attending your first International Franchise Association (IFA) annual convention in New Orleans? Or, you don’t know how you can make the difference to new or previous attendees? All in all, it can be a bit overwhelming. Don’t sweat it. 1851 has got you covered and checked in with seasoned IFA convention attendees to learn the must-dos and top tips for each type of attendee.

It’s your first IFA convention. What should you do? 

“Set a goal for the convention and plan your strategy for attending. Pre-register to avoid lines and delays. Circle exhibitors you’d like to visit. Identify seminars and workshops you’ll want to attend. Pack comfortable shoes, wear business casual clothing, and bring pens, a notebook, business cards and a carryall for giveaways and literature. When you sign in, spend a few minutes reviewing the show directory. Familiarize yourself with the exhibit floor and locations for events. Planning ahead saves time.” – Greg Tanner, National Director-Franchising, Aarons, Inc.

“It’s a lot to take in for the first convention. First, make sure you attend the New Member Orientation on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. to get the lay of the land. Also, the First-Time Attendee/New Member Reception at 5:30 on Saturday evening is a great place to connect with industry leaders who can show you the ropes on how to leverage your time there. I’d make it a point to attend the Exhibit Hall and learn what’s new on the horizon with supplier partners as well as the Business Solution Roundtables. I find that the smaller groups at the Business Solution Roundtables of 10-20 allow me to ask specific questions I may be seeking expertise and information.” – Mary Thompson, President of Mr. Rooter

“Make sure you attend the First-Time Attendee/New Member Reception and get connected to a veteran attendee and meet other first time attendees. This is the first night before the Taste of Franchising. It will give you a chance to know a few folks immediately. Another tip is to introduce yourself to people at sessions and receptions. It's a very social crowd so get engaged and you'll leave with a ton of new friends.” – Joe Lindenmayer, President/COO & Co-Owner of TSS Photography & Young Masters Franchise Systems

Ok, you have a few IFA’s under your belt, so what should you do?

“Eat less. Drink in moderation. Sleep more. Fill in your dance card before you arrive. Don’t leave connecting with the people you need to see by chance. We’ll be in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Make any dining reservations well before you arrive. Contact Susan, (504) 561-0500, the lead concierge at the Hilton for reservations. May I recommend Cochon, Pelican Club, Emeril’s, Commander’s Palace and Galatoire’s?” – Greg Tanner

“It’s good to look thoroughly through the convention booklet at all subjects offered and pick one or two themes that best address your opportunities or challenges. Instead of going off in too many directions, I’d recommend a coordinated approach with your team if they are attending. The Women’s Franchise Committee’s Annual Leadership Conference on Saturday afternoon is always a highlight for me. I usually walk away with a few golden nuggets of information.” – Mary Thompson

“Try something you've never done in past conventions: Maybe the prayer breakfast, or the VetFran reception or maybe the Franchising Gives Back event. All great ways to meet a new set of folks and expand your network.” – Joe Lindenmayer

You have been going to the IFA convention since the beginning of time. How do you continue to make an impact?

“Follow my instructions for ‘first timers’ and ‘old pros.’ Be hungry — starved for information, ideas, innovations, systems and technologies to invigorate your career and to strengthen your business. Look everywhere. I have a Tannerism that reads, ‘Sometimes you have to look beyond the obvious to discover the opportunity.’ Be sure to attend the Monday session from 10:15-11:45 a.m. titled, ‘Connecting Veterans & the Military with Your Franchise System – How to Bring These Powerhouses Together.’ If you are not on board with the IFA’s VetFran initiative, you need to be. This panel session will open your eyes to the benefits of having veterans in your system.” – Greg Tanner

“The convention is an excellent time to network with the best of the best. I usually bring one of two pressing challenges or opportunities that I’d like to seek out solutions for and ask those leaders in attendance how they’d approach it. The Taste of Franchising is the perfect place to connect with old friends and meet new industry experts. Now is the time to see if serving ion a committee can help both yours the IFA’s growth. There are many such as VetFran, Membership Committee, Fran Pac, Franchise Relations Committee, Women’s Franchise Committee, and the Finance Committee.” – Mary Thompson

“Reach out to new attendees! Remember how you felt at your first convention and try to help them make contacts and maybe even make a new friend yourself. Also, attend and support VetFran!” – Joe Lindenmayer

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