Best Practices in Planning a National Franchise Meeting
Sport Clips Haircuts Event Planners Saronna Maldonado and Fileshia Almaguer are planning the franchise’s 2020 annual meeting. They started just days after 2019 National Huddle wrapped in late April, which saw 3,100 attendees. We’ve asked them to share the keys to planning and implementing impactful franchise gatherings. Here’s what they said:
Q: How do you determine the main theme of the event?
A: Let your company's current focus determine your theme. For Sport Clips Haircuts, we finalize the theme the summer prior to our late spring National Huddle. Various audiences within the company will be introduced to the theme beginning in the fall.
Q: How do you decide what the best possible geographic location for your meeting is, taking into consideration on-site support offered by the convention facilities?
A: Facility size and region of the country all depend upon the size of your franchise and geographic location of your primary meeting audience. Sport Clips has outgrown many venues, so our location focus is primarily on facilities that can support large meeting needs. It’s important to have enough entertainment, restaurants, and attractions within short walking distance or inside the actual venue. Many of our attendees are first-time travelers, so having options for dining, shopping, and getting together with other team members is important. We also look for venue convention staff that is engaged, enthusiastic, and invested in helping us make our Huddles a success. That type of support is critical to a successful meeting; the majority of cities do this well. For example, San Antonio offers a fantastic culture and staff with a strong desire to see our events succeed.
Q: What advice do you have for selecting featured speakers?
A: Consider issuing a call for speakers through your company's primary vendors. Vendor partners, in our case hair experts, stay in-the-know regarding the latest trends. The power of partners may give you access to various industry icons, even non-industry motivational speakers. At Sport Clips, we also turn to our own internal talent pool of franchisees, members of our Sport Clips Artistic Team, top growth performers, and Support Team representatives. We ensure each presenter understands the company focus so their presentation can be customized to include it. Sometimes there's a need to add a speaker to the agenda related to a trend or issue facing the industry. We rely on our Founder and CEO Gordon Logan to lead the way on this. We also attend a yearly meeting of planning professionals where we are introduced to various speakers. Mel Robbins is a recent success story from that effort; we learned about her at the meeting and secured her to speak for our most recent National Huddle. We had our eye on Mel before, but it was seeing her in person that sold us. She now has a syndicated talk show in the making.
Q: What is the best way to create a meeting that team members will want to attend?
A: Engage with your potential attendees where they will most likely see, interact with, and share your meeting invitation and updates. The majority of our audience is hairstylists who have a social media presence on Facebook, so we often post leading up to the annual meeting and have begun incorporating a competition in the advance work. This year, we created a karaoke battle between our 1,800 stores. We involve all levels within the franchise and call on top performers to help make presentations on stage at the annual meeting, which creates ownership and excitement surrounding the National Huddle from attendees' perspective.
Q: How do you attract and maintain interest for differing attendee audiences?
A: Solicit feedback around topics for varying sessions from your internal audiences. For example, we reach out to a targeted group, such as area managers, by sending an email to the previous year’s list for input on topics of interest for that particular group. We also rely on our internal support team to submit topics based on their knowledge of what would be of interest, topics that need to be addressed throughout the system, what's happening in the company, and future growth and development. By touching base with our largest group, hairstylists, via social media, we receive quite a bit of input and feedback from them. After gathering all topic requests, we distribute the recommendations to our Leadership Team and narrow down the list through a process of elimination. We will then consider the number of meeting rooms we have at the selected venue as well as the number of expected attendees in each group, and finalize the agenda to accommodate each of the groups.
Q: What went into the creation of the app and what kind of a difference has it made having it?
A: We use an off-the-shelf app for the National Huddle. We narrowed down our top five most important needs for the app and considered the groups that would be using it. It was important to us to ensure attendees were engaging in the app and one way to do that was through gamification; it has worked well for us. Ease of use was extremely important since for the majority of our attendees since this may be the first or only conference they attend. Using an app has saved money and time on printing and design costs, and it’s more environmentally friendly. The app is instantly and simultaneously available to all admins which means fewer handoffs and more efficient response time on fixing errors. It also allows for instant changes once the app has been published, so when the need arises to add a new breakout session or change the name of the session, the change is instant. It has served as an avenue to get messages out quickly through push notifications and it works for helping attendees connect with one another.
Q: Do you incorporate philanthropy in your national meetings?
A: If your franchise supports a charity or philanthropy, it can be a win/win for the organization and meeting attendees. We feature our philanthropic partners each year during main stage presentations, breakout sessions, and during a supplier fair. Sport Clips partners with The American Red Cross, Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and our own Wayne McGlone Memorial Relief Fund through our Haircuts with Heart program. One of the biggest pushes at our National Huddle is to raise funds for the Wayne McGlone Memorial Relief Fund. This is done through a silent auction and raffle tickets for a chance to win travel vouchers. Prior to the National Huddle, we also request nominations for our Heart of a Champion awards, which focuses on how the individual serves their community and helps others.
Q: What changes do you see in the future of this type of event planning?
A: I see a better tie-in with the focus of the company, diversity in topics, length of sessions, and various avenues of presenting. A few years ago, someone talked to us about offering sessions that were shorter in length. We wanted to head in that direction anyway, so we created mini sessions. These last only 20 minutes, so we give 10 minutes to rotate and begin another 20 minute session. This opened the door for us to feature more top performers as subject matter experts. We do not allow any presentations, so it requires depth of knowledge, but very little preparation. We also utilize a space, such as a ballroom, to create about 5 mini session rooms that hold no more than 50-75 people. Setting it up this way allows for the 10-minute rotation time to happen very quickly and easily. It also allows for sound notifications to indicate start, two-minute warning, and stop times for all to hear. To ensure our most popular content has a life beyond our National Huddle, we offer a live webinar series over the course of three months post-event. New technology, new ways to engage, etc. will continue to play a role in the future of this type of large-scale meeting event. However, it is important to not lose sight of your company’s mission statement, the focus of the company, and the basic goal of the attendees – to learn more about how to make their business more successful whether that comes in the form of a powerful presentation or connecting with others who share your goals as a part of the business and learning from one another.