5 tips for first-time IFA convention attendees

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The 2023 IFA Convention will be held at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas from Sunday, February 26th to Wednesday, March 1st. It’s a five-day extravaganza, widely regarded as the biggest trade show of the year for the franchise industry. This year’s program theme, “All In. All Here,” reflects this recognition. I attended the annual IFA Convention for the first time in 2019, but I have learned a lot since my first exposure to this very important meeting.

I wanted to pass along some of the things I’ve learned over the years, including what to do — and what not to do. I hope any first-time participant will benefit from these five helpful tips.

Related: ‘Bigger and better than ever’: what to expect from the 2023 IFA Convention

1. Participate in lectures and discussion panels

Do you know what makes the best salespeople the best? They have an insatiable appetite for learning. When it comes to the prospects you’d like to cultivate at the IFA Convention, you should strive to learn all you can about what they have to offer. So make a point of attending the speaking events and panel discussions that reflect your target market. Listen carefully. Take notes. You are making a commitment to learn what they learned. And it will make connecting with them in person a lot easier in the future.

2. Don’t run away right after the show

Many IFA Convention attendees flee to the airport the minute their obligations are resolved, leaving a trail of smoke behind. Ever wondered why? You’ve already spent a considerable amount of time, money and effort to attend this annual event. So you might as well stay another night – or at least make plans to attend the final dinner. Speaking from experience, I’ve found that some of the most intimate conversations I’ve ever had at the IFA Convention took place during this occasion, long after most of the other attendees had left. The closing cocktail and dinner are for fun and friendship building. And I also found that the connections you make there can be 100 times more impactful than 500 unsolicited phone calls or emails.

Related: Your step-by-step guide to attending a franchise trade show

3. Do some advance disclosure

Networking opportunities at the IFA Convention should start long before you set foot on the show floor. So, take my advice and do a little pre-convention outreach. First, carefully review the tradeshow agenda, looking for insider connections in your target market. Commit to attending the keynote or panel discussion sessions – then let them know about it in a friendly email. The name of the game is “no hard sell” as you don’t intend to close a deal before the event. You are simply looking for a way to make an ice breaker introduction. Email a select few in your target market and share your interest in hearing their presentations. It’s an excellent way to lay the groundwork for personal networking later on. It’s almost always easier to get an audience with your preferred contacts. But even if you only reach one individual, it’s still a huge win.

4. Be selective with your time

The annual IFA convention is big. Really big. You simply don’t have the time or bandwidth to reach every exhibitor – not even close. Do some valuable pre-show reconnaissance and plan your movement on the fair floor in advance. Once you’ve gathered your preferred contact list and your booth information, stick to your plan. But when you stop, don’t do a business card exchange. Do your best to make that all-important personal connection with your preferred contacts. Do or say something memorable. Increase charm to 11. Look for things you have in common. At the end of the show, if you’ve managed 10 memorable conversations, that’s a lot better than leaving with 762 meaningless business cards.

5. Look for additional shows to watch

If you don’t get any leads, clients or new business after your first IFA convention, don’t be discouraged. Quitting is for quitters. And some research has shown that it takes a minimum of three years in the franchise space to become well known. Therefore, repetition counts. If you want to be part of the franchise industry’s unique community, it takes effort, patience and persistence.

Related: 10 franchise fairs you can’t miss

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