How Will Franchising Manage the Threat of Covid-19?

virtual franchise conferences

With virtual conferences and discovery days, the franchise community can keep business moving

Just when we thought things were returning to normal, we are getting unfortunate reminders that the pandemic is not over. The news is filled with reports of record cases and new variants are spreading like wildfire. The franchise community — and the entire world for that matter — is wondering if things will ever be the same.

As we head into a New Year, we may feel as though we have taken two steps forward and one giant step back. The uncertainty that came with the pandemic is rearing its ugly head again. Flights have been canceled, Broadway shows have been shut down and holiday plans have been put on hold. Mine were. I thought I would have a house full this New Year’s and it’s not happening because our friends have contracted Covid-19. The uncertainty is driving me crazy and I am not alone. The lingering threat of Covid-19 is unsettling to say the least.

Will coronavirus be here forever? There are many theories floating around, but some say it will become a way of life… but one that’s more under control. According to an article in the Atlantic, when enough people gain immunity through either vaccination or infection, the coronavirus will become what’s called an “endemic.” In other words, it will always be with us, but it won’t cause the same chaos we have experienced for the past two years. That may be good news, but in the meantime, how do we plan around it and how will it shape franchising moving forward?

In many ways, franchising has faced pandemic-induced obstacles head-on and is set up to handle future challenges with ease. As a result of the pandemic, franchising has moved light years ahead. We have seen major innovations in a short period of time. The pandemic and all its uncertainty has taught the franchise community to be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. Technology has helped us achieve this. Gym franchises adapted streaming services, food franchises have added apps for delivery and curbside pickup. Video conferencing has played a huge role in how we communicate, especially when it comes to sharing ideas and selling franchises. Virtual franchise conferences and discovery days are two positive outcomes of the ongoing crisis.


Virtual franchise conferences

Virtual franchise conferences and events have become a new and exciting way for the franchise community to share ideas. The International Franchise Professionals Group’s (IFPG) founder Don Daszkowski admits that he never considered holding a virtual conference before the pandemic. Still, the success of the company’s first one prompted the broker network to add them to their agenda permanently. “There is definitely a place for both in-person and virtual franchise conferences,” he says. “Nothing will fully replace face-to-face conferences, but Covid-19 taught us that virtual events have a lot of value and are a great way to get together throughout the year without having to travel. The feedback we received from our first virtual conference was amazing. Everyone was engaged and took away valuable insights.” Since their first virtual conference, IFPG has held a second one and has its next “Virtual Summit” planned for April 2022. This is in addition to its annual Retreat and other in-person events. And IFPG is not alone. The International Franchise Association (IFA), franchise tradeshow planners and many franchise brands have held virtual conferences with great success and plan to continue them along with their in-person events. 

Virtual franchise discovery days

Although the technology was already in place, many franchisors only started using video conferencing for discovery days as a result of the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, some franchisors used the technology for times when candidates couldn’t travel. But since then, they have refined virtual discovery days to make them true experiences. They have polished the programming and even added nice touches like sending a meal to the candidate and “sharing” it together virtually. The outcome is a more efficient (and possibly faster) franchise sales process. With virtual discovery days, franchisors can meet face-to-face with candidates and get to know them better than they would have from a phone call. Conversely, franchise seekers can better understand if the opportunity is right for them. For both parties, time and money are saved because the vetting process on both sides has become richer. Many franchisors have added video meetings as another step in their sales process and as a precursor to the in-person discovery day.

Virtual franchise conferences and discovery days are two happy consequences of the pandemic. One day we’ll look back and say, “remember when we didn’t have this ability?” Maybe everything won’t be the same in 2022 and beyond, but in many ways, it will be better.

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Jill Abrahamsen’s career spans more than 25 years in editorial, design, and marketing roles. As the editorial director of IFPG, she serves as editor-in-chief of Franchise Consultant Magazine and FranchiseWire. Through both platforms, Jill helps franchisors spread the word about their brands and reports on the latest franchise news and trends. A skilled storyteller, Jill communicates franchisor’s messages through feature articles and franchisee interviews.

Jill is an accomplished writer, editor and graphic designer. Her extensive experience includes key roles with major consumer publications, including Boating, Popular Photography, and Design NJ magazines. As founding editor-in-chief of Franchise Dictionary magazine, Jill developed her passion and fascination for franchising which continues to grow in her role at IFPG.
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