Orlando, FL - "I cannot believe every single franchisee doesn't come to this event." ~ Mark, Appleton, WI.
Me neither! If you could surround yourself with the best advice possible for your business, custom delivered to you, I say do it. Get to World Expo.
This year's return to the familiar Orlando World Center Marriott made planning the event a bit easier. We knew the convention space, where we could hold our sessions and how to decorate the rooms and manage the signage. The General Session Opening was very well done, Ray and franchisees from our different brands laying down the theme of "Entrepreneur Experience." Involving franchisees to be the "meat" or main content of the Expo was key. It's not about us reiterating what was taught in training class. We have so many really qualified people in their own businesses, who better to tell the story?
Our Wednesday evening opening reception was moved late in the day because of lightning on the pool. We knew by 7pm there would be no significant weather in the area, but with setup time 2-3 hours before, the lightning warning system from the golf course was firing off. This meant that no Marriott personnel could be working outside helping prepare for the reception. A quick decision to hold it in the Cypress Ballroom was made. That worked, but it wasn't as impactful as the outdoor venue would have been. It's great to reconnect with everyone at the first gathering for Expo!
Maggie Harlow opened the Expo. Yes, the first person anyone saw on stage was our very personanble, successful, dual-brand franchisee from Louisville, KY., how awesome! She told her story in an abbreviated fashion, then introduced Ray. He stepped through some topics that were informative for all franchise brands. He reveiwed our company's Mission Statement and core beliefs. Next, as I previously mentioned, Ray used franchisees from several brands and countries to bring the attendees in tune with our theme. It was a great start to Day #1.
Our six unique business brands were then sent in several directions. The retail brands went to the Supplier Trade Show. The non-retail brands began their general content sessions, each in a different room. The schedule was packed - guest speakers, franchisee-led sessions, panel discussions, we had it all going.
For the trade show attendees, there were many new products, ideas, opportunities for training and networking. One franchisee I spoke with said it was the best trade show he has attended at our Expo, and he's been to all of our shows since 2005. The floor was packed with all exhibitor space sold. New additions were exhibitors for SuperGreen Solutions, Transworld Business Advisors and Experimac. Signarama and EmbroidMe Marketing Funds were both well represented in a spot on the floor that was crowded for two straight days! Lunch was served for all in the Exhibit Hall, so it was a popular place to be for Days #1 & #2.
Our Supplier Appreciation cocktail event followed, this was well-attended and everyone spent more time mingling and connecting to the sponsors and suppliers. I was part of the Mentor Chairperson Dinner later that evening, a nice meal and chance to meet in a quiet place with some of the franchisees that donate their time to help others.
Friday night we had our "social side" showing - the Pajama Dance Party! Bring together our crowd under a dress-up theme and we guarantee a memorable event. Most people had some sort of sleepwear or a strange interpretation of goofy pajamas. The DJ, a pro from Downtown Disney, really kept things on track as most of the evening was spent dancing and singing to familiar modern and classic tunes. Confession, I never got to try the ice cream bar with all the toppings. Too many people were lit up happy and partying beneath the flashing lights. Attendees were playing with inflatable instruments, lip syncing or "silhouette dancing" backstage for all to see. It was a neat and well appreciated event!
Saturday's schedule started with Jim Tatem interacting with a few more franchisees. Hearing about the growth and "How I made my business fly" stories is always inspiring. SuperGreen Solutions and BillboardConnection were well represented.
Shep Hyken came on stage next, bringing his uber-positive message of Amaze Every Customer Every Time. Great stories mixed with some well-placed slight of hand tricks kept our audience laughing and engaged. Judging by the amount of follow-up business cards our audience brought to the stage at the conclusion of his presentation, it was a big hit!
Saturday's schedule continued with more "franchisee-first" content. Owner Panels, Roundtable Discussions, all with specific actionable content that franchisees could take home and begin using Monday morning! The event rolls well on Day #3, everyone has high expectations of what should be happening and World Expo delivers.
The final event at all World Expos is our Awards celebration. A great meal, nicely dressed business professionals and recognition across the board reads our script. Scott Mast was so on top of his role as emcee to start the evening, everyone knew it would be a memorable night. Some last minute changes to awards, slides and speaker notes out of sync and that made for some interesting developments. Pretty soon the stage was shared by Ray and Scott, bantering back and forth with the audience, not knowing if this was real or an "act." For the record, that whole exchange was live and unrehearsed!
Franchisees from all brands and all four corners were included in the evening's awards presentation. We recognized new Million Dollar Club members, our top Mentors and Rookies, gave high achievement accolades and more. Finally, Ray ushered forth new inductees into the Hall of Fame. Several for both Signarama and EmbroidMe, plus BillboardConnection's first-ever member, Neil Spencer. It was a wonderful finish to our conference, sending all of our franchisees home on a high note.
The World Expo brings our UFG team together in a unique way. Each year we have new corporate employees that attend and work at their first World Expo. For them, seeing franchisees that are so successful and hungry to learn is important. The seasoned, well-trained experts that make the event tick year after year are so good at what they do - having developed such a passion for their roles at our event. Too many names to list, suffice it to say that we have team members that come ready to work amazingly hard and deliver a phenomenal show to our customers each year. They are the heart of World Expo. I have plenty of thanks and admiration for the UFG Expo Committee and team that makes Expo possible.
This is what we do. We plan, create, organize and deliver World Expo to bring more success to our franchisees and our group. We have so much evidence that the franchisees that will cut three and a half days out of their yearlong schedule to be a part of Expo will perform better as a result. More ideas, suppliers, motivation, education and camaraderie flow openly for these business owners. It's there for everyone. It is an investment in time and capital. I urge all that did not attend to speak to franchisees that did. Let them show you why it works. And plan on joining hundreds of your peers next June in Las Vegas for World Expo 2015. Caesars Palace is our stage - you will definetely return enriched! -dm