In the ever-evolving world of franchising, staying updated with the latest trends, connecting with industry leaders, and expanding one’s knowledge base is essential. For entrepreneurs and aspiring franchisees, this often translates into attending the right mix of events in which franchise organizations, franchise representatives and current and prospective franchisees gather.
If you’re looking for the right franchise opportunity for you — or looking to network with existing franchise owners — keep reading. The franchising calendar offers a rich mix of event, expos, and conferences year-round. And we’re here to spotlight the top must-attend events that promise a confluence of networking opportunities, insightful sessions and hands-on workshops, irrespective of where you stand in your franchising journey.
From the mega-conventions that attract global audiences to the niche symposiums designed for specific industry verticals, this list serves as your ticket to the heart of the franchising universe:
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1. International Franchising Association Annual Convention
The International Franchising Association (IFA) is the single largest membership group for franchisors, franchisees and franchise suppliers in the world. It holds an Annual Convention every year with goals of connecting its membership with a full array of franchise opportunities, solutions, insights, educational opportunities and potential partners. This mega-event is designed to be helpful to everyone from seasoned franchise owners to aspiring franchise entrepreneurs, and to focus on optimizing franchises and business development. In 2024, the IFA Annual Convention will be held in Phoenix, February 17-20.
2. Multi-Unit Franchising Conference
Multi-unit franchising refers to owning multiple stores of one franchise or multiple stores in several difference franchises (such as several different restaurants). Currently, more than half of U.S. franchise locations are part of multi-unit franchising operations . Although multi-unit franchising is an excellent growth strategy, operating multi-units is quite different from operating a single franchise location. If you are a multi-unit franchise operator or aspire to grow into a multi-unit business model, the Multi-Unit Franchising Conference is a key destination. The Conference focuses on specific sectors (hospitality, food, retail and service) and is open to current and aspiring franchisees as well as investors and service providers to franchises. Next year, the Multi-Unit Franchising Conference will be held in Las Vegas on March 19-22.
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3. The Franchise Leadership and Development Conference
The Franchise Leadership and Development Conference (FLDC) is designed for upper management in the franchise business, such as chief executive officers (CEOs), presidents and sales and development team leaders. The three-day conference has been in existence for 25 years and includes industry-leading keynote speakers, a CEO forum and multiple sessions focusing on growth strategies of successful franchises, sales leads and current and emerging trends. There are also celebratory awards bestowed for franchise development. Annual FDLCs are usually held in October.
4. The IFA Emerging Franchisor Conference
In addition to hosting an annual meeting, the IFA also offers another yearly gathering, this one specifically targeted to emerging and aspiring franchise entrepreneurs. The IFA Emerging Franchise Conference focuses on the building blocks of sustainable success in franchising, from generating sales leads to managing operations. Participants include both franchise industry leaders and cutting-edge franchise organizations. The conference includes educational sessions on growth and franchising opportunity, coaching opportunities and structured networking sessions. This conference is held every autumn.
5. The Great American Franchise Expo
Expos are a great way to see multiple franchise presentations, products, demonstrations and talks, as well as to network with franchisors and fellow franchisees. In addition, expos often travel around to different cities over a period of time, rather than being held only in one city during a specific set of dates. If this style of meeting suits you and multiple cities are more convenient, the Great American Franchise Expo is an excellent choice — whether you’re a current or aspiring franchisee. One of its chief purposes is to connect potential franchisees with franchisors in an informal setting. The Great American Franchise Expo also offers educational sessions on topics important to franchisees, such as financing and legal issues. Currently, The Great American Franchise Expo is slated to come to Dallas, Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, Tampa and Charlotte in 2024; check the web site for additional cities later in the year.
6. Small Business Expo
The Small Business Expo is an enormous showcase for all small businesses, including franchises. The Expo features keynote speakers, workshops led by leading industry experts and multiple chances for networking. One of the advantages of the Small Business Expo is that it’s held in-person on a rolling basis throughout the United States, with Small Business Expos in virtually every major U.S. city. Some Small Business Expos are also available online, which can be convenient for entrepreneurs with time or travel concerns.
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7. Restaurant Finance & Development Conference
Some are specific to industry and sector. If you’re looking for food franchises to explore, you’ll want to keep an eye on the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference held annually in the fall. This conference, put on by The Restaurant Finance Monitor, is dedicated not only to the restaurant industry, but to its financing. It’s intended for founders, owners and financial executives, as well as board members, CEOS, controllers and those who work closely with them, such as investors, accountants and lawyers.
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8. The International Franchise Expo
If your business or franchise is international, an event focused on international opportunities could be for you. The International Franchise Expo features over 300 franchises, with educational programs and workshops geared to multiple levels of investment and expertise. Franchises that will attend run the gamut from U.S.-based household names with a strong international presence, such as Chuck E. Cheese and Ace Hardware, to franchises found in the international pavilion, such as South Korea’s Baekchae Kimchi Jjigae. The International Franchise Expo is also attended by potential partners in financing and initial investments, such as the U.S. Small Business Administration, and potential partners in real estate development. The next International Franchise Expo will be held in New York City from May 30 to June 1, 2024.
9. The National Franchise Show, Toronto
If you’re looking for franchise options outside the U.S. or want to seek potential franchises or potential customers outside the U.S., Toronto’s National Franchise Show offers nearly 200 franchisor exhibits and multiple educational seminars in Canada — including on how to choose the right franchise, sector, and financing options. The National Franchise Show is held annually. The next one will take place on September 7-8, 2024 in Toronto.
10. Le Forum Franchise 2023
Current and potential business owners interested in franchise ownership in the European market will find strong networking opportunities at Le Forum Franchise, currently in its fourteenth year as a preeminent meeting in Lyon, France. It is organized by the Lyon Metropole Chamber of Commerce and Industry and has had as many as 500 brands participating. Le Forum Franchise is a meeting ground for brands who want to develop a franchise as well as team leaders and new franchisees. The meeting takes place every year in October; the last one was held on October 12, 2023.
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Franchise ownership can be an excellent way to flourish in the small business world. Why? Franchising offers both seasoned business professionals — and aspiring business or franchise owners — a proven template for success. But franchising can also be more complicated than starting a business from the ground up, as each franchisor offers a different profile and establishes different standards and guidance for its franchisees.
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