I recently made the drive to Niagara Falls for the Canadian Franchise Association National Convention. Here is my math on the event: 14 hours of driving, 3 nights away from my home in Ottawa, 2 days away from my office, $2000 or so on registration, hotel, and food. Then there are the immeasurables: as a single mother, arranging an out of towner on school nights is no small feat, and I spent half my Sunday at the convention, instead of being at home with my daughters and grandson. It seems reasonable, then, to ask myself, why go to a convention?

I have 5 reasons why. When I think back over the few CFA Conventions I’ve attended, the benefits have always a blend of these 5 elements. The mixture may change from year to year depending on the speaker, attendees, and my own situation at the time, but these 5 benefits are consistent. If your industry has a regional or national convention and you are wondering if you should go, consider these 5 factors.

1. Introductions

Otherwise known as networking. Convention networking is very different than what you get at your local event, because not everyone there is looking to close a sale. There is the marketplace or vendor area, with sales people repping their product and looking for leads. But there are also people there to learn, to connect. At a convention you can meet new people who are in your industry, who speak your language, and is not a competitor. 

2. Connections

Even if you are going to a convention for the first time, you are likely to run into someone you know. You are away from the office, out of the usual routine, and this creates an environment to strengthen connections.

3. Validation

Going to an industry convention means being among your peers. I love the CFA event because I can speak franchising and everyone understands me. It is so encouraging to hear bigger companies with more years of experience share that many of their challenges are the same as mine. It validates me as a franchisor, and reassures me that we are doing all the right things.

4. Education

Round tables, sessions, workshops, and keynotes. Conventions are chock-full of education. The agenda is available ahead of time, so plan ahead. If there are concurrent sessions, you may have to make some hard choices about what to go to. Leaving the event with strategies and knowledge you can use to improve and grow your business is perhaps the biggest reason to go to a convention.

5. Inspiration

It usually comes from the keynote speakers. It could come from a story someone shared during a workshop. It could come from a book recommended by someone you chatted with at a coffee break. Whatever the source, you are sure to find a spark of inspiration and hope from being at a convention.

It didn’t make the list, but it deserves a special mention: fun. Conventions can be fun. Really fun.  But perhaps that is just my experience, because the CFA has an infamous after-party with a packed dancefloor. (Yes, that's me in the middle.)