Your First Trade Show: A Checklist

Trade shows are a great way to expose yourself to multiple franchises at one time while also learning about the various offerings. Although the web is certainly a solid resource in its own right, there may come a time when you want to talk to some of your potential franchises face-to-face in a open environment. Before you hit up your first Canadian franchise trade show, here's what you need to know.

Start preparing at home

Research online before you go, focusing on industries and brands that interest you. Look at investment levels so you're not wasting time focusing on a brand or industry segment you're not financially comfortable with. Once you've done that, make a list of the must-see brands and the specific questions you want to ask while you're there.

Only bring the essentials

You're going to be handed a lot of information, including business cards, fact sheets and brochures, so take a sturdy bag along to hold it all. Consider leaving your children at home so you're more focused and they're not bored. Do bring your partner or anyone else who will be investing in the franchise with you. This is a significant decision, so it's a good idea to get everyone involved in the selection and information process. 

Keep your mind open 

While you're likely attending the show with specific franchises or industries, a trade show is a good way to be exposed to opportunities or brands you may not have considered before. As you're going around the show floor, keep an eye out for any booths that capture your attention and explore them further. 

Go right up

A franchise trade show lets you explore opportunities without feeling pressured. Don't be shy—go right up to the booths you're interested in and ask your questions. A properly prepared franchise booth will have people who are ready and able to answer your questions. 

Take some notes

You will likely spend two or three hours at the trade show, having multiple conversations with people from different companies. After the show, all those discussions might seem like a blur, so take down a few notes while you've having a discussion or in between booth visits. One good way to do this is by getting a business card from each person you speak to and jotting down notes about the conversation on the back.

Be ready to research

At the trade show stage, you're probably more into research and due diligence than decision-making. While being at a show is exciting, don't jump into anything just yet. Most of the exhibitors aren't there to sign contracts anyway, and you still need to make sure you've found the right franchise for you.

Take advantage of free advice

Franchise trade shows often have some free expert discussion and seminars. Be sure to take advantage of these free sessions, as they're invaluable learning opportunities.