NBAA regional forums like last week’s in Van Nuys deliver a concentrated punch of information and inspiration. Greteman Group colleague Rachel Groene and I attended this one-day event on June 26. Signature Flight Support and TWC Aviation threw open their doors to exhibitors and cleared tarmacs for static displays at Van Nuys Airport (VNY). Located northwest of Los Angeles, it serves as California’s busiest general aviation airport, used by private, chartered and small commercial aircraft.
The tremendous service, perpetually sunny skies and ease of access make it my personal favorite.
Gain a Frontline Perspective
Just like online courses can never fully replicate the experience of in-classroom learning, nothing beats hearing industry leaders share their thoughts. In person. To you. Jay Mesinger provided insights into the global market for business aircraft. NBAA President Ed Bolen brought us up to date on No Plane, No Gain advocacy efforts. George Rice suggested how business aircraft owners can stay on top of – and maybe even ahead of – ever-changing state property-tax policies. Suzanne Moller moderated a panel that explored fuel-buying best practices.
Be Where Your Competition Is
Face it. Competition makes us better. The other guy keeps pressing forward; you need to also. Now’s not the time to skip a show. Business aircraft owners and operators are actively looking for better solutions. If you don’t provide them, someone else will. Smaller, regional forums give you the chance to tell your story in a more relaxed, peer-to-peer setting.
Liberate Your Thinking With Defined Limits
Everyone has the same booth space, which has a bit of a leveling effect. Maximizing that space calls for some creativity and also narrows your focus. With these parameters, you know exactly what you – and your competitors – have to work with. Reduced scope helps you refine and pare your message. Seize this restriction for the true gift that it is.
Learn Something New
Hands-on learning teaches like a presentation alone never could. Aircare Solutions Group, one of Bombardier Safety Standdown’s many subject-matter experts, offered our educational experience of the day. Rachel and I were walking along with no intention of going into the Aircare FACTS inflight fire and smoke aircrew emergency procedures simulator. A bit of cajoling by the Aircare FACTS team, though, and soon the two of us and were inside and buckled into our seats with four other passengers. The cabin quickly filled with simulated smoke while the cabin attendant began instructing us for an emergency landing. “Brace, brace, brace! Hold tight!” Smoke was so dense, I couldn’t see the passenger next to me or the emergency exit light. We landed with a bump and were instructed to evacuate. We groped through the claustrophobic haze, feeling seat tops – and other people. This simulation taught us several lessons. One, you can’t see a darn thing when a cabin’s full of smoke. Two, trust your trained crew to tell you what to do. And do it fast.
Leave With at Least One New Connection
Regional forums have a friendlier, more relaxed vibe than the big-hall conventions. Having all the exhibitors under one roof is conducive to connecting with old friends and meeting new ones. When you sit down to eat lunch, you discover the person at your table shares a seven-degrees-of-business-aviation connection. “Oh, you’ve lived in Wichita? We’re from Wichita!”
We all know that word of mouth is the best marketing there is. Well, regional forums let you take WOM to the nth power by adding a firm handshake, a direct look in the eye – and maybe even a hug.
At Van Nuys, I spoke to one person who insisted on the latter. Even though we’ve not done business together, we always see each other at the shows. Over time you start to look for each other. We’ve become friends simply by showing up.
Orlando or Bust
Regional forums give you a chance to solidify partnerships prior to the national convention, this year in Orlando (October 21-23). Or you can make initial introductions and follow up on the floor of the Orange County Convention Center. All seven million square feet of it.