I’ve just returned from the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA) Commercial Aerospace Conference, a relatively small but well attended four-day event that is changing the way I think about trade shows and events. While I love shows like HAI HELI-EXPO and the Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) I was reminded in some powerful ways that bigger isn’t always better.
I vow to be more open-minded about small events in the future, and here are five reasons I encourage you to think smaller, too.
1) Real Connections
Attendees came to this event for two reasons. First, to learn. And second, to make connections. And while there were plenty of old friends there, most of my networking time was spent meeting and speaking with new people who were open to discussion and an exchange of relevant ideas and contact information. People were focused on one another and willing to spend time talking. It was great.
Registration for an event like this will set you back around $1,100; maybe that’s why most attendees were consistently high-level. I didn’t meet anyone who wasn’t a senior business leader (director, vice president or president). Everyone I encountered was clearly serious about being present and getting maximum value from the event.
3) Industry Knowledge
Wow. There was so much great information shared, and a roster of speakers that read like a “Who’s Who” in aerospace and defense. Better yet, the speakers were interesting and entertaining. In the majority of sessions I attended, people were paying attention and not checking their phones. That alone speaks volumes.
4) Actionable Insight
Procurement leaders from Airbus and from Boeing took the stage and spelled out — in no uncertain terms — exactly what is required to do business with them. The straight-talking Airbus honcho even gave an example of real life pitches (both good and cringe-worthy) he had recently received from prospective vendors. Next up were several successful OEM suppliers who presented case studies explaining what they did to get and keep their OEM business. These were some of the most valuable sessions I’ve ever attended.
5) Dedicated Meetings
Some of these same procurement leaders were available for four hours after the event ended for one-on-one B2B meetings with suppliers and potential suppliers. I’ve never seen anything like that happen at a traditional trade show. Just imagine getting dedicated face time with high-level procurement decision-makers from companies like Airbus, Boeing, Mitsubishi Aircraft and Meggitt, just to name a few. It was a unique opportunity, and those who made time for it were coming out of their meetings high-fiving and looking like the day was a success. Mission accomplished.
I’m not making a pitch for PNAA, but if you’d like to check it out you can learn more here. The truth is, there are lots of small events with big potential. Keep an open mind and you may be pleasantly surprised.
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