The Top Aviation and Aerospace Conferences
Some Aerospace Conferences can be a waste of time and money, especially if you are a company (or person) with a limited budget.
But the right conference can be a time and money saver if you want to increase your connectivity with industry under one roof, without the need to spend thousands on travel.
Why Get Up Close & Personal?
But we also want to give you an individualized touch. Because everything’s personal. It’s the people that connect in business and it’s the people that buy from other people or hire them based on their personality. Younger people prefer to text or DM or whatever. They’re missing a fundamental element.
So, assuming you are the likable type, and you want to invest some time and effort into a big conference for either yourself or to make some B2B aviation connections, but you don’t know where or how to go about it. We got you.
Aviation is a vast area and there are conferences galore. We would like to propose the best conferences in each sector and a little how-to guide at the bottom. Sound good? Ok, let’s get to it.
Aerospace Conference Categories
Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO)
Aircraft Leasing / Finance
Let’s start with what we feel is the biggest and best. Why? It’s simple, all the other categories (Airlines, Airports, Finance, General and even Military) send at least one representative to this one.
The area of MRO covers everything technical from line maintenance to aircraft painting – but all the Airlines, as well as the aircraft owners, come to do deals for their fleet management. Also, a lot of the aviation service industry (Software, Training, Hiring) come to catch all these buyers.
It changes location every year and in 2022 will be hosted in Dallas Texas but can also be held at the huge conference center in Orlando. It’s a massive event that should take you the full three days to make it around. If you must travel to the US, it can cost a bit, but attendance is never more than USD $100 dollars and there are categories for cash discounts, especially for students.
Aerospace Conference - Military
The MRO is also extremely popular with the US Armed Forces, with competitions being held between divisions to replace parts on actual engines in real-time, complete with a viewing stand. If you are a young person considering aviation and would like to see what they do and how they do it or even speak to them, this is the conference for you.
And if you are of drinking age, there’s always free beer carts around 4:30 daily, to entice you into their booths. If you cannot make it all the way to the US, there is a European sister conference later each year, usually in Amsterdam or London (2022).
Aircraft Finance and leasing is a vast area. How big, you ask? The world’s biggest companies all have some form of aviation investment, own aircraft, or even airlines (i.e. Amazon Air).
All the world’s top banks also have direct aviation investments or aviation exposure. Most Wall Street, Insurance companies, Hedge funds, and pension funds invest in aviation either directly or through the bond or ABS markets.
Most HNW (High Net Worth) individuals have private jets or subscribe to NetJets or Wheels up. For the past 15 years, aircraft leasing has been a very profitable area for investors, and even with Covid, those levels of return continue.
Aircraft are mobile platforms that can generate returns consistently if you are a good asset and risk manager. ISTAT is the center of that universe in terms of associations and Conferences with the two big ones being ISTAT Americas (March, San Diego in 2022) and Europe (November).
But it’s not just the Money men, you will also meet Airlines here, as they shop around for the cheapest aircraft and related financing they can find.
In 2022, after the pandemic hiatus, the Pax Terminal Expo was the world’s largest conference for all things airports. This year it will be held over 19,000 square feet at the wonderful Paris Expo center at the Porte de Versailles, for those of you that know your periferique portes in Paris.
Airport operations, Security, Concessions, handling, Passenger throughput, and environmental considerations are just a few of the sectors being represented by the 1,000+ exhibitors. If you are interested in doing business in any capacity at the world’s airports, then this is the best place to be. To expand your connections in that catchment area or just to see what the competition is doing.
Halldale is the company that runs the WATS (World Aviation Training Summit) as well as its European cousin EATS. WATS is always in Orlando and if you are in the education or learning space and want to see what’s happening in Aviation, then you need to go here.
They’re also exceptionally good with their choices of presentations and speakers. Always getting innovative tech but also academic think-pieces on how we should be training these new phone-addicted youngsters. Video is the best way, not surprisingly. But in 2020 this was backed up by Delta who create all pilot instruction in video form now. So, WATS is a wonderful way to see what everyone is doing and how.
Here’s our other Conference Honorable mentions.
Aerospace Conferences - How to Prepare
You’ve picked your conference and you now need to maximize your time, focus, and foot endurance. Here’s what to do.
- Research – The first thing you need to do is go to the Conference website and open a brand-new word file. Each conference will give you the exhibitor list and location. Go through this list and type out all the companies you think could be of interest, there should also be a link to their websites and so copy that too. This list is your secret rocket sauce.
- Agenda – Note the conference agenda. Yes, there’s an actual conference going on with speakers, topics, and agendas. You don’t need to attend all of these, but you need to go to the most critical ones in your sector. The same topics will be spoken on the hall floor and so you need to be aware of what is happening.
- Social Media – Link to the social media accounts (Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok) of these same companies a few days before the event. You will see who is there, what they are selling, promoting, or announcing, giving you free information on what to discuss when you get there. People love it when others notice their efforts and if you are a hopeful job prospector, then this is enormously powerful.
- Take the Brochures – It’s polite and they are valuable. And as soon as you can make a little note on their business cards. Something that will help you remember who they were and what they said. Do this every couple of hours during the conference. In the weeks that follow when you are going over the material you will be glad you did, and the follow-up emails are so much easier.
- Be yourself – Don’t be a conference-goer. Or a sales guy. Or a promoter of anything, especially yourself. Just be yourself. Hopefully, you are already an enthusiastic aviation geek like the rest of us and that’s what we all want. Be supportive of those people on the stands, they are mostly introverts trying to help their companies.
- Comfortable shoes – It’s been a few years so don’t wear dress shoes. You won’t make it to the restaurant that night, much less the TopGolf sponsored event. Bring business cards and if you don’t have them say so and promise to follow them up with an email.
Finally, when someone hands you their business card I would like you to do the following.
- Say “Hello, it’s nice to meet you”.
- Take their card.
- READ their card. There and then – in front of them – for 3-5 seconds minimum while you take in this person’s name and title. Don’t worry, you are not being rude. Just read their card, they’ll wait.
- If that person is Asian or from the Middle East, when you take their card, hold it in BOTH HANDS as you read it. But don’t worry if you miss this point.
- Ask them how they pronounce their name (unless it’s John, or Mary) even if you think you’ve got it.
- Lastly, thank them for the card.
Aerospace Conference Etiquette
This is customary practice in some countries I mentioned (also Japan), but I use it all the time as it’s a terrific way to remember people’s faces and names. Sometimes you meet someone unexpectedly that you were searching for, and this method allows you the time to process that and respond with a clever “Hey, I’ve been looking out for you!”.
It’s also a pleasant thing to happen when someone takes the time to understand who you are and who you represent, especially when you follow it up with a comment about them or their company. You will already have made an impression and get off to a great start.
Good luck out there and who knows, you may even meet us at one of these.