How to Get the Most Value from NBAA BACE

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The NBAA Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (BACE) is an excellent opportunity to “stay in the know” about all matters related to business aviation.

As leader of your flight department, you may or may not attend, but it’s highly likely that many of your people do.

NBAA BACE tradeshow floor


By Steve Brechter


When budget season approaches and next year’s spending absorbs much of your focus, you may be wondering if your department receives all the value it should from attendance at the event.

Does it?

How do you know if the department benefits from the investment and will continue to do so in forthcoming years?

Here are five ways to ensure that your flight department, and those who attend, get the most “bang for your buck” from attendance at NBAA BACE shows.


5 Ways to Get the Most Value from NBAA BACE


1. Make Attendance a Development Opportunity

Many attendees view NBAA BACE attendance as an entitlement.

You know, “I went last year, so it’s your turn this year!” That’s a bad strategy and my first piece of advice is to discontinue it immediately.

The days of a bottomless pit of discretionary spending funds are over. Now, every dollar counts, especially the all-important funds allocated to employee development.

So how should NBAA BACE attendance be determined?

Attendance should be determined primarily by how it contributes to the employee’s individual development plan. The employee should be able to explain which development actions will be satisfied through conference attendance. Ask your people to make the case.

Doing so accomplishes three key objectives.

  1. Eliminates the outdated world of entitlement.
  2. Encourages the employee to think through a strategy for the convention.
  3. Focuses the employee on his or her development plan.

It’s a win-win, with the flight department as the major benefactor.

Tip – Turn NBAA BACE into an employee development opportunity.  


2.  Ensure That all Functional Groups are Represented

If your flight department is anything like those that I’ve led, there’s a lot going-on.

You have complex trips underway, aircraft in and out of service centers, scheduling challenges, business relationships with service providers to maintain and a host of other things going on. All at once.

Sometimes there’s not a lot of time to benchmark and keep up with industry best-practices. NBAA BACE is an excellent opportunity to get your “organizational arms” around the latest advances in the industry.

My suggestion would be to cover the waterfront in terms of functional group representation.

Make sure you have a scheduler there to assess the latest advances in scheduling systems. One of your maintenance technicians can assess the latest cabin connectivity systems.  And a pilot can assess who’s doing what in the flight planning area.

By using BACE to keep pace with the industry, you’ll be one step ahead in the planning process for next year’s operating and capital budgets.

Tip – The ability to assess the latest industry advances is incredible at BACE. Make sure you’re well-represented.   


3.  Go with a Plan

In my early days in business aviation, I had so much to learn about the industry that I often approached the convention with a blank slate.

I wandered the trade show floor and static display trying to take in everything that I could. I got very little from that approach.

I found out that there was way too much to absorb and before long, I lost my focus. I became overwhelmed by it all and had to take a break from the convention center.

So, in subsequent years, I started planning a few months ahead of the convention. I made a checklist of the things I wanted to learn, the information I wanted to obtain and the people I wanted to meet.


That strategy made all the difference in the world. I was focused, the conference became easier to figure out (have you ever seen the map of the trade show floor?) and my productivity during the show skyrocketed.

Tip – Spend sufficient time ahead of the conference planning your activities. The NBAA app on your smartphone makes pre-planning your route even easier.    


4.  Come Back Ready to Report

Everyone that I’ve sent to the NBAA BACE knew that they’d be expected to share what they learned when they returned.

That expectation helps your attendees manage their time while at the show.

If, as an attendee, you are expected to come back ready to share your learnings in, say, three key areas, I suggest that you begin to prepare during the conference.

After you visit a vendor or service provider, retreat to a quiet spot outside the exhibition hall and begin to prepare your report.

I typically bring my laptop with me and begin a PowerPoint presentation on the spot. I do so right after the meeting, just off the trade show floor.

I do so because everything is still fresh on my mind. The details that might be forgotten later on are captured real-time.

It doesn’t take long. You can hammer out the framework of your report in a half-hour or so. Then on to the next meeting.

Later in the evening, back in your hotel room, you can take those rough-framed presentations to the next level. And continue to populate them on the plane ride back home as well.

The net result is that the day you return to the flight department, even as daily responsibilities and activities begin to close in around you, you’re ready to share your learnings from the conference.

TipDuring the conference, make it a point to start the presentation you’ll use to share your learnings when you return.             


5.  Share the Wealth

The most important way for your flight department to reap the maximum benefit from NBAA BACE attendance is to share the information department-wide.

A Lunch and Learn is a great way to do so.

If your people go to the conference with a clear plan and prepare smartly, you’ll have months of material for highly informative Lunch and Learn sessions.

I recommend holding them in your department conference room. Open them to everyone in the department. Rotate the subject matter and presenters.

In business aviation today, the need for broad-based knowledge is stronger than ever.

For instance, the information gleaned by the maintenance technician on the latest in cabin connectivity systems is of great interest to the flight attendants, who have to make the systems work onboard for the passengers.

You get a more informed flight department by dropping the “functional walls” and letting everyone attend the Lunch and Learns to absorb as much as they can.

Tip – Share the learnings from the conference as widely as you can within the department. You may even want to invite executive administrative assistants to some of the sessions.


Your Turn

What have you done to reap the benefits of attendance at NBAA BACE?


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Comments (2)

  1. Mark Patiky:
    Oct 24, 2017 at 07:32 AM

    Excellent - better still - an invaluable article, Steve. Everyone can benefit from your suggestions whether a flight department, a buyer, a supplier, an industry insider or anyone with a related interest in business aviation. The NBAA Convention is overwhelming but you provided an excellent roadmap and a direct approach for gaining value from attending. Thanks for the perceptive insights.

  2. Steven Brechter:
    Oct 24, 2017 at 09:01 AM

    Mark, Thanks for your reply and kind comments. NBAA BACE is a valuable resource and we all need to extract as much value as we can from both an ROI and individual development perspective. Thanks again for responding and I hope our paths cross again soon. Best, Steve

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