Networking at Aviation Events as a Corporate Flight Attendant

by Scott Arnold, Davinci Inflight Training Institute 

I’m often asked or see posts whether or not attending a business aviation conference or convention is worth the time and expense as a corporate flight attendant. 

If you are new to the industry— a contract flight attendant or perhaps a full-time flight attendant looking to expand your network— absolutely you should attend!

The old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” may still ring true. However, with this ever-changing industry, it should read, “It is what you know, who you know, and what you do with that information.”Those who practice refined skills in business etiquette during networking efforts have a better chance for success; along with the power of determination. 

The upcoming National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Convention is the last aviation event for the year, taking place October 22-24 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This event is also the most affordable to attend. It’s the largest NBAA event; with an average of 23,000 attendees, 1000+ exhibitors, and over 100 business jets on static display at the Henderson Executive Airport. This is a tremendous networking opportunity, but so enormous, it can be quite intimidating. In fact, it’s so large that it can only be held in Orlando and Las Vegas (alternating every year) due the the convention size and static display space required.  

Here are my networking recommendations for attending an industry event in order to achieve the best and most proactive success in expanding your career.

NETWORKING BEST PRACTICES

There are numerous reasons why some people are not successful in their networking efforts, and you will have a glimpse of ways you can use behavioral etiquette skills to enhance your own results. 

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If you attend these events with the only intention of “selling your services,” you may come away feeling frustrated or that it was a big waste of time and investment. Instead, go with the intention of meeting new people who might become friends, potential clients, and/or the very important referral. This industry is very social and having that ‘all important face-to-face time’ is critical. There is no better place to get it than NBAA-BACE.

Some helpful hints:

  • The large conventions are enormous, so use the conventional hall map (using the NBAA app). Select exhibitors in the directory you want to visit and plan out your path each day to make the most of your time. 
  • Avoid dressing in too casual of attire. Instead, dress up like a business professional, or even better like you are a corporate flight attending ready to greet the passengers.
  • The majority of conferences and conventions provide lanyards for your name badge. If a lanyard is provided, then wear it around your neck and confirm your name badge is visible on both sides. If one-sided constantly check it to make sure it is not flipped around so they can see your name. If using a clip name badge, place it on your right shoulder, so when you shake hands with someone he/she can read your name tag as they lean across your torso.
  • Avoid monopolizing anyone’s time at a networking event by talking with them for too long. Ten minutes is plenty of time to introduce yourself and find out if there are any commonalties that might lead to future business dealings or even a friendship.  Remember, they are there to also meet people and network. 
  • Avoid pressing anyone for private information regarding a client or flight operation. Confidentiality is our golden rule – adhere to it!
  • Silence your phone! If you do need to take or make a call, leave the exhibitors space to do so.
  • There are numerous cocktail receptions and events. Remember that even though these appear to be parties, they are still professional events, pace yourself and bring your business cards!
  • If holding a drink, hold it in your left hand (preferably with a napkin) so your right hand is free and dry when you shake hands with people.

LEAVE YOUR PRINTED RESUME AT HOME

Yes, attending these events is all about networking and self-marketing. However, use your “tools” in the most effective manner. If you walk the exhibit halls presenting your printed resume portfolio to various companies and individuals, I can guarantee it WILL get left behind.  Most exhibitors already have way too much to pack, schlep or ship back home and your resume is taking up valuable space.  Instead, have your resume ready to be emailed immediately (if requested) but most likely, you will be sending it in a follow up email – post convention. Instead, only bring your business cards.

YOUR BUSINESS CARD IS THE ONLY TOOL YOU NEED

Business cards are the most important and effective marketing tool at events. They are small and easy to retain and initiate conversation. If designed well enough, they actually are an advertising statement to others about yourself. What appears on the face of the card is the impression people are going to have about you long after you’ve gone, so it’s vital that you convey the right message and keep their attention.

Believe it or not, research has proven the least important bit of information on your business card is actually your name!

In business aviation today, the person receiving your card wants to know the following, in order of importance: 

1. Name of your company (if applicable)

2. Your specific job function or title, i.e. “Trained Corporate Flight Attendant”

3. Your geographic location (city, state)

4. Your mobile number – include the country code!  USA is +1  example: +1 310-555-9998

5. Your email address; and

6. Your name

It is best to keep the style simple but elegant. Many professionals have a photo on their cards. This is an individual decision only you can make. In fact, it’s recommended that if you are going to use a photo, to place it on your business card rather than on your resume.  Avoid overcrowding your business card with useless information and be forced to use a font so small that the reader requires a magnifying glass to read it. There are so many design and layout options available. Having a unique texture or design makes you stand out from the rest of the pack. If you are a do-it-yourself type of person, one of my favorite websites to created customize business cards is moo.com. They have several templates or you can upload your own design as well as photos, logos, etc.

BUSINESS CARD ETIQUETTE

When you are talking with someone and agree to exchange cards— accept the other person’s card, then pause, point your index finger (of your dominant hand) at the card and ask at least one question about it to show you are paying attention and that you acknowledge receiving the card. “I see you live in Dallas, TX. Is that where you are from?” Most people are very proud of their cards and any comment you make about it is likely to deepen rapport and conversation. As long as your finger is pointed at someone’s card, you will maintain that person’s complete attention and he/she will continue to talk to you. It will also help you remember who they are while going through the daily acquired stack. After you have received someone’s business card, place it in a separate place from your own business cards. Do NOT place a business card in your back pocket! This gesture sends a negative non-verbal message, for obvious reasons.  

Making notes on the back of someone’s business card when he/she is in your presence is acceptable during certain situations, especially during conferences and conventions. Writing on the back of a card you just received allows you to recall the next step with them as a follow up and/or details on why they are a good contact. However, I recommend doing this after they are gone. Making notes such as, “send resume.” “Looking for a G550 qualified FA.”  Never assume you will remember details of a specific encounter. I failed at this during my first few events and learned my lesson. You will have acquired dozens and dozens of cards and you’ll have them all spread out on your desk trying to recall who they are and why do you have it in the first place. If the card design prevents you from writing on it, there are several business card scan apps available or carry small sticky notes and attach to the card.

THE FOLLOW UP

It’s important to follow up with all of the connections you have made during the event. However, put your eagerness on pause for at least one week. As with most conventions, especially for exhibitors, these can be quite exhausting and they have been away from their office or operation for several days. Allow them time to catch up on their day-to-day business they have missed. Always avoid contacting targets on Mondays for the same reason.   Approximately one week after the event, email them and refer to the notes from the business card so that they recall who you are. Send any necessary attachments like a cover letter and resume— only if requested or applicable. If you don’t receive a response within one week, send another follow up email. By keeping in touch, you not only show your eagerness to be part of their aviation team but also ensure that your name becomes more familiar. However, avoid being a pest by calling, emailing, and calling again if you don’t receive an immediate response. Your target may also be an active crew member and traveling or extremely busy. The goal is you want them to remember you, not be annoyed by you.

OTHER RECOMMENDED NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES

In addition to the NBAA Convention, here are other events I highly recommended attending for networking as well as educational opportunities:

NBAA Flight Attendants/Flight Technicians Conference (NBAA.org) – locations vary each year – takes place in May

NBAA Regional Forums (NBAA.org) – locations and dates vary per year

Women In Corporate Aviation / Membership required and have a variety of events throughout the year

EBAA European Cabin Service Conference — Autumn and takes place in Brussels, Belgium

“Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible … and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi

About the Author Scott Arnold

Scott is a Partner at DaVinci Inflight Training Institute in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, former Director of Aircare Crews Staffing (Aircare International), past Chair NBAA Flight Attendants Committee, and corporate flight attendant with over 17 years of experience in business aviation.

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