Farnborough International Airshow Connect: Creating a platform for the leaders in aerospace to connect

The world’s aviation and aerospace industry has been at the heart of media coverage over the past 18 months, as it has been forced to adapt and overcome the unprecedented challenges raised by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alongside the fundamental commercial threats facing both international sector leaders and the pioneering SMEs who drive the sector forward, the cancellation of major industry events due to the global lockdown placed the necessary advancement of the aerospace and defence agenda at risk.

Launched in 2020, after the Farnborough International Airshow was unable to proceed as a physical event, Farnborough International Airshow Connect (FIA Connect) was established to provide a platform for industry, government and academia to gather online to debate, discuss and address the burning questions defining the future of aerospace and defence.

At a time where industry was unable to meet face-to-face, FIA Connect delivered more than 75 hours of content across five days, with an insightful and wide-ranging conference programme, exhibitor and partner showcases, and networking opportunities, all completely free of charge for an industry looking to collaborate and further its growth in the face of uncertainty.

The overwhelmingly positive response to this first edition of FIA Connect, the first virtual event created by Farnborough International, demonstrated the desire for industry to see more innovative digital engagement opportunities as a part of the Airshow’s offering.

75% of exhibitor participants and 84% of visitors agreed that FIA Connect can work alongside and complement the Farnborough International Airshow in the future, with 64% of exhibitor participants and 88% of visitors stating that they were likely to recommend the event to others.

With clear demand from industry to host future virtual events and restrictions for industry colleagues from around the world to meet in person continuing throughout the first half of 2021, FIA Connect returned this summer to once again provide a platform for the aerospace conversation to take place.

From 13-15 July 2021, FIA Connect brought together more than 60 international thought leaders and pioneers from across industry for 14 live and engaging sessions to discuss, debate and share ideas on the innovations and challenges that define the future of aerospace.

More than 2,500 visitors from 72 countries registered to join FIA Connect to participate in the world’s leading digital trade event for the aerospace and defence industries.

Setting the agenda

Representatives from KPMG, IATA, Rolls-Royce, Deloitte, Microsoft, RAF, Ministry of Defence, and many more, joined panels at FIA Connect to explore key issues such as the recovery of commercial aviation, setting the aerospace sustainability agenda, and championing industry diversity.

Driven by FINN (Farnborough International News Network), the award-winning independent aviation news channel from Farnborough International, the selection and curation of the speaker panels was completed in close conjunction with leaders from across industry to ensure that audiences were presented with cutting edge insight and expert analysis across a broad range of complex topics.

The leading objective for visitors at the 2020 edition of FIA Connect was to learn and gather industry knowledge, with the content of the conference programme paramount to the registration decision made by most visitors in attending the event.

With this in mind, speakers for the 2021 programme were selected entirely based on the merit of the contributions they could offer to their given panel, ensuring that the value of the content for visitors was the number one priority.

Extensive communication and discussions with the panels, as well as dedicated technical rehearsals, ensured that speakers at FIA Connect were well prepared to tackle the important issues driving the agenda within the somewhat unfamiliar environment of a live virtual broadcast, allowing them to focus on offering engaging and informative content.

Delivering an exceptional experience

To ensure that the industry-leading and insightful content that is the cornerstone of the FIA Connect offering is delivered effectively, it was essential to find a platform that enhanced the content on offer, providing a simple and intuitive interface that encouraged visitors to engage with and explore the event.

Following on from the 2020 edition, the visitor feedback was clear on the functionality they wanted to see from an FIA Connect event.

The capability to interact with session speakers during live sessions and make business connections with fellow delegates stood firmly at the top of the priorities list for any future versions of the event, while visitor feedback also highlighted the desire for a simplified user journey on the platform.

After an exhaustive search of virtual event hosting options that would fully cater to industry needs, SpotMe was selected to be the platform behind FIA Connect 2021.

With the navigation and layout of the platform resembling that of a social media account, the familiarity of the interface made for a much more intuitive user experience, allowing for visitors to move through the FIA Connect event with greater ease and find the content of most interest to them.

Offering simple virtual conference streaming integration options with built in audience Q&A and polling functionality, as well as a simple digital business card exchange option resembling social media connection requests, the SpotMe platform aligned with visitor priorities.

The simplicity of the event “Backstage” along with the thorough training sessions and responsive support teams made the creation of FIA Connect a smooth experience, allowing focus to remain on the delivery of an engaging programme of events.

Once registered, the unique accounts for each user allowed for both holistic and individual analysis of a visitor’s time at FIA Connect, demonstrating which sessions, partner profiles or fellow attendees were most important to them before, during and after the event.

This allowed for more granular analysis of each session and feature on the platform; from the length of time visitors watched a panel discussion or how many questions were submitted during the session, to which partner resources were most engaged with and how many one-to-one chats took place over the three days.

A digital future

The clear insight offered through the platform analytics has allowed for a much greater understanding of the Farnborough International Airshow audience.

By interrogating the priorities, wants and needs of exhibitors and visitors clearly, FIA Connect has highlighted how both the virtual and physical manifestations of the Airshow can evolve to meet industry needs and make the show more accessible.

50% of attendees to FIA Connect 2021 have never attended the physical Farnborough International Airshow before, 87% of those who attended would recommend a future FIA Connect event to others, and 66% of visitors stated their intention to attend the Farnborough International Airshow in person in 2022.

The creation of a virtual offering for the global aerospace audience has helped to broaden the reach of Farnborough International Airshow as an event and has helped industry to remain connected ahead of the anticipated return to live events in 2022 for the majority of businesses.

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