On the surface, the world of private aviation appears centered around convenience, innovation and luxury, but for family-owned Canadian business jet manufacturer Bombardier and its trade show experiences, it’s also about heart. Through its exhibit experiences, the brand showcases messages like its commitment to sustainability and wellness through technological developments (think: innovations in seating, air filtering, sound systems and lighting).
For Kerry Lamont, manager-shows and events at Bombardier, experience is at the center of every exhibit program. Fun fact: The first booth build she participated in was more than 25,000 square feet in size and featured an actual aircraft within it—a spectacular sight. “The challenge with these, you can build a booth, but you have to be able to show aircraft at the same time, because most people who are buying a private jet want to actually see and get on and touch a private plane,” she says.
Lamont’s roots at Bombardier run deep. Her grandfather worked for an affiliate brand of Bombardier. Her father and mother held roles at Bombardier. And when she entered the marketing industry and watched event professionals jet off around the world, she thought: “Oh, I want that job.” She took a role as an event coordinator, and then applied for a leadership role (then predominantly male-dominated) and got the job.
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Her team oversees production and strategy for launch events, industry events and trade shows. These platforms include Paris Air Show, Farnborough International Airshow in England, Dubai Airshow, the U.S.-based National Business Aviation Association Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) and the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE). Like a car show, every region in the world hosts a show for the private jet industry. “The trade show piece is always the one that brings the most people from the company together. I think that’s one of the neatest aspects of it,” Lamont says.
Ahead of the Dubai Airshow, we sat down with Lamont to gain her perspectives on trade show industry trends and what fuels her passion for creating exhibit experiences.
Event Marketer: Tell us about a recent exhibit you’ve managed—the concept, and what worked well from an engagement standpoint?
Kerry Lamont: This year at EBACE, we wanted to do something different as opposed to creating a large hospitality area and meeting area that was going to host a lot of people from the industry. We looked at how we could curate an experience really for the owners and for the folks who are actually buying them as opposed to all different levels. So that was new for us. We focused on the experience—not just about what we were building, but how do we help them when they arrive in their vehicles, how do we get them outside to see aircraft easier. Time is everything in everybody’s life these days, so how do we make it easier for our clients to actually engage with us and have an experience?
You can imagine if you’re selling a private jet, the experience that we have to give, and so how do we still give them that, and curate it? That’s the magic word these days, I think. And everyone in marketing is focused on “curating” that experience. It really was a different tackle for all of us to think about—as opposed to just making sure our name is out there amid the competition.
What is the biggest challenge this coming year in trade shows?
COVID did many things for us, good and bad. The way that we all get our data now is online. So, like in any industry, you can get a lot of information online if you are looking at buying either services or an aircraft. And that’s the challenge—why would people go out of their way to come see us when they can get most of this information online? It’s a very small industry, and so I think personal experience becomes much more important than it probably ever was before. They don’t need to come to “find out.” They need to come and experience the product.
We’ve prided ourselves—in an industry where jets are the most remarkable, technologically advanced tool you’re going to get—on the fact that we’ve been a family-run company. We’re very friendly. Again, it’s not just about the information, and it’s not even just about the metal someone’s buying, it’s the way they feel when they come to you. You’ve got two seconds to make your first impression at a trade show—the best lesson someone taught me—because it makes a difference.
What is one trade show industry trend that has your attention?
I do think the trend is now much more how do you focus on the personal. It’s not QR codes, and it’s not making it easy and all of the things that we used to have to work on up until now. It’s about, have they left feeling that they made a connection with this company, which is very different than what it has been, certainly, in my 30 years in the space.
You have to focus on making the connection. And for us, we have to make a connection with the maintenance folks who are working on the planes, the pilots who are flying them and, of course, the owners and the companies that own them. You’ve got to focus on what is every level’s need, and you have to focus on that at the very beginning of the concept as opposed to throwing it on at the very end.
I’ve been blessed within the organization to say that I want Bombardier people to be our representatives for that connection that’s authentic. I’m blessed to have very different people within the organization, from engineering to production, who’ve become part of the Bombardier team on-site, and if somebody asks a question [in the booth], they genuinely know how to answer it. If a customer walks in, your eyes light up. If they’re a customer who owns eight, 10, 12 planes and you hear their name, you literally should get goosebumps, because they’re standing in front of you. You can’t hire that level of care.
What do you love about managing exhibit programs?
I found a job that was for me, and I found it relatively early—probably within 10 years of starting my career. But the most fun is the level of problem solving that we have to do on-site. Our clients, they expect everything to be a certain way. And you get to any show, anywhere in the world, but it’s never going to look the way you think it’s going to look. So, you’re on the ground problem solving. You have to peel back every layer. As an event manager, that’s the one job where we’re like, “bring it on.” There’s nothing I’m not going to be able to solve. It’s the duck underneath with paddling feet that nobody gets to see. But that’s what feeds my soul.
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