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How to Professionally Exhibit Your Company At An Airshow Or Fly-In

A Primer From One Who's Seen A LOT Of Airshow Exhibits

By Dr. David Juwel, LPBC

I believe that one of the best ways to revitalize General Aviation is to promote and encourage the success of all the general aviation businesses that are currently active. After that, you do what you can to encourage new businesses and start-up’s. Ideally it would be great if an aviation association were formed that would be genuinely interested in doing just that, instead of becoming an association that’s empowered by greed at the expense of those businesses. Oops, I hit one of my hot buttons; let me get back to the business at hand…

In previous ANN articles, I have talked about the myriad of mistakes that companies make when they’re exhibiting at fly-in’s or airshows. Since many of you will be going to a variety of expositions throughout the rest of the year, in this article I thought I would provide you with a checklist that recap’s some of the things you should never do, and then provide you with a checklist of things that you should always do when you exhibit.

The first thing you want to do is make sure the goal of your business is completed sales...not promotion, or demonstrations, or trophies, or one-upmanship, or anything else. Take a look at everything you are doing when you are exhibiting at a fly-in or airshow. Does it serve to bring about a completed sale? If not, change it, improve it, or eliminate it! Not sure whether you are failing in this area? Check your corporate bank account! Far too many of us in the business of aviation think that a fly-in is simply a place to kick back, renew acquaintances, check out what’s new, meet a few new people, and maybe sell something. But let me tell you...if you are in business, a fly-in is not a fly-in, it’s a place of business!  And to make a profit, you need to conduct yourself accordingly, constantly. And it will take a lot of concentrated hard work and dedication to do it.

The second thing you want to do is find a benchmark; someone who provides a similar product and is extremely successful at it. In many cases this benchmark will be a corporate giant with an exhibition budget that exceeds the annual gross income of your corporation. But that’s O.K. Many of the things they do, you can do as well, and everything else can simply be scaled down so that it fits your budget. Doing this will set a professional foundation for your company to build on as you grow.

So how do the big boys do it? To begin with, their presentation area will be very airy with lots of space in it. You’ll be able to freely move about and look at their different display tables. It won’t be cramped and dirty, with their coat hanging on the exhibit. They’ll have well-trained and courteous uniformed staff members available at each display table. They won’t be sitting in a chair ignoring you as you move through their space.

They’ll hold a sweepstakes, where you can sign up to win a free product or service (which is a source of data mining for them about potential customers). They’ll conduct a free daily forum on “their particular expertise” (which of course works best using their product or service). For convenience (thus higher traffic), their exhibition area will be located near one of the flight line entryways.

To everyone who enters their exhibition area, they’ll give them a professionally prepared packet that contains magazines and brochures from more than 20 other non-competitive aviation companies (and each of those companies will mutually agree to hand out their brochure as well). At the very least they’ll be well stocked with their own handouts. In fact, because they know what business they are in, they may even hire a public relations firm to handle all of their marketing activities at the event. If you see a scantily dressed model chewing gum, well, like I said, they know what business they’re in. They’ll do something flashy with their product or service. They’ll set a record, build a plane before your very eyes, or have an exotic A/V presentation; something to make their product or service memorable.

They may have modular observation units in place that oversee the flight line, with air conditioning, a staffed food and drink bar, a common bathroom, and corporate mementos. Similar to what you see at sporting events. The key is to have a private place to wine and dine your VIPs, and conduct sales closure. The cheapest way to do that is to have a plush RV in your exhibition area. In addition, they’ll take part in a multi–faceted marketing package designed to give them maximum exposure of their brand name & logo throughout all of the advertising avenues available at the event. This marketing package will include having your brand exposed in the official program, on the sides of trams, on posters, talked about on the radio, displayed on the modular observation units, placed on handouts, printed on inserts and found in the daily newspaper. You might even find yourself the host of a privately catered party in the Hospitality Center. The more you pay, the more advertising saturation you receive throughout the event, and the more benefits you can offer your VIP customers. Obviously, it is only the global companies that are going to be able to take advantage of the high end of this opportunity. The cost of this package may range from $10,000 to $100,000 (or more if the event organizers are really greedy).

A small company doesn't really have to be left out of these activities. For example, 10 different non-competitive companies might be able to share the cost of a modular observation unit. You wouldn't have exclusive use of the modular observation unit unless you each agreed to provide exclusive use of it on a time share basis.

Your corporate logo might be less prominent throughout the various avenues of advertising; but hey, that doesn't mean your advertising activities lack effectiveness. It just means your corporate name won’t be as prominent as the corporate name of the global giant next door.

As I stated earlier, it stands to reason that a small company is not going to be able to afford to do all of those things, but a lot of them you can do on a smaller scale. The key is to not let ITBOA BNITBOB (the Author’s acronym for “In the business of aviation, but not in the business of business") disease get a foothold in your company whenever you’re exhibiting at a fly-in or airshow.

All of these activities work together to provide the attendee’s with the fulfillment they’re looking for, and that’s important because the event is not for you…it’s for them! Focus on fulfilling the attendee’s needs, and you’ll soon find them fulfilling your needs.

Well that’s it for now. Take a moment and go through the two checklists to see how you can improve your public impression, and hopefully generate more completed sales. And if you happen to be an attendee reading this article, instead of an exhibitor, this article will help you recognize the type of company you probably want to do business with.


  • Never spend time with an individual without getting their name and address.
  • Never refuse to spend time with a prospective customer.
  • Never fail to follow-up with additional contact.
  • Never be ignorant of sales opportunities and events that you could take part in.
  • Never ignore people who are standing in your business space.
  • Never allow the administration of your business to have priority over customer  relations.
  • Never allow conversations about aviation to have priority over product conversations.
  • Never leave your booth unattended.
  • Never be unethical toward your competitors.
  • Never take no for an answer. Find their yes button.
  • Never be impersonal.
  • Never pre-judge the sales potential of anyone.
  • Never say false things or make-up things just to try and gain a sale.
  • Never walk away from someone you’re talking to without their permission.
  • Never build an unattractive display of your product.
  • Never sell your advertising.
  • Never come with insufficient sales materials.


  • Make your booth airy with lots of walk-around space in it.
  • Have well–trained and courteous uniformed staff members available at each display table.
  • Have “hooks” available for developing a contact database.
  • Be sensitive to the location of your booth. High traffic is the key.
  • Have pre-packaged hand-outs available for the average attendee.
  • Have pre-packaged upper scale gifts available for sales-qualified attendees.
  • Your display product should be new, fresh, and immaculate.
  • Take advantage of the event opportunities that can give your company greater exposure.
  • Invite qualified sales leads to a privately catered party.
  • Survey your current buyers and see what you did that worked for them.
  • Always create a good first impression when meeting people.
  • Be compassionate and enthusiastic about your product.
  • Exercise your natural talents.
  • Exercise good business ethics
  • There is a reason why everyone comes to a fly-in. Do you know what it is, and are you prepared to satisfy that reason?
  • Have all the answers about your product available.
  • Bring everything you sell, or at least a free catalog showing everything you sell.
  • Use media saturation during the event.

Dr. David Juwel (pictured, above) is a licensed professional business coach specializing in the aviation industry. He provides personal coaching in practical strategies that produce maximum profitability in business. Dr. Juwel is available for principal owner & CEO coaching, public speaking, and outside director activities.



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