The International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT) is an international organization that represents over 5,000 members worldwide who are involved in the commercial aviation sector. ISTAT is dedicated to providing aviation professionals with forums for increased networking and educational opportunities. The ISTAT community typically gathers together at several events throughout the year, and after cancelling face-to-face meetings as a result of the global pandemic, members convened in-person at the new ISTAT Miami Conclave event.
The Miami Conclave was driven by the primary need to bring together a community that had not met in-person for over a year. While the financial goal of this event was to break-even, the organization ultimately considered the event to be an investment in its membership and did not rely on it to generate revenue.
Member & Community Needs
In an industry that was impacted dramatically by the pandemic, it was paramount that ISTAT create opportunities for members to resume meeting in person again. The business of ISTAT members is best conducted face-to-face and relationship building is a vital part of success. ISTAT is a key facilitator of networking through conferences and events, and its board of directors knew it was important to be one of the first organizations within the industry to offer in-person events again.
Design & Build Out
For several months, the ISTAT board had been in serious discussions about how to safely implement in-person events, and recognized that using the typical format of its past events would not be practical. Instead, a “new event for a new time” was created, with a focus on networking while maintaining minimal risk brought on by the pandemic.
ISTAT deliberately chose the event’s location and venue based on heavy local membership to keep travel constraint considerations at a minimum. The hotel selected needed ample outdoor space and allow ISTAT to take over all available spaces and rooms so a “bubble” could be created. ISTAT wanted to assure its attendees that they were in a controlled environment, which was also a key message in communicating the safety measures to attendees.
On top of the bubble environment, attendees were required to make an attestation when they registered: to be vaccinated, have a negative test, or have had and recovered from COVID-19. Safety measures included distribution of personal protection equipment (PPE) kits, touchless registration, dedicated signage, socially distanced and outdoor seating, staggered lunches, and added security to assist with implementing risk mitigation efforts.
The ISTAT team was completely transparent with the hotel and its vendors about their expectations and commitment to implementing risk mitigation protocols. Outside vendors were required to present a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event, hotel security monitored and enforced masking and social distancing, hotel cleanliness standards were communicated, and staff members were required to have knowledge of medical protocols and options in case of any incidents.
A committee of volunteers developed the safest and most appealing activities for the event’s agenda. With a focus on wide-open, outdoor spaces, the event kicked off with a golf outing and included a morning run around the property. Meeting spaces were conducive to limited numbers in open spaces and outdoor facilities were available for meeting around the property.
With the onsite plans established, ISTAT then created a strong communication plan to attract attendees to the new event. New branding helped to differentiate ISTAT Miami Conclave from previous ISTAT events. Registration, schedule, networking, sponsorship, and attendee webpages were developed to showcase the event information as well as a dedicated webpage that outlined the event’s safety protocols to help build confidence in ISTAT and the hotel’s ability to host a safe event. Each email communication included a reference to the safety protocols and was linked to this webpage.
A mobile app launched prior to the event to communicate to attendees throughout the event and highlighted safety protocols, schedules, and event features.
The ISTAT Miami Conclave brought together 345 industry professionals, which exceeded the organization’s expectations. ISTAT received great feedback from attendees, who were excited to have an opportunity to reconnect with their peers in a safe environment.