Hannah Bonnett: ‘Nothing beats that opportunity to truly connect’
Hannah Bonnett

‘Nothing beats that opportunity to truly connect’

As Senior Conference Producer, Hannah Bonnett takes on primary responsibility for the editorial content of several international aviation events. Although stationed in London, she frequently travels the world for her work. Last October, MRO Europe landed in Holland. We gladly took the opportunity to ask her all about her inspiring job.

Aviation Week’s MRO Europe has been an established part of the aviation MRO landscape for over two decades. MRO Europe was held in the RAI Amsterdam, October 16-18. Focused on commercial aviation maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO), the event featured speakers from airlines, OEMs, regulators, suppliers, lessors and service providers. Attendance at MRO Europe surpassed the 8,500-registered mark, with more than 800 delegates representing airlines. Each year, approximately two-third of attendees have functions at the level of vice president, director or manager. Nearly 450 service provider organizations presented themselves on the sold-out exhibition floor.
“MRO Europe brings together everyone in the region to see old contacts, meet new ones, create new partnerships and gain an integral understanding of what is going on in the industry,” says Senior Conference Producer, Hannah Bonnett.

The people

Hannah Bonnett has been working in the world of aviation events since graduating from the University of Leeds in 2011. Besides MRO Europe, she is also responsible for the editorial content of MRO Asia Pacific, MRO BEER and MRO South East Asia as well as supporting MRO Americas.
“I have been with Aviation Week for about four years and in conference production for about seven. Like most of my colleagues, my favourite part about the job is the people. In the sense that you are working together with market stakeholders to improve the industry and that this is something our events facilitate. The MRO family is a close one and it is a great thing to see and be a part of.”
“Previously I worked on aviation events that addressed many different topics such as Flight Safety and New Commercial models. When I moved to Aviation Week Network I knew I would be working on the best events in the industry. We really get to know the people, the influencers and the regional nuances which is key to the success of the different events.”
“I sometimes get to attend aviation conferences and shows hosted by other companies. Interesting, because I enjoy seeing what else is out there.”
“We also look to other industries to see what they are doing at their events. This is how we came up with the concept of the Go Live Zone at the exhibition this year.”

Go Live Zone

“The Go Live Zone is a space on the showfloor where we have product demos and exciting, innovative presentations that exhibition delegates can attend for free. When we looked at other industry exhibitions such as the food industry, we saw that they often had a live demo area and we believed this would be a great way to bring the conference and showfloor together. We believed it would offer something to the exhibitors that are really busy.”
“Those who can not attend the conference sessions, can swing by for 15-minute presentations that address a lot of different topics, without cost or forward planning. We are always being encouraged to look at how we can diversify our programmes and respond to what customers want. We believe that this a great way to present more ‘bite sized’ content and hopefully highlight the conference as well.”

Cutting edge

The editorial team of MRO Network is based both in Washington D.C. and London.
“Our job is to spend time researching the agenda with past attendees, key regional associations and influencers and other key market contacts. It is imperative that we understand and engage with the real pain points for industry players and what is keeping them up at night, as well as what they consider to be exciting and new. This all helps put together agendas and invite speakers that make our events both cutting edge and must-attend. There are so many things in flux, technology is always evolving and there are lots of factors that influence the MRO market, both from the inside and the outside. So it is vital that we ‘keep our finger on the button’.”
Trying to secure the right speakers takes up a lot of time, says Bonnett. “We all work very much as a team. The editorial department works closely with the marketing department to ensure that we are aligned and both making each other as successful as we can be. All the work makes sense when you get to the events. And although it always goes by in a flash, it is extremely satisfying and worthwhile.”

Magical

What does Hannah Bonnett consider to be the most special event she has ever organised? “They are all special”, she answers. “I really enjoy the big events with the exhibitions because there is such an energy on the show floor. At MRO Americas it is unbelievable how much is going on, we have a co-located Military Symposium, the AMC Contest, ‘State of the Airline’ presentations from the biggest and most influential airlines in the US and endless happy hours and new things being released at the exhibition. You have to see it to believe it!”
“My colleague Jenn Roberts (Director of Marketing for the group) and I have a real affinity for our MRO BEER (Baltics, Eastern Europe and Russia) conference which is much smaller and only hosts about 350 delegates. It spun off from the larger MRO Europe as a means to bring together the Eastern Europe community for a more intimate opportunity to discuss more regional issues. We also get to see some really beautiful places we would never have otherwise experienced. This year we were in Ljubljana, Slovenia and it was pretty magical!”

Hits and misses

“Of course, like every event producer we have had some hits and misses, but the beauty of this industry is that there is always something exciting happening.”
“According to some of my US colleagues, right after the US Air flight, piloted by Chesley Sullenberger, landed in the Hudson river in New York – coincidentally right outside their NY office building –, we did an event on bird strikes. It was timely and relevant but not something we expected to have longevity.”
“As an event organiser you have to keep on trying new things. For example: we are now getting ready to launch an event on Urban Air Transport next April and are very keen on bringing our expertise to this market.”
“Also, we are always looking for new ways to help bring our message to our customers. This year we introduced two new technology tools that made it easy to bring social media into our marketing and for smaller exhibitors to have a bigger presence online.”
“We use Feathr to enable each exhibitor to invite their customers with a personalized message. And we use InGo, which enables registered attendees to reach out to their whole social network and uniquely invite them to meet on the exhibition floor.”

Truly connect

Talking about developments in the congress market, Hannah believes that people are realizing the value of meeting face to face and appreciate the opportunity to have that ‘one-on-one time’ as she calls it.
“Email and social media – technology as a whole – has changed the way we interact. But nothing beats that opportunity to truly connect. Events make that possible.”
“Being able to facilitate that is a tremendous opportunity and responsibility. It doesn’t come without its share of stress though. We find people make their bookings later and later, which means that projecting numbers can lead to some stressful moments. But in the end we deliver.”
“Of course there are still a lot of things to be improved in the conference business.
For instance: Wi-Fi! This has to be the number one complaint we get. It’s not good enough or it is cost-prohibitive. As we continue to move into this day and age, congress and exhibition centres have to find a way to make Wi-Fi cost-efficient and cost-effective for everyone in the building.”

Easy accessible

Choosing locations is quite a challenge for their operations and leadership teams, says Hannah. “Locations have to be able to accommodate our events – it’s unique in that we have both a conference and an exhibition taking place at the same time. Not every venue or city can accommodate that. We also look for hubs – in terms of both airports and travel ease as well as where the suppliers are already located. Our goal is to make it as easy and valuable as possible for our customers to join us.”
This year Aviation Week took place in Amsterdam. “We were last in Amsterdam in 2016 and always enjoy bringing the show back.”
“We look for a host city that is easily accessible to the global market while also being home to a heavy concentration of MRO providers and suppliers. KLM and NAG are always great organizations to work with in terms of outreach for delegates, speakers and overall contribution to the show. And the whole team looks forward to getting a stroopwafel with a coffee!”