Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) takes place this year between 14 – 20 July 2014. As veterans of many different international aerospace & defence tradeshows (including 15 years attending and exhibiting at Farnborough) we’ve picked up a lot of tips along the way to help get the most out of the event…
Background to the Air Show
For the uninitiated, Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) is a weeklong event held in England and it is one of the largest tradeshows in the European aerospace business calendar. Farnborough takes place every other year and alternates with the Paris Air Show (next scheduled for 2015). Whilst Farnborough does feature a daily air display and is open to the public on the weekend, it is primarily a business event.
Monday to Thursday are the main days for business; attended by all of the key players from both the civil and military global aerospace industries. Businesses from around the world use the show to exhibit their products & services and to hold meetings with potential clients, suppliers and competitors. For your business it is a great opportunity to meet potential clients, build your contact network and develop new leads.
Over 109,000 tradeshow visitors and 1500 exhibitors attended Farnborough International in 2012, including 70 trade delegations from 46 countries. In addition, USD $72 billion worth of orders and commitments were announced during the show. Attendees range from large multi-nationals through to SMEs, making Farnborough an invaluable opportunity to meet and network with European and international aerospace businesses.
For overseas visitors Farnborough is also a relatively inexpensive way to see many prospective clients in a single location – you may otherwise need 3/4 trips to Europe to hold the same number of meetings. Farnborough is a good place to get a feel for the European aerospace market and a great platform for raising the profile of your business, winning work, identifying your competition and to look for likeminded companies that you might be able to team up with.
Getting the most out of Farnborough Week
Do Your Homework and Have a Game Plan
As they say, proper preparation prevents poor performance – and this very much applies to Farnborough. Planning your schedule and prearranging meetings will make a huge difference to your experience at Farnborough and will help ensure you get the most out of the event.
We strongly suggest you research and identify companies of interest who will be attending/exhibiting before the show and create a shortlist of businesses that you would like to see. Good starting places are Farnborough Airshow’s exhibitor list, your existing awareness of companies in the marketplace and your contacts network. Seek to make contact with companies 3 to 4 weeks before the show and look to confirm (or tentatively confirm) an opportunity to meet them at a set day/time/location. This may well change on the day, or even get cancelled, but it’s better to arrange to meet six target companies at the Airshow and actually meet three, than attend the show without any prearranged meetings.
If you’ve got a good European business representative they’ll be able to set up many of these meetings on your behalf, make introductions and support you. Their awareness of the market and industry contacts will increase your chances of identifying opportunities and generating leads during the show. SME businesses visiting from the United States can also look to the US Commercial Service for market research, support and general advice.
It’s unlikely you’ll be able to prearrange all of your meetings in advance, so it’s useful to know which trade halls target exhibitors are located in – check the exhibitor list for locations and create a list of companies you’d like to try to see – this will ensure that you don’t waste time walking around unnecessarily and will keep you focused during the event. Remember; it may take several visits to a stand to catch the right person.
Meet The Buyer
We often remind our clients that meeting OEMs at Farnborough can be a tricky task. Big companies like Airbus Group, Rolls Royce & BAe Systems all have their own chalets at the Airshow and access is usually restricted to pass holders – this makes it difficult to see the right people unless you’ve got a meeting with them scheduled in advance. Whilst some OEMs also have stands, a PR team is usually responsible for staffing these.
Using your contacts network and rooting out opportunities to meet the right people is the name of the game.
Services like Farnborough International’s Meet The Buyer programme offer businesses the opportunity to have face-to-face meetings with OEMs [that choose to participate] and businesses looking for international partners at the air show. It is worth noting that in previous years participants have positively rated the programme during the show.
Meet-the-Buyer may be an add-on that you wish to include in your Farnborough schedule but we suggest that if you do participate you try not to use this as a shortcut to avoid preparation and setting up your own meetings. Procurement Managers and Buyers for specific programmes are busy people and in our experience meeting numerous SMEs at Meet-The-Buyer isn’t usually part of their agenda. Whilst you may have a positive interaction with someone from an OEM who is listening, the post-show value of Meet-The-Buyer is much less clear.
The value of researching and understanding the supply chain and procurement hierarchy for OEMs you wish to supply cannot be understated. Supplier lists are rationalising and OEMs are always seeking to deal with large Risk Sharing Partners and Primes. This means that you also need to map out and set up meetings OEM’s first & second tier suppliers as well. You may be able to establish yourself as a direct niche supplier to an OEM, although this is less common.
Which are the best days to attend Farnborough?
For business, the tradeshow runs from Monday to Thursday; but Tuesday & Wednesday tend to be the busiest days. You should bear in mind that Monday can often be a slow start because many European attendees do not arrive at the air show until late Monday afternoon, however if you do have a prospective client, or contact that will be there on Monday it can be a good time to meet as they’re likely to be less busy.
Farnborough opens daily from 9.30am to 5.30pm, with the exception of Monday, when it opens from 10am to 4pm. We suggest you get there early.
Trade tickets for the show are available through the official Farnborough website. If you are travelling with a trade delegation, or you are a member of a trade association, it may be possible to get discounted tickets – you will need to contact your association or delegation organiser directly for more information. If you purchase tickets via the Farnborough website you will need to buy a ticket for each day that you intend to visit.
Exhibitors can buy reserved parking spaces located nearer to the main exhibition area than general parking. Contact Farnborough International for more information.
How to Get to Farnborough and Where to Stay
The best way to get to the air show very much depends on where you choose to stay. Farnborough International is held in Hampshire, England, which is just over an hour’s drive from central London – without traffic. During Farnborough week it can take anything up to 3 hours from central London by car. If it is your first time attending the show and you are visiting from overseas, it may be easier to stay in central London or near Heathrow Airport – travelling to the show daily via train or coach.
Hotels close to the show often get booked one to two years in advance and prices can be tripled. Unless you’ve booked a hotel already, here are some options:
- Stay in central London – travel each day via train or coach.
- Stay near London Heathrow Airport and take an Express coach – coaches depart every 30mins and go straight to the air show. You can also take the train from Heathrow and this takes just over an hour.
- Stay in one of Farnborough’s outlying towns and travel by road or train. Towns you might consider – Camberley, Farnham, Guildford, Woking, Fleet, Reading and Bracknell. Hotels can be booked via hotels.com.
Free shuttle buses for ticket holders run regularly to and from the 3 train stations near to the event. These are: Farnborough North (FNN), Farnborough Main (FNB) and Aldershot (AHT). Train tickets to these train stations (from around the UK) are available here.
Evening Events in Central London
Some organisations (Embassies/High Commissions/OEMs) organise evening dinner/drinks in central London at the end of the day. If you’ve been invited to attend a function, it is worth considering this when you book accommodation. Travelling to central London in the evening for dinner and then returning to a hotel near to Farnborough may be tiring.
If Your Travel By Car
If you drive we’d suggest using the Gate I entrance & car park; this entrance is generally much quieter and it is accessible via junction 4a of the M3 Motorway. I-Gate is located at the western end of Farnborough’s runway, just off the A323 Fleet Road. You can view the entrance location on google maps. Once parked there is a shuttle bus that will take you to the air show’s main entrance.
Parking Cost: General parking is free and included in the ticket price.
During the Show
The Airshow takes place adjacent to the runway at Farnborough Airport (Note: you cannot fly into Farnborough by plane during the event). The show encompasses four large exhibition halls, numerous chalets and a static air display. A plan of the site, along with floor plans of the exhibition halls, is available here (Farnborough International website).
Where to Have Meetings
Meetings can be held throughout the day, and usually take place informally at exhibition stands, cafes & coffee shops. If you want a more formal meeting you can book a table or reserve a seat for lunch at the Skyview restaurant (email: [email protected]) or alternatively Flightline Corporate Hospitality offer a silver service lunch (email: [email protected]). Exhibitors are also able to book meeting rooms with the event organisers.
The Daily Air Display – It gets noisey
A flying display takes place daily between 2.15pm and 4.45pm (1.30pm-4pm Monday). During the air display the exhibition halls empty out and it can get rather noisey, which is something to bear in mind.
Afternoon Networking Events
Drinks and nibbles events often occur late afternoon at the Airshow’s various pavilions – if you attend, or are invited to one of these events, it will likely dictate the time you leave the show. Although the show closes officially at 5.30pm, it’s not unusual to overrun if you go for drinks and nibbles. Some organisations also arrange dinner evenings/functions in central London.
Practical tips for attending:
- Wear comfortable shoes; Farnborough is a big event, not only in terms of its role in the aerospace calendar but also in terms of its physical size. With over 1500 companies exhibiting, there are four large indoor halls; numerous chalets and a static aircraft display stretching a large portion of the runway. On some days you could be walking 8 miles or more, so wear the most well worn shoes you have and get some good blister plasters.
- Carry as little as possible; unless you have an exhibition space, or you know someone who you can leave your bag with, only take what you absolutely need – there aren’t any lockers / places to store your bags during the event so you’ll need to carry them with you.
- Always check the weather forecast for the following day. Although Farnborough takes place during the middle of summer, don’t forget it’s in England and anything is possible – especially rain!
- Mobile / Cell Phones Reception; With thousands of people in one location it isn’t surprising that the mobile phone networks tend to get extremely busy at times during the air show. Be prepared for this and call the people you want to meet early in the day to confirm your meeting time.
If a Contact Isn’t Attending – Go to visit them
You can get even more out of Farnborough week by visiting potential clients and contacts that aren’t at the show. Although many businesses send their sales teams and key people to Farnborough, sometimes the person you really want to see isn’t attending. Taking the opportunity to visit a contact at their premises always sends a good message.
Most UK businesses can easily be reached by road or rail from Farnborough and many European cities are a short hop (1-2 hours) from London’s Heathrow airport. As Tuesday & Wednesday tend to be the busiest days at the show, consider scheduling meetings outside of Farnborough on Thursday and Friday. If you’re travelling long haul to attend Farnborough week it can make your entire trip much more cost effective.
Follow up Leads After the Show
Follow-up is a key part of the sales process and it’s no different for Farnborough than after any other trade show or event. It’s estimated that something like 80% of leads at tradeshows are never followed up – so it’s essential that you chase any leads and re-establish contact following Farnborough week.
If you’re new to the European Market, Farnborough is a starting point and will enable you to build your European contacts network, which in turn will lead to sales opportunities or business partnerships when properly leveraged.
It’s not uncommon for businesses to get referred to electronic procurement portals (websites) when they make general enquiries or approaches to larger organisations. If you do hit a brick wall after the show, consider using your contacts network or employing a local representative who will have awareness of the supply chain and procurement hierarchy – and should be able to put you in touch with the right people or help to win work on your behalf.
European Contacts May be on Holiday Following the Show
Because Farnborough takes place during the summer, many people from Nordic businesses (Sweden/Finland/Denmark etc.) are just returning from their annual holidays, whilst individuals from many other European businesses (UK/France/Germany etc.) are on the cusp of going on holiday – this is something to keep in mind when you are trying to follow up leads.
If you are trying to make contact with a British/German/Spanish/French/Italian organisation it is quite possible that your contact may be on holiday at some point after the air show. School holidays in Europe usually occur from July – September making this the busiest holiday season. Don’t be put off by a lack of response. Try to make initial contact early, but then be prepared to follow up during September.
Tip: When you talk to a lead during Farnborough week try to understand what their schedule will be during the next 4-6 weeks.
Westworld Consulting will be supporting clients throughout Farnborough Airshow Week – providing professional representation and business development services at the air show. For more information click here.
Have you got any of your own tips or suggestions for Farnborough attendees? Let us know in the comments below.