It’s been a more that eventful year so far, despite the fact that there have been a lot of event cancellations and postponements. Our popular User Conference was also affected and needed to be rescheduled for the end of September 2021. Since we did not want our customers to miss out completely this year, from September 14-18, 2020, we held a Digital GroundStar User Forum.
There were many good reasons to schedule the User Forum, but one of the most important ones was that our products had developed greatly over the last two years, and we wanted to share these developments with our customers. In normal times, it takes approximately one year to organize a User Conference, from the first ideas and requests through to the last speech. This time, we had less than two months from the first kick-off meeting to the opening day. All decisions had to be made quickly regarding: what the presentations would be and who would be the presenters, what format would be used, and where and when exactly it would take place. Soon, all the decisions were made. Five topics would be presented over five days, from Monday to Friday. The program would open with a welcome address and conclude with an extensive Question and Answer-session. Every session was planned to last no longer than 60 minutes, from 04:00-05:00 p.m. CEST.
Technology is Key
In addition to defining the format details, a lot of technology had to be organized to ensure smooth and reliable operations. Once these details were satisfied, we could be confident in a kick-off to an engaging, informative event just as we promised our customers in the event invitation. Some organizational things were similar to our normal User Conferences, but there were more differences that had to be taken into consideration for this new format, such as: What would be the best time to broadcast to reach as many customers as possible? Do we need additional light in the broadcasting room? Will there be any noisy construction work during these days that would be disruptive to our conference?
We were curious about the actual registration numbers we would receive as we are aware that many customers are in a very different situation than just half a year ago. But, as we soon received more than 250 registrations, we saw that there was a continued interest. We even received registrations from far-flung areas like Hawaii in the U.S., New Zealand and Australia from which participants had to get up in the middle of the night to attend the sessions.
Preparation is everything
This interest gave us an additional motivation. We transformed a large meeting room and an office into temporary broadcasting facilities within just few days. As the opening day got closer, test runs took place which meant a steep learning curve for everyone. Just two days before the opening on September 14, many technical questions still had to be answered; a lesson we still had to learn, but many experienced stage performers already know: The dress rehearsal often needs to experience the bumps in order to deliver a good premiere. And that’s how it turned out for our User Forum. Right on the first day, more than 200 attendants joined us to learn more about “The GroundStar Suite - New Feature Highlights”. The additional topics presented during the week were:
- MyStaff: Operational Flow on the Go
- How to Strengthen Ground Operations and Keep Staff Safe During a Pandemic: A Digital Approach
- Machine Learning Opportunities
- GroundStar en route to Continuous Delivery
As in prior years, the entire event was moderated by Luis Alvarez, who came to a very positive conclusion stating, “Moderating the User Forum this time was actually a lot of fun because we had no visible audience. So we had to imagine speaking right in front of the people and at the same time it felt so much more intimate. We were among ourselves and when I was asking questions to my colleagues, I had them right in front of me, and we were pretty much alone in the room. So it was quite different.”
Uschi Schulte-Sasse, Senior Vice President of INFORM aviation, also emphasized the lessons learned for everyone. She said, “It was a lot of fun preparing everything. It was exciting, albeit a lot more work than we thought it would be. We’ve learned a lot and it got better from day to day.”
See you in Seattle 2021!
After the positive conclusion and the good experiences, it could actually go on like this, right? Well, not quite. As mentioned above, the next round of preparations for the new User Conference in Seattle will soon begin. Let's keep our fingers crossed that, in a year's time, we'll be able to meet face to face again with little or no restrictions – and celebrate together that we've made it through this challenging time. See you in Seattle on September 29, 2021!