Shaping the Future: Digital GroundStar User Forum 2021

by Jan Uphues

What a show! This year's Digital GroundStar User Forum presented a benchmark of what many events of the future could look like.

It started at the end of September: Three days of events, 12 hours of a thematically broad agenda, and additional interaction opportunities. These were some of the goals set for the new edition of the online event. Spoiler alert: they have all been reached! Compared to last year, INFORM has stepped up a gear and spent three quarters of a year planning and organizing. The effort was considerably greater, but it was worth it. Not only was the program itself top-notch, but also the staging and interactivity. Whereas last year's first edition of the User Forum was more of a short-term solution to the postponed live User Conference, this time a conscious decision was made to plan an online event that would stand on its own. This was also reflected in the attendance figures. There were approximately 350 participants at the Digital GroundStar User Forum, three times that of the last edition.

Planning with Time Zones

As with many prior live events, the event started with a so-called "Welcome Reception," a virtual and informal get-together where participants could meet and exchange ideas the day before the official opening. And they did so twice as we were happy to offer a set-up for our customers in the Eastern and the Western hemispheres catering for the world’s diverse time zones. In general, taking the time differences into account was an important part of this year’s event planning.

"From the beginning, our goal was to enable as many customers as possible to participate at convenient times," says Uschi Schulte-Sasse, host and SVP of INFORM Aviation. "It was important to us that our customers could directly share their experiences with us and other customers and describe their situation and challenges."

For this purpose, a virtual exhibition area was created. Similar to previous live events, it was an area where attendees could exchange ideas with experts on various topics related to products and solutions. For the first time, there was also a sustainability and innovation booth, where a new special topic was offered after each presentations session. The daily sessions ran from 09:00 to 11:30 a.m. and from 04:00-06:30 p.m. (CEST). This provided a wide time window for participants from different time zones to attend as many sessions as possible.

General Topic: The Future of the Industry

Thematically, the overarching theme of the future of the aviation industry played an essential role. This included a detailed update from INFORM product management on the most important new developments in the GroundStar Suite. Above all, a lot of emphasis was placed on letting customers speak for themselves again. There was, for instance, a live interview with SATS in Singapore on the full remote implementation process together with INFORM. On the topic of autonomous driving devices, there was a parallel live talk from the INFORM Studio in Aachen to partners in the USA, Canada, Japan and Stuttgart Airport in southern Germany. Project team members from IndiGo also reported live from Gurugram near New Delhi together with INFORM on their joint project experiences and outstanding contributions were also provided by American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. More specialized, but nevertheless important topics such as air cargo were also discussed in dedicated sessions together with e.g., IAG Cargo.

When the last curtain fell, and the final goodbye transmission was complete, relief spread: Everything went well. There were no major technical disruptions. And above all, there was a lot of positive feedback regarding the content presented. Everyone was enthusiastic about the thematic diversity and the smooth running of the event.

"An online event definitely has its advantages," sums up Uschi Schulte-Sasse. "It enables our customers to make best use of their time and pick out exactly the points that interest them from the entire program. This choice with little effort makes such formats attractive for us and the customers also in the future."

See You Next Year in Seattle!

While digital events can be very successful as the Digital GroundStar User Forum proved, there is no substitute for personal contact. “We're all already looking forward to the 11th GroundStar User Conference, which will take place next year in Seattle – live and face-to-face," added Schulte-Sasse.

What do you wish for in next year’s GroundStar User Conference in Seattle? Do you think online events will be the future? Or do you prefer face-to-face communication? Share your opinion with us!



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About the author

  • Jan Uphues

    Jan Uphues started working as Marketing Manager in INFORM’s Aviation Division in 2018. He particularly enjoys the “Max Thrust!” moment on the runway.

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