KASSIDY GALA CARPENTER
Kassidy Gala Carpenter is the manager of trade shows and events for the business and general aviation segment of World Fuel Services Corp. She joined the marketing team in 2013 as the graphic designer and moved into her current role in 2017. Prior to World Fuel, Gala Carpenter held positions at InStyle and Tennis magazines, and she has collaborated on events ranging from the Golden Globes to Wimbledon.
Nobody wants to hear about a midflight collision at 30,000 feet – or at any altitude for that matter. That's the sort of nightmare situation that makes an air traffic controller's job one of the most stressful in the world. But some would say that maintaining the smooth flow of aircraft into and out of airports pales in comparison to Kassidy Gala Carpenter's task of piloting a fleet of 72 individual booths within a shared space as large as a Boeing 747 at the National Business Aviation Association's 2018 Schedulers and Dispatchers Conference in Long Beach, CA. That alone is a massive enough undertaking for even the most stalwart, but she increased the ante with a sponsored welcome reception and an off-site customer- appreciation party. And that's all while juggling the other 150 annual shows and events Gala Carpenter manages for World Fuel Services Corp., the Fortune 500 aviation, marine, and land fuel and logistics supplier that annually distributes 7.9 billion gallons of jet fuel across the globe. Now that's a lot of balls to keep aloft while avoiding midair collisions that could send everything crashing down.
The three-day conference is as important to World Fuel as extra legroom is to a coach passenger in an emergency exit row for three reasons. First, the more than 2,800 scheduler and dispatcher attendees represent key decision-makers in the business aviation industry, i.e., the field that caters to enterprises maintaining at least one aircraft for corporate travel. These schedulers and dispatchers determine, among other logistics, which of the more than 6,000 worldwide private airports with fixed-base operators (FBOs) to land at for refueling and other services. World Fuel benefits when schedulers route company flights through its network of more than 3,500 affiliate FBOs for which it supplies fuel and logistics. Second, since many affiliate FBOs exhibit at the conference, World Fuel wants to ensure their success to maintain an open pipeline for its own products. And third, some exhibitors are unaffiliated FBOs that the supplier would like to tuck under its wing. "At this show, more than any other time during the year, we have a chance to touch base with more customers and prospects," Gala Carpenter says. "For new and existing customers, it's a chance to let them know all about the solutions we have to offer. Plus, it's a great opportunity for our FBO sales teams to attract new clients."
However, World Fuel's supply network is largely invisible to schedulers because many FBOs are independent operators that don't directly represent the supplier. So several years ago, World Fuel created a shared pavilion to hangar its affiliate FBOs in one spot, a move that directed attendees to the network of providers as effectively as runway lights. Despite the strength in numbers, convincing FBOs to cohabit the shared space is no slam dunk, since some fear they risk losing individual branding opportunities – a concern Gala Carpenter is committed to addressing. "My goal is to provide each co-exhibitor its own sense of identity," Gala Carpenter says, "yet from a general attendee perspective, give the clear, immediate impression that our rows are all part of the same global network."
Gala Carpenter's goal was to give each of World Fuel Services Corp.'s co-exhibitors a sense of identity while making it clear they were part of the same global network.
To that end, Gala Carpenter promises FBOs a stress-free solution. "It's a turnkey process for them. We do all the preparations, the graphics, the logistics of lead generation,
efforts to drive traffic to the row, entertainment, catering – they only need to bring staffers and any giveaways and collateral," Gala Carpenter says. This no-headache approach has proven so enticing to FBOs that the 2018 pavilion expanded into what was essentially a show within a show that occupied two entire aisles (four rows) of the exhibit hall involving 68 10-by-10s for participating FBOs and one 20-by-20-foot and three 10-by-20-foot exhibits dedicated to World Fuel's offerings.
Of course, while FBOs got to sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight, Gala Carpenter began prepping for takeoff months in advance. She and her team first developed the pavilion's theme, The Network for Your World, and set about designing the space. Each adjacent aisle would feature an arched entrance facing the lobby with the left arch branded for World Fuel and the right branded for the Air Elite booths representing the company's top-tier FBOs. Waist-high LED video installations along the front of the pavilion would display content showcasing World Fuel's flight operation and FBO services, all intended to conspicuously brand the space as part of a consolidated network.
Inside the pavilion, each 10-by-10 balanced the need for individual FBO identities with the unifying theme. All shared the same design and elements, e.g., a fabric backdrop, a 40-inch monitor, a table, and a table skirt. The back-wall graphics featured World Fuel's logo in the upper right-hand corner along with the unique FBO name, a photo of its facility, and a place-marker icon pinpointing the airport's location on a large globe. "All backdrops and graphics also contained what we call the 'blue thread' element to connect everything visually," Gala Carpenter says. "The blue graphic thread lined up perfectly and formed a continuous wave down the length of the row, creating unity among the exhibits." The monitor in each stand ran a looping video that highlighted the FBO's amenities, and finishing flourishes included 6-inch LED-lit globes that hovered at the aisle-side corners of every exhibit with the assistance of opposing magnets.
With the space's design prepped, Gala Carpenter punched the afterburners. In the closing weeks, she helped FBOs finalize their backdrops and videos and coordinated scores of emails to co-exhibitors addressing logistics such as housing, transportation, and inbound and outbound shipping. Together with Amy Parsons, World Fuel's digital production manager, she orchestrated a robust three-week email-marketing campaign that would hopefully land more attendees inside the pavilion.
Free to Roam About the Cabin
Before World Fuel could take off, Gala Carpenter had to ensure that the pavilion's 72 exhibits were set up within a tight 13-hour window – a time frame that necessitated an all-hands-on-deck collaboration between her on-site team and her exhibit house, MC2, an MCH Group AG company. Anticipating this potential logistical logjam, Gala Carpenter switched all the backdrops to pillowcase fabrics. In past years, she had used time-consuming vinyl and PVC backdrops that needed to be hung with grommets, painstakingly straightened, and stitched in the middle. The pillowcase backdrops, on the other hand, went up so easily and required so little finessing that Gala Carpenter cut her team loose two hours early to head back to the hotel and prepare for the welcome reception that evening, a feat she'd never accomplished before. "Allowing the sales team to show up showered and ready to crush it on the show floor rather than worn out from having to stress about getting the rows set up was a gigantic win," she says.
So with a crew of refreshed staffers instead of ones looking like they'd just crawled off the red-eye, World Fuel sponsored the conference's two-hour welcome reception in the exhibit hall. "This allowed us to put out our signage and branding welcoming all the attendees," Gala Carpenter says. "As attendees entered the hall, we handed out a welcome bracelet with a card attached to be redeemed for the Your World passport at the World Fuel booth the following day and directed them to our booths and our own reception on night one." Within the pavilion, Cirque du Soleil performers bedazzled visitors with acrobatics every 15 minutes while onlookers enjoyed refreshments. Attendees also posed with playful props in front of a green screen photo op that instantly placed them at the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Wall, and other famous landmarks.
When showgoers returned to the World Fuel pavilion the following day, they swung into one of the company's 10-by-20-foot exhibits just inside the arched entrances. Here they nabbed access passes to that evening's happy hour and received their Your World passports, each of which was equipped with a unique Quick Response code that helped World Fuel collect visitor data. The passport program was designed to incentivize attendees to engage as many FBOs as possible with the promise of rewards. Visitors were told that staffers at each destination would affix a branded sticker to their passports. The passports could then be turned in at a World Fuel booth and redeemed for prizes ranging from T-shirts to backpacks based on the number of stickers collected.
A post-show survey of co-exhibitors found that 100 percent of respondents believed that exhibiting with World Fuel was the best option for promoting their businesses.
At each FBO exhibit, booth staffers engaged prospects about their offerings and scanned passports using a Zuant app that downloaded each visitor's information for follow-up. Gala Carpenter also encouraged FBOs to woo more potential clients by outfitting staffers in iconic regional get-ups. Taking her advice, one Canadian-based staffer dressed as a Mountie, while staffers from London-based Harrods Aviation Ltd. looked ready for a stroll down the city's famed Savile Row in their bowler hats, double-breasted suits, and matching umbrellas. "An attendee could walk down our row and go from the Caribbean to London to Australia, all within our global network," Gala Carpenter says. As promised, staffers slapped a sticker on each passport and encouraged visitors to leave a business card. Hitting up more destinations and dropping more cards increased attendees' chances of winning each day when World Fuel staff collected the cards and drew for prizes including Veuve Clicquot champagne and Apple watches.
To stave off passenger jet lag, Mr. and Mrs. Network for Your World, two World Fuel employees decked out in regalia fit for royalty, strolled the aisles, greeted attendees, and distributed more giveaways. The green screen photo op remained open for business, and if attendees found themselves craving some in-flight refreshments, they could drop by the World Coffee Bar for a latte or cup of joe. Any visitors finding a moment's respite in the MyWorld Lounge could take the opportunity to demo the new myWorld app, designed to make attendees' jobs easier by consolidating flight planning, fuel procurement, and weather applications into a single platform connected to the global network. And before they decamped for the day, visitors cashed in their passports for their departing gifts. "This is the best example of a show within a show that I've ever seen," said one All-Star Awards judge. "Everything was well-branded, well-defined, and well-executed."
But Gala Carpenter wasn't quite ready to touch down. On the second night of the conference, World Fuel hosted the Network for Your World customer-appreciation party at the nearby Federal Bar, where it provided hors d'oeuvres and drinks to about 600 people. "This was one more opportunity for our sales team and our co-exhibitors to invite their customers and continue developing relationships," Gala Carpenter says. A prize patrol offered attendees opportunities to draw for even more giveaways, and Gala Carpenter also managed to compile all of the green screen photos into a slideshow that looped on the bar's monitors for an added dash of whimsy.
Before the last attendee disembarked the conference, Gala Carpenter had the data to prove that the pavilion was a high-flying success in attracting showgoers and meeting the needs of the affiliate FBOs. Across the three days, more than 4,200 business cards from 1,126 unique companies were collected in the pavilion. That amounted to 40 percent of show attendees, an increase of 25 percent compared to the 2017 conference.
Perhaps more importantly, a post-show survey of co-exhibiting FBOs found that 100 percent of respondents believed exhibiting with World Fuel was the best option for promoting their businesses at the show and that the shared presence was a better value than exhibiting on their own up from an 80- to 90-percent satisfaction rate in previous years. The co-exhibitors' actions were even more valuable than their responses. Soon after the show, Gala Carpenter had already filled 75 percent of World Fuel's space for 2019, a 50-percent increase from the previous year's commitments at the same time. Within the next several weeks, the rest of the spots were reserved, and a waitlist was started for FBOs wanting to join the next pavilion. With enthusiasm like that, Gala Carpenter proved that when she's managing the logistics, you're always cleared for takeoff. E