Surekha Ragavan
May 21, 2018

Asia’s first in-flight conference takes off

The High Altitude Conference saw speakers take over the in-flight PA for engaging sessions with delegates.

Asia’s first in-flight conference takes off

Jetstar and Tech in Asia teamed up to organise a High Altitude Conference and networking session in an unusual setting – on a plane. Taking place on May 14 aboard a Jetstar flight from Jakarta to Singapore, the conference attracted some 80 attendees made up of delegates from start-ups and venture capitalists (VCs).

“We wanted to do something different, and we wanted to target business travelers. And no one else had done something like this before. From ideation to planning to the actual flight, it took about a year,” said Tyler Thia, PR manager at Jetstar Asia.

“We had to book out 80 to 90 seats on the flight and we had to do it really early because we weren’t sure how many would attend before we got all the names in.”

Non-conference passengers – who were sat at the back of the plane for less interruption – were sometimes confused but mostly amused at the occasional applause and excited chatter from conference delegates.

The in-flight segment was a teaser of Tech In Asia’s (TIA) two-day conference in Singapore last week. “In terms of TIA conferences, a big proportion of the start-ups come from Indonesia so they were already planning to fly into Singapore. That’s one of the main reasons we departed from Jakarta,” said Jacob Chee, VP of Sales at TIA.

“For us, the challenge was to connect with delegates very, very early and make sure that they’re booked for this particular flight.”

The program saw two speakers take over the in-flight communications for short sessions on how to thrive in the start-up world. Predictably, AV restrictions occur on a plane, and the organising team had to work with the (sometimes muffled) in-flight PA. But because the idea was novel and the sessions concise, attendees were hooked.

Before the sessions began, Chee initiated an ice-breaker where each delegate was handed a card with “Yes” and “No” on each side of it. They were then asked questions and expected to put up their responses using their cards.

The conference ended with a networking session where start-ups (seated in window seats) and VCs (seated in aisle seats) were encouraged to chat to each other. They then moved around the plane to extend their networking scope; this proved to be the most excitable part of the conference for most.

“I spent the night before doing research on all the VCs that were going to participate and were able to connect to the relevant investors on the flight. I think what is great about this setting is that you are all stuck in the plane, so no one can potentially escape your pitch!” said attendee Long Hoang, co-founder at FireVisor Systems.

As much as the conference content could’ve proven more effective in a traditional conference setting, attendees seemed to have bonded over the unique experience, and continued to talk about it after alighting the aircraft and well into the airport.


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