The Power of Convening
By Dan Dumbacher|January 2023
Happy New Year! It certainly feels like 2023 is starting strong for the Institute. Our members and staff are planning our first event of the year – the 2023 AIAA SciTech Forum – when we’ll gather in National Harbor, Maryland, 23–27 January, for what is proving to be the largest assembly of technical presentations we have ever offered. The Exposition Hall will be full of the leading companies in aerospace showcasing a range of transformative products and technologies, including some great new surprises. And we anticipate a crowd that rivals pre-pandemic levels. It’s going to be an outstanding event!
The intensity of your energy and participation is exciting to witness. What is causing this renewed swell of activity? Most likely it’s due to a combination of professional and human needs. As engineers and scientists, we need to move our community’s interests forward. As human beings, we need to be with one another, having emerged from the pandemic when we had to refrain from gathering. We appreciate these chances to assemble now more than ever.
From the earliest days of our predecessor organizations more than 90 years ago, the convening of technical and scientific professionals to share knowledge and discovery has been one of our primary purposes. Back then we were establishing the foundation of our profession in aviation and space. Those who preceded us exchanged ideas, debated theories, and shared research results – always driving the profession forward. It is vital that the AIAA technical communities continue this in-person gathering for the personal feedback given and received from peers in our disciplines. We hone our craft with the input of others. It is the very lifeblood of AIAA events.
Today, AIAA convenes the international aeronautics and astronautics community frequently every year, with the same goals for our gatherings, while also offering the broadest combination of programs and opportunities for professional advancement than ever before. AIAA is continuing to deliver on our role – and our responsibility – to bring the community together.
One of the AIAA Core Values is resilience – we knew our in-person community gatherings would be coming back after the pandemic, although we didn’t know the exact timing. Because human beings are social animals, we thrive on being together – whether we are introverts or extroverts. We depend on each other. Further, there is strength when we are together. As anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” Across the aerospace community, we have been changing society and the world, bringing benefits to everyone on Earth – and we must continue.
2022 ASCEND was a great example of the revived enthusiasm for in-person attendance at events. The crowd doubled from the previous year, to more than 1,100 people in Las Vegas. We heard from attendees that a few factors were key drivers for their in-person attendance: hearing from industry thought leaders, networking for collaboration, and holding business development conversations. Our first opportunity in the new year to gather with a focus on accelerating the space ecosystem will be at 2023 ASCENDxTexas in Houston, Texas, 29–30 March. We launched this in-person event during 2022 to a full crowd who were thrilled to assemble to drive momentum toward outcomes.
During the past year, we have been witnessing a shift in the meeting industry on the format of events, the specific content presented, and the overall curated experience. Meeting attendees are expecting a more immersive experience from events where they choose to invest their travel time and budget. AIAA’s events are squarely in the midst of this transformational time, with the staff and volunteer members embracing the chance to invigorate our gatherings in dynamic ways. They continue to review forum and event attendee feedback after each one of our gatherings, focusing on continuous improvement to deliver the most meaningful experiences possible. You can count on AIAA events throughout the coming year to deliver the distinctive energy and experiences our members and our community need.
Consider this message a personal invitation on a professional scale. You are cordially invited to exchange ideas with one another, debate theories, and share your research results all year long. Bring your curiosity when you join your fellow AIAA members at forums and events. Dive into the awesome and awe-inspiring opportunities that are available to shape the future of aerospace. Let’s start strong and finish stronger in 2023.