Commentary: Forum 80 - Your Executive Director's Perspective

Forum 80 — Your Executive Director's Perspective

By Angelo Collins
VFS Executive Director

From Vertiflite, July/August 2024

Commentary by Angelo Collins, VFS Executive DirectorReaching a new decade is a milestone that any organization can pride itself on. The unbroken chain of Forums is now 80 years long, all thanks to the hard work and dedication that we all contribute to create the world’s leading international technical event on vertical flight. It really is something to celebrate.

The first Forum that I had the honor of attending was Forum 67 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in 2011. It was a simpler time, where my eyes were wide and my words few, just trying to take it all in. My fondest memories include listening to the great orator, Rhett Flater, speak the opening general session and Awards Banquet for his final Forum as Executive Director; when I won the Bernard Lindenbaum Historical Paper Award for the paper I coauthored with Dr. Gordon Leishman; and meeting so many new faces, who have since become familiar friends.

Among other firsts, Forum 80 was the first under my lead as Executive Director. Only when you experience something firsthand can you truly appreciate the hard work and persistence required to have a staff of eight put on an international event with some 1,150 attendees and hundreds of speakers and presentations. We also need to thank our many volunteers from the technical committees, the student volunteers, and the local Montreal–Ottawa Chapter for their support leading up to and during the week of the Forum. I feel confident in saying that the Vertical Flight Society has more passionate and active volunteers than any other related professional organization, hands down, and I could see this firsthand as Executive Director of my first Forum.

A significant challenge was scheduling all 10 technical session tracks plus the special session track — 11 sessions in parallel. 

The VFS staff is already brainstorming ahead of Forum 81 — which will be returning to Virginia Beach next May — to improve the cadence of sessions, allow for longer breaks and for more opportunities for attendees to visit the exhibit hall and network with colleagues. As I discussed during the Awards Banquet, this could mean shifting content, such as specific awards, to the Opening General Session, moving the Awards Banquet to the evening as a dinner instead of a breakfast, or even starting some activities on Monday afternoon. We are always open to feedback, and if you did not have a chance to respond to the survey, my lines of communication are always open.

In addition to improving our scheduling and program layout, we aim to enhance other aspects of the Annual Forum. These include expanded sponsorship opportunities, improved social, mentorship and networking activities, expanded exhibitor prospects and career fair–style hiring opportunities. One example of an expanded sponsorship opportunity during Forum 80 was the Student Volunteer and Local University Sponsorship, where Bell Textron met with and presented to over 150 students who attended as volunteers or were from local universities, obtained their resumes and had the opportunity to connect firsthand. We plan to offer this sponsorship again at Forum 81 with local universities. We welcome creative sponsorship opportunities from all of our corporate members, so do not hesitate to make a suggestion. VFS is open and receptive to your ideas!

As I have mentioned in previous commentaries, I am humbled and honored to have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of giants who laid the groundwork for the 79 preceding Forums and established our traditions, awards and processes that we still follow today. I look forward to our future Forums together as a Society, honoring the past but also laying the foundation for progress along the way.

Thank you to everyone who attended Forum 80. We hope that even more of our members can take advantage of all of the benefits of Forum 81 next year in Virginia Beach!

This commentary is also available as a pdf.

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Posted: 2024-06-18