Flying high with 2023 SITE Global Conference keynote speaker Amelia Rose Earhart

The Saturday of SITE Global Conference 2023 began with a keynote presentation that took us to all corners of the globe thanks to our speaker, Amelia Rose Earhart.

Over the course of her address, Amelia talked us through an around-the-world airplane journey she made in 2014 that closely followed a path initially charted by her namesake, the original Amelia Earhart, back in 1937.

A central theme of Amelia’s talk explored how venturing out to do things that we love also involves certain risks. Though this Amelia’s global circumnavigation proved successful and she landed safely back in Oakland at the end of her trip, Amelia spoke to the importance of tenacity and the ability to navigate turbulence when challenges arise and plans change.

Amelia ultimately shared a few key “flight lessons” she uses to help make sense of these twists and turns, that can also help incentive professionals successfully navigate turbulent business climates.

Flight lesson #1: show up as pilot in command

Amelia attributed her around-the-world success in part to having done her research well in advance of each step in her journey. She shared, for instance, how she’d worked out the calculations for modifying the plane she wanted to travel in before approaching the manufacturer with specific requests.

She was also prepared to clearly articulate the value her journey would bring to the plane manufacturer’s brand, assuring the team this was a strong way to demonstrate support for women interested in aviation careers. Amelia also knew the stories she wanted to tell throughout her experience, especially connected to her namesake and the original Amelia’s legacy.

It’s about knowing what forces affect you, advised Amelia, pointing out that in every flight, crews must account for the opposing forces of lift vs. drag, and gravity vs. thrust when deciding how to pilot their aircraft.

It’s the same in business, Amelia said. When headwinds come our way, it’s crucial to identify where and when you need to burn more energy to power through challenges, and just as important to recognize when you can enjoy the “tailwinds” and reduce your load.

Flight lesson #2: explore all 360 degrees of the compass

When you’re in the air, you’re rarely truly flying “true north,” said Amelia during her keynote.

Despite top business authors frequently advising teams and C-suite leaders to be mindful of their metaphorical “true north” when determining strategies, Amelia instead coached those in the audience to stay open to routes that expand in all directions.

Place yourself at the center of your own personal compass, said Amelia, and get comfortable with living a life that’s about “course correction” instead of only flying in a single direction.

Staying open to “unusual headings” allows you change paths at any time, she added, and ensures your life remains flexible. Tap into data to back your decisions and enjoy the journey toward finding more favorable airspace that keeps you on a path to your final goal destination.

Flight lesson #3: aviate, navigate, communicate  

When things go wrong, this is the order Amelia recommends to get plans back on track. No matter what happens, she said, pilots are trained to keep flying the airplane (or “aviate”) above all else. Hands stay on the controls, and the plane stays airborne.

Amelia also reiterated the importance of tapping into that “pilot in command” mentality from her first lesson, and use resources at your disposal to navigate through turbulence. Think about the information you have at hand — especially what you’re fed from an outside perspective with more immediate distance from the situation, as your own personal “air traffic control” system, and make decisions accordingly, she heeded.  

Once you’ve navigated to your decision, only then should you communicate your course of action, Amelia finished with. She noted that when you communicate first, what often comes out is pure panic. It’s understandable, especially in an emergency, to react this way — but keep flying your plane and avoid losing your control!

Whether you want to channel the passenger, pilot, or air traffic control personas Amelia spoke about, or were simply inspired by her personal journey around the world, this was a sky-high success of a keynote that no doubt left our community with plenty of optimism about the blue skies ahead for incentive travel.

Extra "flight lessons" for our SITE GC attendees from Amelia


Photos by Francesco Lo Campo

Written by

Sydney Nolan

Sydney Nolan


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