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Epic Mentoring: Delta Airlines Sparks Mile-High Chats

The airline's new Innovation Class marketing program hooks up experts in a field with people who could really learn from them—a move that screams "steal this idea."

The airline’s new Innovation Class marketing program hooks up experts in a field with people who could really learn from them—a move that screams “steal this idea.”

Let’s say you have a world-renowned expert in your association’s ranks.

What if you hooked them up with someone who’s still new to the industry, but who has a lot of potential? And what if you just put them in a spot where they couldn’t get away from one another for a couple hours—say, an airplane? Sounds like a good opportunity for a conversation, doesn’t it?

If this sounds like a fascinating idea to you, look closely at Delta Airlines’ newest marketing effort, which does essentially this. Delta Innovation Class, a mentoring program at 35,000 feet, aims to get top-of-their-game entrepreneurs together with people who could really use the advice—with free first-class tickets for each, to boot.

The airline, which announced the plan Monday, started off with a master inventor—Eric Migicovsky, the creator of the Pebble smart watch—who gave interaction designer James Patten a lot of insight as the duo headed to the TED conference this month. The airline offered up a video of the interaction, shown above.

“It’s very rare to get a chance to sit down with someone in that sort of position and talk about whatever you want,” Patten said of the experience in the video. “Had we met in another context we probably would have had, at most,a five-minute conversation.”

Next up, Sean Brock, the executive chef at two Charleston, South Carolina, restaurants—Husk and McCrady’s—will be headed to New York for the James Beard Awards on May 5, and the airline is accepting applications via LinkedIn for potential seat partners. And after that, Delta will do something similar for Disrupt, the annual conference put on by TechCrunch, though the airline has yet to name the entrepreneur.

Think you could steal something from this strategy for your own organization? Tell us about it in the comments.

Pebble smart watch inventor Eric Migicovsky and interaction designer James Patten shoot the breeze. (YouTube screenshot)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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