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Tips for Success at the Mackinac Policy Conference

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference is just around the corner (May 26-29), and since MCCI has had a presence there for over 20 years (nearly all of which I’ve attended myself) I wanted to share some do’s and don’t’s for conference goers… but I’ll start with the don’t’s:

  • Don’t pitch business to everybody! Running around the island shoving business cards in everyone’s face while obsessed with pitching business turns people off. They’ll eventually run when they see you coming. Relax and don’t focus on business development. Focus on interesting conversation with other people.
  • Don’t be ignorant! If you don’t show up for 75% of the formal speaking events, then you’ll have little in common to talk with attendees about. Know what’s going on. Interact with others about what they think of different messages, presentations, and points of view that are expressed. That makes it interesting and easy – and you’ll be more likely to have quality conversations.
  • Don’t drink too much! There is a ton of booze on the island, with open taps and open liquor bottles at no cost. Bars are open constantly. Remember, all that booze is not for you! Seeing a drunk or very tipsy person at the conference is disturbing and unseemly. If you want to be credible, have a good time – but not THAT good of a time.
  • Don’t spend most of your time working online! The conference features a terrific business media center, with no cost long distance, desktop computers, great internet bandwidth, etc. I’ve seen people spend two-thirds of their days in there, doing what they do at the office. Why drive to Mackinac if you’re doing what you always do? Do your online work in the early morning and late at night. The rest of the time, stay focused.
  • Do: Know your elevator message.  If someone asks what you or your company does, for goodness sake, don’t drone on about either. Develop two to three main messages you want people to walk away with when talking to you. Stick to these points. Don’t get bogged down in the details, just the highlights.
  • Do: Focus on cultivating relationships. This is one of the best networking opportunities you’ll have all year. Make sure you go out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to as many people as possible. (Tip: If you’re shy, use an opening line from the session you were just a part of. For example, “What did you think of the speaker? I thought they had a great point about…”.)
  • Do: Post on social media. Whether it’s for your personal or your company’s social channels, live-posting is a great idea. Not only does it document your learnings each day, it will allow you to engage with other attendees and media outlets instantly. (The conversation has already begun on Twitter via #MPC15.)
  • Do: Enjoy your surroundings. It’s a beautiful island, make sure you step out and see it a bit (especially if you haven’t visited before). You need to relax. Besides, when you’re laid back, but interested, great relationships can develop. When you’re wound too tight, people can smell it and won’t engage.

This year our Senior VP of PR/Marketing Communications Rich Donley will be at Mackinac supporting several of our clients, so make sure you say “Hi” to Rich. I’ll be with my grandkids in Santa Barbara this time around. (Mackinac is great, but those kids have me wrapped around their fingers!)

Enjoy your time on the island!


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