By Vanessa Denha-Garmo // Founder, Epiphany Communications & Coaching
With the sounds of horses click clacking in the background and the aroma of fudge in the air, hundreds of movers and shakers congregated in northern Michigan for what has been touted as one of the State’s premier networking events.
I have been attending the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference since the mid-90s. The first time I attended I was working as an editor of a local publishing company and then several years following, wore my WJR reporter’s hat and then the hat of the press secretary for the Wayne County Executive. Over the years, I have produced video clips, news stories, blogs, and vlogs of event happenings. In addition to sharing stories, I used the time to reconnect with old acquaintances and meet new people. The goal is to always attend the conference with a plan.
This year as I drove up, I decided to spend much more time listening instead of talking. I wanted to learn about people and their work. A key component to connecting with people is listening to learn.
Sometimes the art of networking is creating a buzz before your get to the island, which MIRA’s President and CEO, Bill Wild, did for several years as Mayor of Westland. He strategically placed billboards on I-75 just so conference goers can get a glimpse of his message before they hit the ferry docks.
One year, he brought along buttons with the message “My City Matters” to piggyback on his billboard message of “Your City Matters.” His message was about revenue sharing from the state and how cities are negatively impacted economically by the revenue sharing formula.
The messaging prompted dialogue on the island. That is part of the goal, to create conversations.
Wild has attended the conference more than a dozen times over the years and for the first time this year he attended as President and CEO of MIRA. “Every year I attend, it’s a little different; this year it was helpful to reconnect with people who I have known for years; I was able to share with them the work I am doing with MIRA while I transition from the public sector to the private sector.”
Often on the island attendees discuss plans to collaborate on projects. “It comes down to relationships,” said Wild. “This is a great opportunity to network with those with busy schedules. You get all the movers and shakers under one roof for a couple of days. Sometimes it could take you all year to schedule meetings with people you can have during this conference. No matter the size of your organization, no one is big enough to do it on their own. Collaboration is key. It really comes down to relationships and that is what has made this event so successful over the years.”
With each event, attendees can create their own networking style. “You fall back to your experience and what has worked for you in the past,” said Wild. “This year, I downloaded the app and looked at the attendee list before I got on the ferry to the island. I was able target who I wanted to connect with and possibly collaborate on future projects.”
Media also attends the conference every year, but earned media has become more challenging over the years with limited resources in newsrooms. While on the Island, Wild was able to talk about the future of gas stations and electric vehicles, as well as food desserts. “Issues we are addressing within the industry were part of the conversations at the conference,” said Wild. “Bottom line, if you are not at the table, you are on the menu.”
Vanessa Denha Garmo, founder of Epiphany Communications & Coaching is the Communications Strategist for MIRA. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Epiphany Communications & Coaching on Facebook.