Pamela represented The Vella Group at the 2023 Mackinac Policy Conference two weeks ago and shares her perspective on what makes this annual event special. She has attended the conference regularly over the last 10 years.
Ah, the magic of Mackinac. Every year, thousands converge upon picturesque Mackinac Island in northern Michigan for two full days, sometimes three. They talk shop, assess our state’s quality of life, compare Michigan to other states, hear from influencers and discuss collaboration. They meet new people, some they’ll likely never see again, eat great food, socialize and take in the beauty and meticulous landscape of the historic Grand Hotel, where the conference takes place.
As a conference attendee, you have to experience at least three modes of transportation before ever arriving at your hotel. Car or plane, ferry, then horse and buggy. For me, I prefer a bicycle upon arrival. I don’t wait well on horses.
There’s something special about this conference, mostly attended by southeast Michiganians. This year, you could find yourself standing next to Governor Whitmer (I’m resisting calling her Big Gretch), Mark Cuban, Liz Cheney, Fareed Zakaria, Fortune 500 company presidents, politicians (past and present), former colleagues and other people you’ve long admired and respected.
For first timers, the experience can be overwhelming. It’s best to have a goal and strategy in mind. Afterall, this rodeo is not inexpensive. If you purchase the list of attendees, plan in advance who you want to meet and what you want to say. Your elevator speech is important. You should be able to share what you’re currently doing and why they should care in about 30 seconds – even for those with whom you have long-standing relationships. If the conversation continues, you’ve captured their interest. And remember, don’t take a quick hello personally. People are moving around, sometimes at a frantic pace, because there are lots of people to see and things to do.
This year seemed to have a different energy. Perhaps it was the post-COVID excitement of no required vaccinations and fear of contracting a virus. Perhaps it was the young attendees, excited to finally be invited to the party. Perhaps it was the diversity of the participants and session topics. Perhaps it was just the magic.
Whatever your goal, Mackinac awaits you with open arms and lots of opportunities. Some attendees indulge in the hectic pace of back-to-back sessions, unending meetings, social events and political fundraisers, while others come to the island to hang out, make new connections, schedule meetings, socialize at the many after-dark gatherings and network with friends. I find it well worth the effort and exhaustion.
And when you return home, rest up and follow up with all your potential prospects. What happens next can turn into magic. It’s Pure Magical Michigan.
About the Mackinac Policy Conference
The Mackinac Policy Conference – the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual statewide event – convenes Michigan’s most influential audience to engage in collaborative dialogue on the state’s economic future. Since 1981, the Conference has provided a unique-in-the-nation experience for Michigan’s top business, government, civic, philanthropic and entrepreneurial leaders. As Michigan’s premier policy event, the Conference attracts more than 1,500 attendees annually to discuss key issues facing the state. The Conference concludes with an actionable To-Do List that transforms dialogue into positive outcomes to create a more business-friendly climate in Michigan. To learn more, visit detroitchamber.com/mpc.