The Mackinac Policy Conference creates the environment to Naturally Network
By the mere nature of my career, I have had to learn an important skill – how to network. Over the years, I created a workshop on the very subject called Naturally Networking. It is now part of my consulting practice. The best place to test your networking skill is at the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference.
I started attending this annual event in the mid-90s as a reporter and have interviewed many leaders in politics and business over the years. Since 2010, I have attended as both the Co-publisher of the Chaldean News and as the Founder of Denha Media Group. I have had the pleasure of creating life-long colleagues and friends who I have met at the conference including some clients.
One client, Westland Mayor William R. Wild calls the Mackinac Policy Conference my Super Bowl.
Wearing the Chaldean News hat, I pen this column about the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Annual Conference, but not about what happened during the conference. That’s been reported already. For the purpose of this piece, I wanted to share some networking suggestions from some of Metro-Detroit’s talent.
“This conference is a gathering of 1600 people or more of Michigan’s top leadership and it is a great learning experience with great thought leadership we bring in from all parts of the country,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “We bring in a dozen of thought leaders and it is a tremendous learning opportunity. That is why we broadcast it live on DPTV, so we can open it up to everyone.”
Sometimes the art of networking is creating a buzz before your get to the island, which Westland Mayor William Wild has done for several years. He has strategically placed billboards on I 75 just so conference goers can get a glimpse of his message before they hit the ferry docks.
This year he also brought along buttons with the message “My City Matters” to piggy back on his billboard message of “Your City Matters.” His messaging was about revenue sharing from the state and how cities are negatively impacted economically by the revenue sharing formula.
The messaging created the conversation on the island.
This year, I wanted to elaborate on the art of networking and find out what style of networking other people at the conference have used over the years. They share their approaches below.
“Networking is an important opportunity to meet people. It allows you to learn about other people and other industries and advance your initiatives and allows other to collaborate. It is a win for everyone, from a personal, profession and business perspective. Networking at this conference is where partnerships get formed. I don’t have a specific technique per se but I listen a lot and ask a lot of questions and get very engaged. It lends for very meaningful conversations. We connect with all kinds of people in various industries including, academia and government and of course manufacturing.” – Christine Longroy, automotive industry manager with SME
“When I am networking, I am always trying to figure out what the other person’s needs are and within my rolodex I try to figure out if there is a connection. There is a book called, “Love is the Killer APP” and it talks about sharing your network with no barriers and no protection and with that you strengthen your network. If I hadn’t done that kind of networking over the years, I would not have job that I have today” – Melanie Duquesnel, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau.
“The thing about networking is that there is performance to it. You are trying to engage people the best that you can. I try to come up with current event topics, business topics and a series of questions that keep people talking about their business. From that, I usually find something in common that carries on a conversation but the key thing is don’t hard sell anyone. Just get to know them, especially in an environment like the Policy Conference.” – Dan West, president and CEO of the Livonia Chamber of Commerce.
“My own personal style is getting up close and personal. I don’t talk about religion. I don’t talk about politics. I try to get to a common ground. When you are networking with people from a business standpoint, it is sometimes hard to connect. If you are in finance and I am in PR, what do we have in common? But, if we both have kids or live in the same community, that shows common ground and we can move the conversation along.” – Michelle Gilbert, VP of Public Relations and Social Media for Comcast.
“It’s all about supporting each other. We try to communicate with as many people as we can and find commonalties and find ways to support each other. We have to tell our story.” Saad Abbo, chairman of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and Founder of U.S Ice.
“Networking is about being open to new discussions and ideas that benefit our community.” – Paul Jonna, board member of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and Attorney with Taubman Company.
“I believe that networking is one of the most important skills that anyone can have in life. I approach networking like I approach everything. I must be myself in conversations. I must be a good listener and show that I care very much about the person who I am talking with and the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conferece is one of the state’s signature and premier networking events. It is an opportunity to meet people you may never be able to meet and it is an opportunity to fortify relationships. It brings us together as community so we can have a conversation about the issues important to our state.” – Lena Epstein, Trump Campaign Chair for Michigan and Candidate for U.S. Senate.
“I have never been accused of being an introvert. When you come from a Lebanese and Syrian family, you tend to be very outgoing; you want to meet new people, you want to talk to new people. It is the way I have been raised and how I have always approached this event. This is a unique opportunity to have so many people from so many different important businesses, industries, community services and nonprofits coming together. You are just learning about them and they are learning about you and whatever group you represent.” – Geralyn Lasher, senior deputy director for External Relations and Communications for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
“Networking for me has always been about creating relationships. Need to consider what you want to achieve, your purpose for networking — is it for professional growth and opportunities or for acquiring new business, and what relationships you want to nurture or grow. Networking for me has been about connecting people to Children’s Hospital of Michigan and the amazing work we do. I determine the events and activities that will put me in touch with those I want to meet. I have been active in professional groups that align with my personal goals and that accelerate the networking process. — Midwest Chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Inforum, Leadership Detroit/Detroit Chamber for example work the room — be yourself — find common interests and purposes. Be strategic and active with social media to make and nurture the connections you need – LinkedIn, Twitter for example. Don’t simply build your network to build your network; we have so little time, with lots of things competing for our attention, make networking work for you. Be yourself and have a few good stories in your pocket to break the ice.” – Luanne Thomas Ewald, president of DMC’s Children’s Hospital of Michigan