A gathering place for connection: previewing the 2023 AMI Conference & Expo and why marina managers should be there
Two men sit three seats apart at a bar at the Daytona Beach Hilton and quietly sip drinks. The lights on the waterfront sparkle. A seagull cries in the distance. The ambiance is noir. One man leans over and starts talking about purchasing dock boxes for storage. The other mentions his recent success with backfilling a vacancy.
This is not a coded conversation between two gangsters discussing taking care of a body. It’s not a meet between an informant and a handler. The drama here is that it’s simply two cross-country marina managers who attended the AMI marina conference and now sit making friends over their shared marina management experience.
Formerly known as the International Marina & Boatyard Conference, the Association of Marina Industries Conference & Expo is a tinderbox of the minds driving the marine industry forward. Certified Marina Managers, marina and boatyard owners, design engineers – the surface rationale for attending is that the conference is a one-stop shop for literally every facet of how to manage a marina. Underneath that is the human component: the people attending have similar experiences and shared interests. They arrive as acquaintances and leave with friendships.
This is THE annual event for operators from all facets of the industry to connect.
So, here’s a preview of what the AMI 2023 Conference & Expo offers its attendees and how workshopping with colleagues from every coast for a few days might change your entire business approach.
The logistics of the 2023 AMI Conference for marina managers
The 2023 AMI Conference & Expo will be held at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida. It’s a three-day commitment that runs from January 30th to February 1st. The event attracts approximately 150 vendors with a museum-like presentation of the biggest industry brands in an enormous exhibit hall. Over two dozen educational seminars are planned in the form of workshops and breakout groups that allow for more close-knit networking opportunities.
To ascertain what’s most important to the voices of the industry (AKA you), the AMI put out an open call in April of 2022 asking for program topics for the 2023 conference. AMI has sharply fine-tuned its intuitiveness in building workshops around what marina managers need to thrive, and a primary topic will continue to be the development of soft leadership skills and team building.
In mid-September, AMI released its program specifics and the major news that they have reinvigorated a relationship with the University of Wisconsin College of Engineering, which formerly hosted a highly technical marina operations conference. The partnership has fostered a pre-conference full-day course called The Docks & Marinas Course, which is worth eight accredited CEUs. The mission of AMI is “educating and connecting marina professionals”, and Certified Marina Managers now have the opportunity to fulfill their annual CEU requirements at a single event.
The AMI Conference’s role in education on how to manage a marina
Kayce Florio has been an integral member of the business management and planning team for the AMI Conference & Expo since 2006. She spoke about evolving aspects of the marine industry that are reflected in this year’s educational focus.
We have effectively five different tracks. We have a leadership track, one is an operations track for marinas and boatyards. We have a design and engineering track. We have a “building your dream team”, which is a teambuilding track or HR track. Then the fifth track is a little fluid right now – we’re looking to make it about what the future holds.
She described the increasing demands on marina managers to ingrain more “soft” skills, and the leadership ability to manage a team in an industry that has become more corporate:
There’s a lot more required from the marina managers, so (it means) getting this type of leadership training and talking about hiring, how to find new hires, how to interview them, how to build them into leaders, and how to get them to understand that there is a career path for marina management and to keep people in the industry.
The leadership training Kayce spoke of will be highlighted by the event’s diverse selection of keynote and panel sessions. The opening keynote speaker will be Marilyn Sherman, who will present on the topic of “front-row leadership”. Margaret Podlich from ABYC will hold a seminar on hiring and how to entice engaging new candidates. Ellen Bradley of the NMMA (National Marine Manufacturer’s Association) will present a seminar with the working title of “The future of boaters”. She will discuss current boater demographics, what they’re buying, how much they spend, and where these boaters are located.
The conference will also carry intensive technical sessions about anchorage and types of waves, servicing equipment, safety protocols, forklift training, and the future of designing power source options for electric boats.
Shopping at the 2023 AMI Conference & Expo
About 150 vendors are expected to sell products and show exhibitions in the Ocean Center’s literal arena of exhibit space. The conference’s title sponsor is Safe Harbor Marinas and their “platinum” sponsors include Suntex Marinas, Bellingham Marine, Cellofoam North America, and Scribble Software. The diversity of the vendors will be reflected in exhibitions by companies like Dockwa, Marina World Magazine, International Dock Products, Inc., and Formex Floats. Those who wish only to shop can purchase exhibit hall-only passes for a single day. A full listing of last year’s vendors can be found in the 2022 AMI Conference & Expo program.
How to manage your marina is built on relationships
Kayce Florio spoke to the energy of marina managers meeting with each other once a year:
What I really love about this is that it’s like a family reunion every year. People take the training classes – the training classes are pretty intense. They’re smaller groups. They average about 25 people per class, and they spend in some cases (depending on the class), four or five days together. They build friendships and relationships that last forever. I love seeing everyone coming back and the camaraderie and it really is like a reunion every single year.
Conference registration prices and a current itinerary can be found on the AMI Conference & Expo site. AMI members receive significant discounts and pre-registration also carries a discount up until January 30th, 2023.
Education and connection at the 2023 AMI marine industry conference
Those two guys who sat down at the Daytona Beach bar after a long day of boating workshops and seminars – they probably have years of experience. Maybe they started as fuel dock hands. But an overlooked human aspect is that a marina manager might spend the majority of their year working long hours isolated on the docks. Learning and getting to bond with others who share a similar career path – it’s invaluable.
What starts as a three-day educational event with classmates might end as an experience with lifelong friends.
Article by Hammer and Nail Marketing
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