More record-breaking attendance, education slated for 2017 MDCE

If 2016 was an exciting year for the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, 2017 is shaping up to be an even more thrilling week.

The 2017 MDCE will be held Dec. 10-13 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, hosted jointly by Boating Industry and the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. 

The 2016 MDCE was one of the most successful years to date for the premier dealer conference in the marine industry, which saw 1,157 total participants, beating the 2015 record. A total of 640 marine retail attendees from 230 marine dealerships representing 571 retail locations attended the conference. Forty percent of 2016 attendees were first-timers to MDCE, and approximately 98 percent of attendees either registered as an MRAA member or became a member during the show. One hundred and thirteen exhibitors representing multiple sectors of the boating industry, an over 10 percent increase in exhibitors from 2015, filled the 46,000-square-foot exhibit hall space in 2016. 

“Each year, attendees recognize the value and networking opportunities that are an invaluable part of the MDCE experience,” said Boating Industry editor Tim Hennagir. “We look forward to renewing those relationships, as well as welcoming an industry-leading group of exhibitors to Orlando.”

2016 was a record-breaking year for retail registration and attendance, and 2017 is on track to surpass that mark. As of the end of September, 482 marine retailers were signed up for the 2017 MDCE, a 3.2 percent increase from 2016, and nearly 100 exhibitors are slated to be on site to showcase new products and services for attendees. Registration for pre-conference workshops – which dealers consistently rate highest among the educational opportunities at the conference – also continues to increase year over year. 

“We’ve discovered that our ability to attract marine retailers to MDCE is directly related to how closely we listen to their feedback and use it to improve our education,” said Liz Walz, MRAA vice president and director of education. “MDCE attracts some of the most progressive retail professionals in the business.”

Education and schedule

This year’s educational lineup offers favorite opportunities past attendees will recognize and love, as well as new content offerings developed through extensive feedback.

The conference’s four educational tracks – Leadership, Sales, Marketing and Service Plus – are back for attendees, as well as pre-conference workshops, learning labs, an opening and closing keynote, and plenty of networking opportunities. This year’s opening and closing keynotes will be given by author and innovation guru Tim Sanders, and self-discipline strategist, author and business motivational speaker Rory Vaden, respectively.

Pre-conference workshops will take place on Monday, Dec. 11, from 8:15 to 11:30 a.m. Nine workshops will cover topics including passionate leadership, sales coaching, service efficiency, creating a customer experience blueprint and more. Register ahead of time for pre-conference workshops, as space fills up fast.

New this year to Sunday’s schedule is an MRAA Awards Celebration from 6 to 10 p.m., which immediately follows the poolside reception from 4 to 6 p.m. This event will celebrate the Darlene Briggs Woman of the Year, a new Lifetime Achievement Award, the Marine Industry Certified Dealers and the winners of MRAA’s many scholarships. 

The Dealer-to-Dealer Roundtable Discussions, new to last year’s MDCE, are also back thanks to positive attendee feedback and exceeded expectations. These were introduced as a way for dealers to tap into the experience MDCE’s entire retail community can provide one another. 

This year, MDCE is expanding the roundtables opportunities from one day to three – Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Each table will be dedicated to each workshop or track topic offered on the given day. That way, dealers who attended the track session or workshop on that topic and want to continue the conversation with others are able to do so, and those who missed that particular workshop or track session and want to discuss the topic can diversify their learning experience.

The first roundtable discussion will take place after the pre-conference workshops at 11:45 a.m.

The opening keynote will take place at 4 p.m. on Dec. 11, with a networking reception following in the expo hall. The closing keynote will be held at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 13. That evening, Boating Industry will hold its annual Top 100 Gala, an invitation-only event celebrating the best marine dealerships in North America.

The speakers in MDCE’s four educational tracks include MDCE favorites such as Sam Dantzler, John Spence and Valerie Ziebron, as well as new faces like John Million of Professional Resource Group, Inc., Michael Markette of Zenith Dealer Solutions and Kirk Armstrong of Armstrong Sales Coaching.

The 2017 MDCE also marks the beginning of a new educational partnership between Grow Boating Inc. and MRAA. During the Grow Boating Summit in December 2016, which was held to take a pulse on the industry’s support of the Discover Boating campaign, participants voted unanimously in support of continuing the industry-funded marketing campaign and identified four areas of focus for Grow Boating moving forward: the boating experience, consumer education, research and industry education.  

The two organizations are exploring ways they can build on the momentum generated by their MDCE collaboration to help the industry improve and grow through education year round.

More information about MDCE, including how to register, can be found at On-site registration will also be available.   


2017 Track Sessions

In its four education tracks – Leadership, Sales, Marketing and Service Plus – MDCE is offering exciting topics delivered by MDCE newbies and perennial speakers. More details on each track session can be found at

Leadership Track

• Make Customer Service Your Competitive Advantage 
• Put Your Lazy Assets to Work
• Pulverize Performance Problems
• How to Fix Your Phone Performance
• Take Control of Your Day

Sales Track

• Using Technology To Sell More
• Sell More Boats with CRM Coaching
• 100% Turnover to F&I: From Idea to Reality
• Getting More People to the Desk
• How to Sell to First-Time Boat Buyers

Marketing Track

• Why Branding Matters and What to Do About It
• Moving Inventory Through Positioning and Promotion
• Increase Closing Rates with Content Marketing
• What’s New in Digital: Why Should My Dealership Care?
• Bring in Business with Local Digital Marketing

Service Plus Track

• Master the Write-Up
• Coach Your Service Team for Success
• Shop Talk: Master Communications Inside Service
• Increase the Profit of What’s Already on Your Lift
• Keep Your Surgeons in Surgery



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