MDCE Preview: More educational opportunities, record-breaking numbers on tap for 2018

The 2017 Marine Dealer Conference & Expo was big, but the 2018 event is on pace to be bigger.

The 2018 MDCE will be held Dec. 9-12 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., hosted jointly by Boating Industry and the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas.

“At MDCE, we’re dedicated to helping attendees anticipate the future, minimizing the shocks and stresses of the change ahead so they can maximize their success,” said MRAA Vice President Liz Walz. “This concept, known as ‘future-proofing,’ is not just the topic of our closing keynote this year, but it’s also woven into the education we’re offering throughout the event. We’ve worked with leading educators to prepare sessions, workshops and roundtable discussions to help dealers adapt to the evolution of their customers, workforce and dealership technology, to name a few. This concept also comes to life on the expo hall floor, where manufacturers and suppliers unveil products and services designed to support dealers’ changing needs.”

The 2017 MDCE produced a fourth consecutive year of record-breaking numbers, including 1,241 total participants, topping out over the 2016 record. The 2017 conference and expo also brought in a total of more than 650 dealers.

Along with a record attendance in 2017, 38 percent of attendees were attending MDCE for the first time, and approximately 94 percent of attendees were either registered as an MRAA member or became a member during the show.

On the exhibition floor, a record-high number of 120 exhibitors displayed their products and services. That’s more than a 6 percent increase from 2016, filling 44,600 square feet of exhibit space.

“The Marine Dealer Conference & Expo provides endless opportunities for business networking and interaction,” said Boating Industry Editor-in-Chief Tim Hennagir. “There’s no better value and industry opportunity to learn new business practices and meet future partners.”

Despite record-breaking numbers for the 2017 MDCE, 2018 is on pace to surpass them. The 2018 conference has already set a record for its April-only earliest-bird registration period. As of October, 719 retailers were signed up for the 2018 MDCE.

On top of those numbers, as of mid October, 106 exhibitors were slated to present new products and services for attendees, filling 47,500 square feet of exhibit space.

“We’re definitely in a sold out situation for the exhibition floor,” Boating Industry National Sales Director Kathy Johnson said.

Highly rated as some of the best educational opportunities at the conference by dealers, registration for pre-conference workshops also continues to increase year over year.

“We’re thrilled to be on track for one of the largest gatherings of dealers, manufacturers and suppliers in the history of MDCE,” Walz said. “The bigger the MDCE community, the more resources the dealers who attend have at their disposal to meet and exceed their goals for the year ahead. This year’s agenda is bursting with opportunities for dealers to learn from each other, from MDCE’s leading trainers and educators, and from the exhibitors who are investing in their success.”

Education and schedule

Every year, the conference brings in an all-star educational lineup, featuring speakers both familiar to attendees and new, paired with new content offerings developed through a multitude of feedback.

MDCE’s four education tracks — Leadership, Sales, Marketing, and Service Plus — will return once again for attendees, along with pre-conference workshops, learning labs, an opening and closing keynote, paired with a multitude of networking opportunities. 

This year’s opening and closing keynotes will be given by best-selling author and trust expert David Horsager, and entrepreneur, best-selling author, and TV host Troy Hazard, respectively.

Pre-conference workshops will take place on Monday, Dec. 10, from 8:15 to 11:30 a.m. Eleven different workshops will cover a variety of topics from sales coaching and leadership to customer experience and market, and everything in between. A separate registration is required for all pre-conference workshops, and space does fill up quickly.

“Pre-conference workshops are the perfect way to maximize attendee return on conference investment,” Hennagir said. “These interactive sessions provide the perfect small group environment for interaction and learning, and are consistently among our highest-rated sessions at MDCE.”

After an inaugural event last year, the MRAA Awards Celebration will return to the 2018 MDCE on Sunday evening from 6 to 10 p.m., immediately following the poolside reception from 4 to 6 p.m. The event will once again celebrate the Darlene Briggs Woman of the Year, Marine Industry Certified Dealers, and the winners of MRAA Educational Foundation’s scholarships.

Originally introduced as a way for dealers to collaborate and experience MDCE’s entire retail community together, Dealer-to-Dealer Roundtable Discussions return once again to the 2018 conference.

This year’s roundtable discussion opportunities will take place Tuesday afternoon and late Wednesday morning. Like years past, each table will feature an open discussion pertaining to a particular workshop or track topic offered on that given day, as an opportunity for dealer’s to dive deeper and continue the conversation on certain topics, and offer a chance to dealers to diversify their learning opportunities at MDCE.

This year’s opening keynote will take place at 4 p.m. on Dec. 10, with a networking reception following in the expo hall. The closing keynote will be held at 3 p.m. on Wedensday, Dec. 12.

Speakers featured in MDCE’s four educational tracks for 2018 include longtime MDCE favorites such as Sam Dantzler, David Spader, and Valerie Ziebron, as well as new faces scattered throughout the schedule.

Boating Industry will once again hold its annual Top 100 Gala on Wednesday evening. The event is an invitation-only event celebrating the best marine dealerships in North America.

“This year’s MCDE is packed with information-filled educational tracks that attendees won’t want to miss,” Hennagir said. “Leadership, sales, marketing, and service trends will be discussed in depth and attendees will return home with innovative strategies to grow their businesses.”   

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


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