Very interesting 20-hour trip to Sheboygan, Wisconsin last week. I visited with a few dozen chamber leaders, most of whom were good Cheeseheads who make frequent trips to Lambeau Field. Following my formal after-dinner remarks -- the infamous "Deathbed Confessions" speech -- I followed the group to the nearly ubiquitous hospitality suite. During dinner, I had been assured by my hosts that "Suite 427 will rock!" I can't say that the assembled mid-westerners were rocking, but they were certainly sharing.
During the informal gathering that stretched long into the night, I bounced from one conversation to the next.: a local brewery's need for help with marketing . . . a struggle to restore demand for boat engines . . . an interim CEO whose city council was trying to pull the chamber's already lean bed tax funding. One communications director was shifting from printed to electronic communications and another was reviving a dormant glossy magazine. A story from a chamber leader who was fighting the likelihood of new state fees led to a revelation about another who was working behind the scenes on a governor's race still 18 months away. One of the chamber leaders had her head buried in one hand, with her cell phone in the other, as she tried to deal with a personnel issue at 10 p.m. In the hospitality suite, I heard exclamations about the short-sighted decisions of sponsors and the suffering being endured in various industry sectors, as well as the recession-busting success of others. One guy needed Badger tickets for a VIP and the other needed help saving their hospital -- both scored useful contacts somewhere in the room.
There on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan, on a balmy September evening, I listened to the stories that are chamber life. Thanks for sharing.
Next stops? Nashville and Beijing.