PPAI’s Women’s Leadership Conference Brings Record Attendance To Scottsdale

In June, the Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC), an annual event now in its 13th year, drew a record 163 attendees to the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia. This year’s attendees represent a cross section of the industry with professionals at every level from suppliers, distributors and business services companies, and with more than half of attendees each bringing more than 11 years of industry experience to the mix.

“Networking is the number one reason, year after year, that people say they come to WLC,” says Kate Plummer, sales manager at Clearmount Plastics Ltd. and co-leader of the WLC Work Group. “A lot of the women are working for themselves or in small offices, and it’s a great way to grow your community and open your perspective. It gets us out of our silos of clients and territories, and introduces us to people with whom we would never have come into contact with before. It’s also such an open and welcoming group. Everyone has their walls down and is so willing to accept
and collaborate.”

The conference kicked off with an opening session, welcome reception and dinner featuring the presentation of PPAI’s Woman of Achievement award to this year’s recipient: Teresa Moisant, MAS, owner and president of Moisant Promotional Products, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Moisant is the 11th recipient of the award that recognizes those who lead the way in the advancement of women in the industry, exhibit outstanding leadership and make significant contributions to the industry and community.

“I have always believed that the more you help others to get to the top, you get closer to your goals,” she said. “I am where I am today because people helped me. I was mentored by some really great guys, they looked out for me, they opened doors, they advised me, they gave me the opportunity to grow. I was so lucky and am very appreciative of what they did for me.”

Two full days of education sessions followed, with interactive presentations by professional speakers teaching skills in leadership, time management, finding the big ideas and reaching your full potential. Industry leaders also led sessions and panel discussions focused on a variety of topics including negotiation preparations, building brands, using industry research, communication, favorite apps and breathing techniques for better health. Back by popular demand were roundtable discussions where attendees could share lessons learned, exchange ideas and tap into the expertise of others at the table.

The conference is the result of months of planning and preparation by PPAI Professional Development staff and the WLC Work Group led by Plummer and her co-leader, Jo-an Lantz, MAS, executive vice president at Geiger. Raising the bar on the success of last year’s WLC was a challenge staff and the work group met head on.

“The work group paid close attention to the feedback we received from last year’s attendees,” says Lantz. “This year, in addition to many self-development sessions, we have a renewed focus on business development. The workshops and speakers have individually and collectively managed some of the largest firms in the country and will share their knowledge and experience. There is something in the agenda for everyone, from the first-time attendee new in the industry, to the highest levels in the board room. Whether we reunite as dear friends or develop deep new friendships and contacts, the WLC is the business development event that I never miss.”

For 67 attendees, it was a first-time experience. Among those was Cassandra Hayes, owner of Bodacious Promotions, who won attendance to the program through a WLC grant given annually. The grant is supported by funds raised during the conference. PPAI Chair Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS, CEO of CE Competitive Edge, Inc., sums up what she heard about the conference from first-timers and long-time attendees alike. “I think this conference was amazing,” she says. “Everyone who was here really wanted to be here. They are like-minded, genuine and want to support each other. I really like the relationships that are formed here. And our speakers knocked it out of the park.”

Next year’s WLC will be held at the Turnberry Isle resort in Miami Beach, Florida, June 25-27, 2018.


PPAI Promo Connect, A Knowledge Community For The Industry, Launched This Summer

PPAI introduced Promo Connect, a knowledge community platform for the promotional products industry, this summer. Rather than replace social and business networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, Promo Connect offers a place for industry-specific peer networking; collaboration; sharing of best practices, ideas and concepts; information gathering; and seeking and offering expert opinion and advice.

PPAI Director of Professional Development Jennifer Crowfoot is overseeing the development and roll out of Promo Connect. PPB recently sat down with her to learn the story behind Promo Connect and how industry professionals can use it.

PPB: What need in the industry did PPAI see that led it to launch the program?

Jennifer Crowfoot: A tenet of PPAI’s strategic plan is to drive meaningful member value. Promo Connect is part of that plan. In today’s world, regardless of the industry, business is rapidly changing and professionals can use a place to learn about and discuss what these new changes look like, who’s the next disrupter and how to ensure they survive the impending change. Promo Connect is a perfect place forthe industry to discuss these rapid changes and allow our members the opportunity to educate themselves and help educate others.

Our main objective is to cultivate a place for our members to grow professionally, through engagement of meaningful industry topics that provide a platform for industry peers to discuss the strengths, challenges and opportunities for the promotional products industry. This includes providing collective intelligence and strategic foresight for the industry, which we believe will help the industry stay abreast of possible or current disrupters in the marketplace.

PPB: How do you foresee industry practitioners incorporating Promo Connect into their professional lives?

Crowfoot: Some industry members may be comfortable with searching and posting on Promo Connect to get feedback, input or just seek others’ thoughts and opinions on a topic that is related to the industry. Others may find this completely new and a bit daunting at first. I foresee a large number of practitioners searching for topics that are being discussed and reading through those discussions and related documents to gain personal knowledge. Those who find it more natural to post on an online platform will do a large amount of contributing. My hope is that eventually it becomes routine to check in and find out what is being discussed today in the knowledge community. And that as knowledge is shared and vetted with thoughts and opinions, that it will inspire the next great business idea for the industry.

PPB: How will PPAI engage Promo Connect’s content and participants?

Crowfoot: PPAI will be hosting Promo Connect and, while the overall intent is for the community to be for our members and led by our members, PPAI will play a key role. We will follow
the conversations, and look for reoccurring topics and themes our members are discussing to see how wecan provide curated content to address identified topics. PPAI will also curate additional content too that may not be top of mind for our members that we feel may be important for our members to know.

We recognize we will have an opportunity to get a glimpse into trends in the marketspace, technology, the economy and so forth through the community, and can provide food for thought to our members to think about where the industry is headed in the future. We also see the opportunity to extend knowledge sharing from PPAI education events such as Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC), North America Leadership Conference (NALC), Tech Summit and Product Responsibility Summit.

PPB: How will Promo Connect roll out to the industry?
Crowfoot: Promo Connect has had a soft launch and is already being used by the Association’s board of directors and some of  its committees and workgroups. This approach has allowed us
to pilot the platform and gather feedback to help us prepare for its official launch. As we go forward we will start inviting members who have attended our education events this summer
and past attendees of these events like WLC, SPARK, NALC and Tech Summit. While those communities will be focused on topics of interest related to those interest groups, we will have
two larger communities that are broader to the industry. We will be rolling out distributor and supplier communities, and to get those engaged we will begin with a series of questions we have gathered from members. As each community builds out with topics and discussions we will watch for the trends to see if additional communities are needed.


Expo East Knocks It Out Of The Park With Return To June Dates

Expo East 2017 brought the promotional products industry to the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, June 12-14 for three energizing days. From all accounts, Expo East delivered the show experience industry professionals have come to expect from PPAI—an extensive education schedule, active trade-show floor and numerous networking opportunities—all on the East Coast.

In 2015 and 2016, Expo East was held in March. The 2017 show returned to the summer timing it previously held, as the dates are optimal for attendees and exhibitors planning and selling into the third and fourth quarters of the year. This year’s show was also pared down from three show days to two and it was held independently from the Imprinted Sportswear Show (ISS); it had been previously co-located with the show.

“Expo East was fabulous!” says PPAI Chair Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS, CEO at distributor CE Competitive Edge. “Excitement was in the air with our move back to June and going back to two days for the trade show, instead of three. Our members appreciated us listening to them and responding.”

PPAI Chair-Elect Dale Denham, MAS+, CIO at distributor Geiger, also believes the changes made a positive difference. “I heard from dozens of exhibitors that they were much happier with the exclusive promotional products distributor attendance and the quality of the conversations. Yes, the quality of conversations is a bit cliché but it is what I heard. Exhibitors really liked not being rushed when talking with the attendees. Based on the dozens of conversations I had with exhibitors and attendees alike, I’m even more confident the move back to June was a great decision.”

Darel Cook, director of expositions, says, “Expo East 2017 exceeded our expectations. Distributors responded to the date change by supporting the show in greater numbers than in 2016 and we were successful in reestablishing Expo East as the must-attend summer show for the industry.”


The change in season found fans among both exhibitors and attendees. “We like the move to this time of year to have a change of rhythm and give everyone a little breather,” says Jason Krakow, president of exhibitor Dri Duck Traders, Inc. “It’s good for us because we are coming up on outerwear season, so being present in people’s minds just before they need to start selling our products is good. The Northeast is also a good target area for us. We want the brand exposure here.”

Michael Kartzmer, president of exhibitor Eagle Regalia Co., Inc., adds, “I’ve talked to a number of distributors who said they had returned after not coming to the co-located ISS show. And, in past years, I was aware of not seeing certain distributors that I was used to seeing at the former Expo East and SAAGNY shows. Several of them have mentioned that they do prefer the show being in June. I think it was a good change.”

Attendees from across the region and as far away as Arizona, California, Tennessee and Texas came through Expo East’s doors this year to meet with 320 exhibiting companies at 395 booths.
“Expo East in Atlantic City was fantastic,” says Karen Foy, president of Plano, Texas, distributor Gorman Foy, Inc. “I love that it is a smaller venue and you can really spend time with each supplier. I found multiple new products that either weren’t at Expo in Las Vegas or I just missed them. Another great show—thanks, PPAI!”

Al Vasquez, who along with Maria Vasquez owns distributor Active World Solutions in Brooklyn, New York, says, “It’s a little bit bigger than I expected from last year and the people are very receptive and informative—both attendees and exhibitors. We learned a lot in our time on the floor.”

Expo East featured 30 education opportunities throughout its run, with speakers from across the promotional products industry and beyond for sessions designed across seven tracks.
Mike Devaney, owner of Calico Enterprises in Pleasantville, New Jersey, was among the attendees at June 12’s education sessions. He explains what drew him to arrive early for education. “I need to get educated on using social media better,” he says. “I’m kind of a dinosaur when it comes to that, so I always get something out of these sessions. I’ll go to some sessions today, then work the floor tomorrow and Wednesday, and I’ll ask who uses their product and how can I use their product. The exhibitors are very helpful; that’s why I’m here.”

Expo East also delivered numerous opportunities to connect and network with industry colleagues. A highlight of the show’s schedule was the Power of Two Party sponsored by PPAI and SAGE.

Expo East returns to Atlantic City in 2018. The show, to be held again at the Atlantic City Convention Center, runs June 11-13, 2018, including a full day of education on June 11.