Second Annual PPAI Technology Summit Comes To Nashville This Summer




Members of the 2014 Technology Committee led the development of last year’s inaugural Technology Summit. (from left) Catherine Graham, commonsku; Michael Conway, Leed’s; Sam Hornstein, Jetline; Jon Norris, Starline USA, Inc.; Dale Denham, MAS+, Geiger; Paul Elfstrom, PPAI; Irwin Goldstein, HALO Branded Solutions; and Eric Natinsky, SAGE. (Committee members not pictured include Virginia Semrow, American Ad Bag; Charity Gibson, Green Banana Promotions; Amanda Corey, CAS, Biz Mark Inc.; and Martin Pahnke, Roberts Advertising.)


The PPAI Technology Summit comes to Nashville, Tennessee, August 11-12 immediately following the PPAI North American Leadership Conference (NALC). Introduced in conjunction with Expo East 2014, the second annual Summit brings together industry IT professionals at all levels to share best practices and case studies, and to discuss critical topics such as order management and some of the solutions available.

The Summit’s development was led by the PPAI Technology Committee, a volunteer group tasked with providing technology-related education and guidance to PPAI staff and members. The committee and event-specific work group are responsible for the event’s agenda. Jon Norris, vice president of operations at Starline USA and current chair of the Technology Committee, spoke with PPB about the Summit and its mission within the promotional products industry.


Jon Norris, chair of the PPAI Technology Committee

PPB: Why was the Technology Summit developed, and what role does the Technology Committee play in it?

Jon Norris:The technologists in the industry have long been the wizards behind the curtain, each turning their own dials and buttons to make things happen. Put all of those wizards in the same room and imagine the amount of magic that would happen—poof, the Summit! Sorcery aside, the Summit was created to allow member of the IT community a chance to collaborate and bond to drive this industry forward.
The committee came up with the idea for the Summit and from there we have just run with it. The committee’s role—and the role of a newly developed working group—is to develop a thoughtful agenda that delivers value for all attendees.

PPB: What is the Summit’s objective this year—is it any different from its first year? How will you judge its success?

Norris: We have the same objective this year as last: Create opportunities for industry technologists and firms to collaborate and solve industry issues. The Summit’s success will be judged by the number of effective projects that attendees work on together during the next year.

PPB: Can you give readers a peek into any specific kinds of sessions at this point?

Norris: The final agenda is still being worked on, but the return of the two most popular sessions from 2014 are the highlights. In Best Practice, every attendee shares one thing they do well in their technical organization to allow others to learn from them. This session created a lot of dialogue last year as well as a lot of learning. The second-most popular session focused on industry-specific case studies, in which we discussed specific ways suppliers and distributors are working together and shared the solutions they have developed for others to adopt.

At The PPAI Expo 2015, the committee discussed a number of potential topics for this summer’s Summit such as security, product safety system implementation and agile software development.

PPB: For what audience is the Technology Summit designed, and who should plan to attend?

Norris: The Summit is for industry IT leaders, whether they have a traditional IT ‘title’ or not. The collaboration creates an environment where anyone working on industry issues will benefit. Last year, we had several business leaders attend as well and while most of it was “Greek” to them, they found it very useful for their continuing dialogue with their IT staff. Having so many industry leaders on hand is one of the reasons we are excited to be right after NALC in Nashville this year.

PPB: Are there other initiatives on which the the Technology Committee is working this year to benefit the industry?

Norris: Planning the Tech Summit is a key initiative and the committee is trying to develop a new award structure based around it. Ideally, these awards will showcase the techie projects and initiatives that many times go unnoticed!

We also plan on tackling an Industry Technology Survey. The pace at which technology changes is phenomenal. We feel that business and technology leaders on the committee can provide meaningful questions that businesses can use to drive decision making at all levels in the industry. Also, last year the committee developed a Wiki page ( as a resource of all industry services. We are constantly visiting the site to ensure it remains current and relevant.

Lastly, the committee is tossing around the idea of developing industry tech webinars, to help companies of all sizes benefit from other industry organizations and their tech best practices.

PPB: Is there anything else I haven’t asked about?

Norris: We are looking for people who have a passion for IT to get involved in the committee, both as active members and as participants in special interest groups like the Summit. The committee is now primarily made up of people in IT that are also business leaders. This has been a key to the success of the group and the summit.

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