NALC Draws Industry Leaders To Listen, Learn And Network
Nashville’s rich history and unrivaled reputation as the heart of country music was the perfect backdrop for this year’s PPAI North American Leadership Conference (NALC), which delivered two-and-a-half days of education keyed onto innovation and change to more than 120 industry leaders from companies across North America. Running August 9-11, the annual event opened with the presentation of the PPB Rising Stars, and went on to feature numerous networking opportunities and more than a dozen educational sessions on high-demand topics.
“North American Leadership Conference continues to be the most important and impressive, high-level, content-driven, professional development event in the promotional products industry,” says Paul Bellantone, CAE, president and CEO of PPAI. “This year’s program was specifically designed to address our industry’s short- and longer-term challenges and opportunities, and from the feedback I received from attendees, NALC delivered.”
Playing off the conference’s setting in Music City, NALC’s opening session featured a co-presentation by veteran music producer and Baby Boomer Don Van Cleave, and music innovator and Millennial Kevin Grosch, who drew a number of parallels between the music business and the promotional products industry by discussing some of the economic challenges, disrupters and opportunities the business faces. Not unlike what the promotional products industry has experienced, the evolution of technology has threatened the way music is delivered and consumed.
NALC attendee Sharon Willochell, president of Leed’s, says, “I loved the opening speakers because I thought they really set the tone well for expanding our thinking, looking at our whole industry and dealing with outside forces. [The speakers] could have looked at digital music and the drop in revenue from $15 billion to $6 billion in 10 years and said, ‘this is a disaster’ but instead they asked, ‘What opportunities could this mean for us? Now we’re going to build our whole company around digital assets.’ It was fascinating.”
NALC’s education sessions also included sessions on emotional intelligence, digital marketing, disruptive innovation, 3D printing, mindfulness and employee engagement, as well as an overview on market trends from Jim Chappelow, ITR Economics’ managing economist. Daniel Burrus, one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation, delivered a strategic foresight session that taught listeners how to distinguish between hard and soft trends, and he challenged them to commit an hour a week to unplug from the present and plug into the future by thinking about the hard trends and what opportunities they offer.
“The goal for this year’s conference is to provide participants with ideas and mechanisms for dealing with the fast pace of change,” says Catherine Graham, president of commonsku and co-leader of the NALC Work Group, a team of volunteers who planned the conference along with PPAI staff. “This ranges from hearing how the music industry survived massive disruption by technology to techniques such as mindfulness that Silicon Valley leaders have used to successfully cope with change.”
Mitch Mounger, president of Sunrise Identity and co-leader of the NALC Work Group, was excited to see the group’s many planning conversations come to fruition. “Catherine and I wanted to make sure we connected the theme of this year’s event to the roots of our host city, Nashville,” he says. “In business today, we are all feeling the impact of technology and how fast it is moving. Nashville is a perfect backdrop to this topic as no other industry has felt the impact of technology more than the music industry. Our goal is to hit a number of relevant leadership topics and foster the incredible community and networking events that the NALC is known for.”
There were also a number of opportunities for participants to network and learn from each other, including roundtable discussions on business challenges, as well as networking breakfasts, lunches, a mix and mingle dinner, and the closing evening with networking, sumptuous southern food and an acoustic set by American country music singer and songwriter Glen Templeton.
“What an incredible couple of days!” says Jay Nathanson, managing partner at distributor Target Marketing. “What I hope for from an event like this is to get out of my ‘day to day’ head and learn new and different perspectives from experts. This year’s NALC did not disappoint. My biggest takeaway is that no industry is immune from disruption, whether it’s digital, or demographic, or a profound shift in what our customers value in how they buy and use our products and services.”
Registration will open later this year for next year’s NALC in San Francisco, August 14-16, 2016.
--Tina Berres Filipski
PPAI Tech Summit Starts Fast And Finishes Strong
IT directors, chief information officers and business analysts were among the 80 industry IT professionals joining PPAI’s second annual Technology Summit, August 11-12 in Nashville, Tennessee. The opening of the conference dovetailed with the final day of the PPAI North American Leadership Conference and shared an opening reception on Tuesday evening.
The event packed 10 educational sessions into the day-and-a-half program with outside experts such as Joshua Grippo of Radolo, who spoke about design first development, and presentations from industry practitioners including a panel on integrations moderated by PPAI Technology Committee Chair Jon Norris of Starline and featuring Eric Alessi, Essent; Irwin Goldstein, HALO Branded Solutions, and Eric Shonebarger, Hit Promotional Products.
“Just like last year, the thing that surprised me the most was how engaged all the IT people were in getting to know each other over meals. Someone needs to tell our IT people that they are supposed to be shy, reserved and not want to talk to anyone,” says Dale Denham, MAS+, CIO of Geiger and leader of the Tech Summit Work Group, which planned and implemented the conference with PPAI staff. “During the meetings, I was extremely impressed at how 90-plus industry IT professionals collaborated to solve industry problems.”
On Wednesday morning, PPAI presented two inaugural awards: Internal Innovator and Industry Collaborator. The Internal Innovator winner was the Jetline IT team, comprised of Sam Hornstein, Erik Osterud and Adrian Todd. Hornstein was on hand to accept the award. Winners of the Industry Collaborator award were BIC Graphic USA and Hit Promotional Products with key contributors Tim Nale of BIC and Eric Shonebarger of Hit at the conference to accept. Each winner took time to present and discuss their award-winning programs and answer questions.
“The Tech Summit was a rewarding experience for me due to three key aspects: knowledge, perspective and relationships,” says attendee Sharon Zarter, senior business analyst, AIA Corporation. “I learn more about what works or perhaps doesn’t, I get insight from both the distributor and supplier side of the industry and I love meeting that person on the other side of the email or the LinkedIn group. It has tremendously helped me move forward on some of the integration initiatives for AIA.”
Another satisfied attendee was Jason Nokes, president of industry services provider DistributorCentral. “The PPAI Tech Summit was a great event that brought technology leaders together to learn and collaborate in a way that will better our industry,” he says.
Even those not directly involved with their company’s technology on a daily basis found value in this year’s program. “I attended this conference with Vernon’s VP of technology, Chris Lanagan,” says Dave Regan, vice president of sales and marketing, The Vernon Company. “While I can say that I love technology, I must openly admit that I am a sales and marketing guy at the core. I am the person Dale Denham described at the beginning of the conference who attends the shows and meetings, and returns to the office all excited about something that I learned about. I go running to our IT staff trying to convey what I saw or experienced. It was clear to me that there was a lot of firepower at the Tech Summit when you consider the key suppliers, distributors and service providers.
“I thought the sessions were terrific for a few reasons: the topics were real life and relevant, and as a ‘non-techie’ I was pleased that I could understand the discussions. I would encourage executives from any company to attend future Tech Summits with their key personnel. Having corporate leadership and IT on the same page is critical for any organization today. Having a forum where, in a matter of hours, you can gather input and feedback on a variety of issues is priceless. From Vernon’s perspective our time was well spent,” Regan says.
The inaugural PPAI Tech Summit was paired with Expo East in Atlantic City in May 2014 and this year’s event was an opportunity to make further refinements to the program. “A perfect mix of distributors, suppliers and service providers made this event even better than last year,” says Denham. “The speaker lineup made it even more impressive with a great blend of industry professionals sharing valuable insights while adding in incredible outside perspectives, from design first programming to Kick A$$ software development. Who knew technology summits could be both productive and enjoyable? I’m already excited for next year in San Francisco and looking forward to another sold-out event.”
The dates for next year’s Tech Summit are August 17-18, and details and registration will be available soon.
--Tina Berres Filipski
PPAI Names Steve Slagle, CAE, 2016 Hall Of Fame Inductee
PPAI has named Steve Slagle, CAE, past president and CEO of the Association, the 2016 Hall of Fame inductee.
Since 1977, the PPAI Hall of Fame has been honoring leaders in the promotional products industry who have had an impact on the industry and their communities. The promotional products industry has grown and prospered because of the creative spark and dedication of many, but the Hall of Fame inductees’ selfless efforts and devotion to the industry are monumental.
“This is a wonderful and well-deserved honor for Steve. We are extremely fortunate and proud to have had such a passionate visionary leading the PPAI team for over 16 years,” says Paul Bellantone, PPAI president and CEO. “During his tenure as PPAI’s president and CEO, he worked tirelessly as an advocate, counsel and mentor to so many. Steve is deeply respected throughout our industry, and we are pleased to recognize his contributions as the 2016 inductee to the PPAI Hall of Fame.”
Slagle led PPAI from 1996 to 2012, overseeing myriad refinements, expansions and additions to PPAI’s organization and programs during that time, and his legacy reflects and recognizes the impact his achievements continue to have at the Association today. Induction into the PPAI Hall of Fame reflects Slagle’s accomplishments and contributions to the promotional products industry and his communities. His induction ceremony will take place at The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas, January 10-14, 2016, during the Chairman’s Leadership Dinner. Purchase tickets online during show registration.
Mark Gilman, CAS, Named 2016 PPAI H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award Recipient
Mark S. Gilman, CAS, chairman of the board at Gill Studios (UPIC: gill), past chair of the PPAI Board of Directors and a PPAI Hall of Fame inductee, has been named as the recipient of the 2016 PPAI H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award. Gilman’s nominators credit him for the extensive work he has done in support of education, children and the arts in his community, the state of Kansas and the promotional products industry.
Paul Lage, MAS, and Carl Gerlach, MAS, nominated Gilman for the award on behalf of Gill Studios employees saying “Mark is truly one of the most caring individuals we have ever seen. He has always been involved in some form of charitable work that gives back to the community. Mark’s passions are the arts and children. It doesn’t matter if it is in the community or through PPEF, Mark cares about helping others but he shies away from the spotlight and much of what he gives, he does anonymously.”
Named after the late H. Ted Olson, MAS, PPAI president emeritus, the award represents what Olson stood for—volunteerism inside and outside the promotional products industry. The award is presented annually to PPAI members who have shown long-standing empathy, devotion and commitment to improving quality of life and bringing about change for the betterment of a community. Those selected for the honor exhibit exemplary devotion and volunteerism to nonprofit, civic, charitable and/or educational organizations committed to the needs of the communities they serve.
The presentation of the award will take place at The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas, January 10-14, 2016, during the Chairman’s Leadership Dinner. Tickets to the event can be purchased during show registration.
PPAI Announces Distinguished Service Award Winners For 2016
Bruce Felber, MAS, director of marketing and sales support for The Image Group, and Teresa Moisant, MAS, owner and president of Moisant Promotional Products, are the 2016 PPAI Distinguished Service Award honorees. The PPAI Distinguished Service Award recognizes PPAI members who consistently contribute their skills and expertise toward the betterment of the Association through volunteer service and leadership.
Felber is a former member of the PPAI Board of Directors, serving from 2009-2013, including a term as vice chair of membership. He has also been an active volunteer in the Association’s committees and action groups and currently serves on its Certification Committee and Public Relations Advisory Group. Outside of PPAI, Felber’s volunteer work within the industry includes leadership roles at the Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF) and the Ohio Promotional Professionals Association (OPPA). OPPA, where Felber served as board president in 1995 and 2001, inducted him into the regional association’s Hall of Fame in 2008. Felber frequently speaks at The PPAI Expo and Expo East, and is a regular contributor to the Association’s educational webinar series and its publications, including PPB magazine.
Moisant has a distinguished history in the promotional products industry, and is a long-time volunteer and advocate for the industry. She has shared widely the promotional products industry’s message with her community and region, speaking in the field regularly at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City Community College, as well as numerous area business and professional groups. Moisant has also led a number of PPAI’s committees, including the Marketing Information & Research Advisory Council, the Public Relations Advisory Council, the Membership Services Advisory Council and the Distributors Advisory Council, and has served on the PPEF board. She is a regular speaker and panelist at The PPAI Expo and the PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference, and with the Promotional Products Association of the Southwest (PPAS).
The induction ceremony will take place at The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas, January 10-14, 2016, during the Chairman’s Leadership Dinner. Purchase tickets online during show registration.