The 19th annual Leadership Development Workshop (LDW) wrapped up this week at the DFW Hilton in Grapevine, Texas. Hosted by PPAI and the Regional Association Council, the event drew nearly 150 attendees representing the promotional products industry’s 27 regional associations and the Promotional Products Professionals of Canada (PPPC) for three days of education and networking, new ideas and new connections.

“LDW is truly the best way for all the regionals to connect,” says Heather O’Neill, CAS, New England Promotional Professionals Association board member and repeat attendee to LDW. “We’re all doing fantastic things and we communicate that with each other throughout the year, but this is the time to make connections and new friends among your peers, to meet with the PPAI staff and discuss the challenges each organization is having. LDW is an opportunity to learn from each other and collaborate on issues. People leave LDW on a high. You feel like you’re having an impact when you attend it.”

LDW’s schedule began on Sunday evening for regional association executive directors. Monday began with an executive directors’ symposium with training designed for their specific needs and ended with a welcome reception for all attendees. On Tuesday and Wednesday the workshop continued with an extensive curriculum designed to provide regional association leadership with numerous learning opportunities through general sessions, breakout discussions and idea-sharing activities.

“LDW was very interesting for me to see as the experiences we have are identical,” says Gladys Kasp, a first-time LDW attendee and communications and planning manager at PPPC. “It’s not a geographic thing, suppliers and distributors are the same no matter where they are. Even if I learned nothing from the sessions, the opportunity to meet people and network made it all worth it. But the sessions were fabulous. The presentations were professional and informative, and each was very interactive, which I appreciated.”

Fellow first-time attendee Quinn Bui, Rocky Mountain Region Promotional Products Association board member, was also struck by LDW’s collaborative atmosphere. He says, “LDW brought all these regionals together but everyone was very open about the good and bad within their organizations. Everyone was willing to share and no one was holding back. I felt everyone was trying to help the regional community as a whole, rather than just themselves.

“It was great to travel with our team, bounce ideas off the group and come back with the confidence to apply them at home. LDW also helped me understand my role within our association and how important it is not just to our region but also the industry.”

LDW offered attendees 28 education sessions to choose from through a series of breakout sessions, with speakers and panelists presented by PPAI staff and experts from within and outside the promotional products industry. The schedule allowed attendees to tailor their experiences to their associations’ needs and take part in all the programming had to offer.

“While I am new to the PPAS [Promotional Products Association Southwest] board I am not new to the industry, but regardless I really learned a lot this week,” says Sarah Thomas, PPAS board member and first-time attendee. “Through the LDW sessions I heard a lot of good ideas about how we can do a better job of involving our membership and how we could potentially bring more value to them. We are a people industry and the more we can bring our local communities together, the better off our regional associations will be.

“I really believe that LDW was one of the best industry events I have ever attended. I enjoyed meeting people from around the country ‘on common ground,’ meaning no one was there to sell. We were all there sharing ideas about how we can grow the industry and not figure out who we can buy pens, mugs or shirts from.”

Mark Farrar, executive director for Sunbelt Promotional Products Association, Gold Coast Promotional Products Association and Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South, is an industry veteran and long-time LDW attendee, but this year brought something special to the table. He says, “Next year I’ll have been in the industry for 20 years and I’ve been to most of the LDWs. If this wasn’t the best I’ve been to, it was one of them. From the keynote speaker, who was one of the best I’ve ever heard, to the group activities, it was a great experience.”