The Michigan Promotional Professionals Association (MiPPA) held its second annual Michigan Leadership Conference on April 15-16 in Dearborn, Michigan. The event, reflecting the association’s 50th anniversary slogan #MakeItGold, brought together thought leaders to discuss the industry’s evolving business models.

“2018’s inaugural Michigan Leadership Conference gave us the opportunity to put our ideas to the test, and we cautiously but smartly extended ourselves, knowing that while the success or failure of the 2018 event was important, the lessons learned would prepare us for the 2019 event, which happily coincided with MiPPA’s 50th anniversary,” says Roger Burnett, CAS, MiPPA board president.

The conference drew approximately 40 attendees and assembled a presentation roster of industry insiders and thought leaders in fields outside the promotional products industry, and capped things off with a visit to the cradle of American automotive innovation, the Henry Ford Museum, where guests learned how the marvels of modern technology have forever changed automobile manufacturing in a 4D theatre. Several industry companies, including Edwards Garment Company, Hub Promotional Group, HALO Branded Solutions, Sweda, SanMar, BIC Graphic NA, Showdown Display, Gemline and PPAI sponsored the conference.

“As regional trade associations continue to evaluate ways to provide member value, we believe filling the education gap for smaller distributors and suppliers represents the richest opportunity for our regionals, as it presents not only excellent member-value, it also creates a compelling value for non-members who’ve historically chosen not to participate in their association,” says Burnett. “Suppliers especially benefit from educational programming that is not tied to a trade show, where it is most often delivered. Supplier salespeople often receive far fewer education opportunities, and that gap was also identified and targeted as part of our conference marketing.”

Programming included interactive lectures, workshops and group discussions which enabled attendees to apply the concepts presented during the conference to real life business situations. Speakers included Jonathan Isaacson, president of Gemline, who spoke on opportunity and challenges in the age of disruption; author and futurist Stan Phelps, who led a discussion on ways to drive differentiation, increase loyalty and promote positive word-of-mouth while dealing with change; PPAI Director of Public Affairs Anne Stone, who shared what to expect and plan for in regards to tariffs, compliance and taxes; and Dave Sweet and Michael Thiel, president and executive vice president of training and events, respectively, for firm Automåtik , who led an interactive workshop on the science of engagement.

Burnett adds, “It’s not often you’re able to talk openly with others about the challenges presented to each of us, much less have the time and attention of five to 15 other talented business leaders working on challenges of their own devoted to my challenges. The notes I took that day haven’t left my side weeks later, and I suspect I am not alone. Those magic moments happened in honest and sincere dialog between practical strangers, and everyone expressed their gratitude for the openness, honesty and vulnerability present in the room.”