NALC Scores Big Wins With Content, Speakers And Venue

This year’s PPAI North American Leadership Conference brought an impressive and influential group of industry business leaders, owners and executives from many of the top companies in the industry together this week for insightful education, information sharing, networking and, of course, a little live music in the Live Music Capital of the World—Austin, Texas.

“The leaders who participated in NALC are up for the challenges our industry is facing and are embracing the need to continuously engage in an approach called Strategic Foresight,” says PPAI Chair Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS, CEO of CE Competitive Edge. “This approach gives members the tools they need to understand and navigate the dynamic and fast-moving marketplace. Throughout the conference there was clarity in our need to get ahead of change, and be the change that our customers desire and will ultimately demand. There was also an abundance of optimism about the future of the promotional products industry at this year’s conference. I left energized and inspired.”

The conference, held at the Four Seasons Hotel in the heart of the city, opened with a reception and dinner on Sunday night; two full days of educational programming followed. Tuesday’s first presentation featured Jonathan Perelman, principal at ICM Partners, who gave an entertaining and highly relevant interactive presentation on creating powerful, sharable content based on his experience at two powerful brands, Buzzfeed and Google. He helped listeners learn the key steps to create highly effective word-of-mouth marketing and then turn those messages into new business for their companies.

A pair of breakout sessions followed featuring two presenters from Monday’s lineup: James ErbEn on recruiting and retaining top executives and Seth Kahan on how to put strategic foresight to work in an organization. After lunch, industry leaders Larry Cohen, president of Axis Promotions, Inc., and David Nicholson, president of PCNA, presented an engaging discussion on the promotional products industry’s changing landscape and the outside forces affecting it.

The day’s programming wrapped up with a fascinating look at how technology and other factors will influence and shape our world over the next seven years with Byron Reese, principal at Gigaom, an Austin-based technology research and analysis firm.

“The final keynote by futurist Byron Reese gave us great insight in some of the changes happening in both technology and in the world in general,” says Catherine Graham, CEO of commonsku. “His talk was a great reminder that all things are solvable with enough ingenuity, creativity and entrepreneurialism. All in all, it was a highly inspirational couple of days with some solid tangible takeaways to come back to the business and work on.”

NALC concluded with a private networking and live music event on the rooftop terrace at Austin’s famed Maggie Mae’s. Joining in were registrants arriving in the city for the PPAI Technology Summit, which started Wednesday and runs through today.

This is my second time attending NALC,” says Kenny Ved, vice president of sales at Goldstar. “Last year was good; this year was even better. Great topics and speakers. One of the main takeaways is that it’s not the products, it’s the people and technology that will drive growth in our industry. Suppliers and distributors must continue collaborating to strengthen their partnerships.”

“NALC was valuable in two ways,” says Matt Gresge, president and CEO of AIA Corporation. “First was the opportunity to collaborate, commiserate and brainstorm with valued and trusted industry peers. The second was the thought-provoking content delivered through the speakers and presentations. In a business where we're constantly stepping on the proverbial gas, it was invaluable to have time to learn, synthesize and be challenged by new ideas.”

Jon Levine, president of The Image Group, says, “What a great conference full of tomorrow's thought leaders. This leadership conference is an opportunity to expand our visions, and it challenges us to plan for the future. I am excited to take what I learned and share it across our organization.”

“The networking is amazing,” says Henrik Johansson, CEO of Boundless Network. “To be able to meet with the CEOs of most of your preferred suppliers in one place is really valuable.  The intimate setting sets the stage for in-depth conversations that would not happen otherwise.  To collaborate with other distributor principals and discuss our industry’s biggest challenges was great too.”

Pete Gleason, MAS, vice president, sales for Custom Plastics Specialties, Inc., adds, “NALC this year, like others, was an incredible two-and-a-half days of the industry’s top leaders and facilitators sharing knowledge and ideas about how we can best prepare for the future. The focus on strategic foresight, in my mind, was brilliant. I cannot wait to get back to my team and share. Moreover, I can’t wait to attend again next year. Thanks again to PPAI for another world-class event.”

Next year’s NALC will be held in Washington, D.C., in August 2018. Watch for more information to come soon at; registration will open in the coming months.

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