Registration for the 2018 PPAI SPARK Conference, July 19-21 in Nashville, Tennessee, has sold out—13 weeks in advance. Now in its second year, the event’s rapid adoption points to a seismic shift in the industry’s needs amid evolving demographics in the promotional products industry.

In recent years, as the average age in the promotional products industry has risen, a common concern has been about attracting more youth to the industry. As it turns out, members of the younger generation were within the industry’s ranks—they just needed an event to draw them out.

“SPARK was developed as an outreach program to bring together like minds within the promotional industry,” says Kalie Herron, 2018 SPARK work group chair and multi-line rep with Herron & Associates, LLC, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “Our like minds just happen to be all in the same generation. The organization is working to bring everyone together to learn from and inspire [each other].”

Jody Mello, PPAI’s manager of professional development, says SPARK is a unique experience designed for the next generation of the promotional products industry. “We focus on creating an action-packed educational conference that is mobile, environmentally friendly and that will have a positive impact on the attendees and the local host city. We move to different locations throughout the conference location so attendees get a feel for the city. Since our conference is smaller in numbers, our participants can truly engage with their colleagues and think through how to immediately apply the knowledge they learn.”

This year, the SPARK Conference accepted 80 attendees, a 32 percent increase over the inaugural 2017 event.

“The value of SPARK to the future of our industry cannot be overstated, and I know this personally,” says PPAI Board Chair Dale Denham, MAS+, chief information officer for Geiger. “One of the most impactful experiences of my life was at the PPAI Power of Creativity in Colorado when I was young in the industry. This event formed me as a person and as a leader, and helped me perform better within the industry almost immediately. I am confident multiple future PPAI leaders and board members will be past SPARK attendees.”

The conference’s programming is focused on creating an educational event that will have a positive impact on attendees, get them thinking creatively, and help them network and learn from their peers. This year’s conference will feature more than 15 speakers over its two-day run.

“SPARK offers education and networking opportunities that truly are geared to a different audience than some of the other conferences and events that PPAI holds, and it helps ensure they don’t get lost in the mix,” says PPAI Chair-Elect Brittany David, CAS, vice president of sales at supplier SnugZ USA. “It is also great to see companies—both large and small—support these young professionals in their professional development and get them further immersed in the industry.”

Herron adds, “The way our generation learns is different from the norm. We tend to retain knowledge through experiences. It is an important factor, and going to conferences like SPARK gives attendees the opportunity to learn firsthand from industry experts. Our events have proven that young professionals want to grow and learn because they keep selling out.”

Beyond the SPARK Conference, young industry professionals can stay involved at the SPARK After Dark networking reception at the PPAI Expo in January, and on the SPARK Promo Connect page throughout the year.

While the 2018 conference is sold out, interested industry members can join the wait list here.