Volunteer leaders from the PPAI board and committees and the industry’s regional associations have been in Grapevine, Texas, this week for the 18th annual Leadership Development Workshop (LDW), hosted by PPAI and the Regional Association Council (RAC).

“What a great week,” says Rena Ashfield, national sales manager, Advance Corporation and RAC delegate from the Upper Midwest Association of Promotional Professionals. “I am always so impressed with RAC and LDW—the sessions are always at the highest level, along with great food for thought on regional information that also translates to everyday business. My biggest take away is even though there is so much we do as regionals, there is always so much more that we can do. Learning tips and best practices from other regionals is fantastic.”

Beginning Monday with a PPAI Board of Directors meeting, the four-day event continued with training and planning for PPAI committee and advisory group chairs on Tuesday. Wednesday and today included an extensive curriculum of seminars, panel discussions and collaborative exercises, plus networking and consultation opportunities for regional association leaders. The program wrapped up this afternoon.

Jodie Schillinger, CAS, director customer care, Maple Ridge Farms, and incoming chair for the PPAI Suppliers Committee, participated in LDW’s committee and advisory group chair training day. She says, “What an honor to be included with such an amazing group of leaders from our industry. Being a first-time attendee, what was most inspiring for me was how this group of leaders gave back. They collaborated, connected and had honest discussions about their successes and challenges as servant leaders. An additional take away was that we are training our industry with a new mindset and challenging one another to always look forward—the innovate or die expression comes to mind. With this motivation, we are learning to attract and gather the right teams to collaborate, research, listen, discuss, review and execute, and then review again.”

More than 150 volunteers representing 27 regional associations attended LDW to participate in their choice of 28 education sessions with speakers and panelists presented by PPAI staff and experts from within and outside the promotional products industry. Presented in a series of breakout sessions, LDW’s education schedule allowed attendees to tailor their experience to their association’s needs and take part in all that the programming had to offer.

Tuesday evening, attendees honored some of the regional community’s most accomplished members during a reception and dinner. Kendra Kirks McDougal, a brand merchandise consultant at HALO Branded Solutions in Colonial Beach, Virginia; and Mark Shinn, MAS, president of Incentives West, a multi-line rep firm based in Newcastle, Washington; were formally recognized as the 2017 PPAI RAC Volunteers of the Year for their leadership and contributions to the regional association community. That same evening, Julie Schoenbauer, executive director for the Rocky Mountain Region Promotional Products Association (RMRPPA), was presented with the 2017 Donna Hall Memorial Grant. Established by the RAC board in 2013, the grant provides regional association executive directors with financial support to attend education conferences and events and advance their education and careers.

Wednesday night, PPAI invited attendees to its headquarters in nearby Irving for the first-ever LDW open house. The evening included dinner from a selection of food trucks, live music and a tour of the building that gave participants the opportunity to learn about the departments, programs and services within PPAI, and the many resources available to them.

“LDW provided me and our attending board members with tools, knowledge and a host of resources that we can use to improve our service to our regional association members,” says Charley Mann, national account executive, LinksUnlimited, and a volunteer with the Carolinas Association of Advertising and Marketing Professionals. “Especially interesting this year was our visit to PPAI’s headquarters where each staff member was inviting and demonstrative of their commitment to serve PPAI members. It was such a fun way to learn from and network with those whom many of us interact with during our board service.”

Shelley Bednarski, regional sales executive, Sweda, and president of Promotional Products Association of Florida, adds, “RAC LDW is where you get to be with and learn from the best of the best in the industry—regional association volunteers. LDW provides the tools and exposure to help us help you, the professionals of the promotional products industry. It is the greatest event on earth!”