The annual Leadership Development Workshop (LDW), hosted by PPAI and the Regional Association Council (RAC), is under way this week, running October 14-16. Now in its 21st year and held virtually in 2020, LDW at Home continues to support regional leaders and foster relationships among regional associations in the promotional products industry with comprehensive training and networking opportunities.

On Wednesday and today, LDW at Home took place from 2-5 pm CT; on Friday it runs from 9 am – 2 pm CT. The event began on Wednesday with a short opening networking session. Dana Geiger, PPAI regional relations manager, then got the education started with a welcome message for LDW’s 300 registered attendees, followed by a “screenside chat” with PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, and Harold Wood, account manager for BIC Graphic NA and RAC Board President. Their conversation examined the state of the promotional products industry and the regional community.

“Overall, it has been a year of change and challenge,” said Wood. “With challenges come opportunity. The regional community, as a whole, has an opportunity to change our thought processes.”

In answer to Bellantone’s question about what advantages regional associations have now, in terms of finding opportunities among the present challenges, Wood said, “The regionals are so much closer to their membership, in terms of geography, but they also have the adaptability that a larger organization may not have. The smaller you are, the nimbler you are, and I think they are able to touch their members in a way that is faster and easier than some larger organizations. They are able to meet frequently, find out what their members want and react faster.”

Yesterday’s schedule also featured a presentation “Virus to Value – Positioned for Recovery and Rebound,” with nonprofit management educator and speaker Bob Harris, CAE. Geiger’s Stacey Felice, executive director of the Promotional Professionals Association of Chicago (PPAChicago); and Paul Kiewiet, MAS+, executive director of the Michigan Promotional Professionals Association (MiPPA), joined Harris in the conversation.

“With the contraction of the industry and the challenges, we’ve got to be great executive directors,” said Harris. “We’ve got to be innovative and use new technology. Some associations have been perfectly ready for this. They knew what to do and what to talk about. And others said, ‘This is an opportunity to repurpose and be better than we’ve ever been. We will get through this.’”

Looking ahead, Harris said, “I don’t think it’s going to be an ‘old normal.’ I don’t think we’re going to return to normal. I think, as associations, we’re going to adapt. The ‘next normal’ is what you’re doing to make your association better. I want you to focus on value and make some lasting improvements.”

The day closed with another networking session and a virtual happy hour with a mixology lesson from Bill Petrie of brandivate.

Today, LDW included networking, an awards presentation recognizing Janet McMaster, MAS, as the 2020 PPAI RAC Volunteer (see separate story) and an afternoon of education programming.

Harris led a session on board orientation and responsibilities before attendees separated to attend a series of breakout sessions on subjects including connecting in today’s virtual world, hosting in-person events during the pandemic, tips and tricks to make the most of virtual connection technology, personal branding, identifying an association’s unique value proposition to its members, and developing the tools necessary to thrive in 2021 and beyond. The sessions are presented by industry experts and regional association leadership.

LDW’s Friday morning schedule will begin with an optional virtual yoga session led by Roni Wright, MAS, of The Book Company, before transitioning to a session, “Rapid Re-planning – From Surviving to Thriving,” presented by Maura Mitchell of Brandology. Following a short wrap-up and closing session, LDW at Home will end with a working lunch for regional association board leaders.