For the second consecutive year, the Leadership Development Workshop (LDW), hosted by PPAI and the Regional Association Council (RAC), brought regional association leadership together virtually for two days of comprehensive education and networking. Held July 21-22, LDW is in its 22nd year and despite its temporary shift to a virtual format, continues to support regional leaders and foster relationships among regional associations.

“As we wrapped up two days of virtual LDW 2021, we could not be happier with how the event ran,” says RAC President Rena Ashfeld. “PPAI and RAC volunteers came together to put on year two of LDW at home and it turned out terrific. The speakers were phenomenal, and our breakout sessions were filled with so much knowledge packed into each session. And to top it all off, there was karaoke! We feel that everyone was pleased with the event. We all agree that we look forward to an in-person event for 2022 so that we can all see each other and hug and raise a glass at Bonnie & Clyde’s.”

On opening day, July 21, LDW sessions ran from 1:30 – 4 pm CT, before ending with a virtual karaoke networking event. After the workshop’s opening remarks, Ashfeld joined PPAI Interim President Bob McLean, CAE, for a “fireside chat”—Ashfeld noted that she’d lit a candle on her desk to keep the session title legit—that examined the state of the Association and the industry, what the trade show landscape looks like now and what can be expected for the in-person PPAI Expo 2022.

LDW’s first day also included an education session and keynote presentation. Nikki Haton Shanks, MBA, CAE, a strategist for Association Laboratory, in her session, “Is Content Strategy Replacing Membership Strategy for the Association?” spoke on five forces driving the future—COVID-19 hangover, behavior changes, economic disruption, workforce realignment and technological interconnectedness—and how they will influence associations’ decision making. Mark J. Lindquist’s keynote proved that a Zoom presentation can also mean “high energy.” Lindquist shared his story, including how he was adopted from South Korea and grew up in Minnesota, and how the right attitude and mindset took him to the U.S. Air Force, to roles in TV shows and movies, and performing live for more than three million people in 22 countries.

“I came into the virtual LDW to gain some new ideas on programs and professional development,” says Kim Reinecker, MAS, regional sales manager for Starline and Houston Promotional Products Association board member. “Both Nikki and Mark’s discussions were interesting and thought-provoking. Nikki’s especially confirmed the need to have face-to-face interaction with our members.”

The second day of LDW began with the presentation of the 2021 PPAI RAC Volunteer Award to this year’s two recipients. Scott Hareid is owner and president of multi-line rep firm Hareid Marketing and has a long history with the Upper Midwest Association of Promotional Professionals (UMAPP). He also served on the PPAI’s Board of Directors in 2015-2017 as RAC delegate. Cathy Miller, MAS, regional sales manager for Geiger, served on the boards of the Sunbelt Promotional Products Association (SPPA) and the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South, leading both organizations as board president—in 2001 and 2009, respectively—and serving in numerous other board roles. She was named a PPAI Fellow in 2016.

The day’s schedule also included sessions presented by Harold Wood, immediate past president of the RAC Board, and Dean West, president of Association Laboratory. It concluded with six concurrent breakout sessions that attendees could join based on their interests. These sessions’ subjects included the future of virtual events, the new world of in-person events, transitioning boards to the strategic level, secrets to engaging members, creating compelling marketing and optimizing the return for attendees, exhibitors and sponsors.

“LDW continues to bring regional leaders together to collaborate, share and grow,” says Wood. “Even with this year’s event being a virtual conference, there is an energy unlike any other event. Having this many truly passionate leaders in one place, really speaks about how much this is a community and not just an industry. Leaders put aside their companies and personal goals for the betterment of the community. PPAI and RAC both put a lot into these workshops and it shows every year. I have had the chance to lead, work behind the scenes and even speak at this workshop, and every year it reignites my spirit and hope for our industry/community. With the difficult year we all have experienced, I am thankful to be a part of this event.”