Last Thursday, PPAI’s SPARK 2021 Direct-2-You brought young industry professionals face-to-face during a four-hour virtual conference. Attendees enjoyed a half day of fellowship and connecting in lively breakout sessions after a tumultuous year of health crises and supply chain disruptions. Together, these industry peers spent the day discussing how they will lead and navigate an industry that has forever changed.

Ninety-seven professionals spent the day asking challenging questions, presenting new ideas and sharing laughs. Kacie Brinner, the SPARK workgroup chair, says, “We kicked off with a great panel discussion led by the SPARK workgroup about how to balance a hybrid world and how our new normal affects the promotional industry, followed by seven breakout sessions that focused on discussion and connection. I’ve heard excellent feedback about the DEI and Social Responsibility sessions, and we had a blast with the Promo Pictionary and Guess Who games at the end of the day. The workgroup is proud to have provided this opportunity for education and networking, and we look forward to seeing everyone again soon.” PPB’s 2021 Rising Stars were also recognized at the beginning of the event. The 12 must-watch industry pros were treated to a special presentation in their honor.

During one of the panel discussions, the SPARK workgroup discussed a variety of industry hot topics, including what they think the industry will look like moving forward. To that, panelist Andrew Carpenter, CAS, says that this industry must change the way it markets itself. After the panel, attendees were encouraged to attend three out of the seven breakout sessions. In session “Prospecting Then vs Now: Using Old School Methods with a New Twist,” Brandon Pecharich and Javier Melendez offered tips for prospecting. Pecharich suggests dusting off old-school tips, like picking up the phone, networking in person and sending handwritten thank-you letters. Melendez says new methods like LinkedIn and “sliding in the DMs” bypass making daunting cold calls. Attendees tackled other topics in sessions like “How to Maximize Conversations Between Suppliers and Distributors” and “Creative Problem Solving Through Ongoing Inventory Shortages.”

After a full afternoon of brainstorming and industry shoptalk, attendees got to smile and laugh with each other during games like Promo Pictionary and Guess Who. As the event ended, Brinner asked the attendees two parting questions: What is one thing you are going to do tomorrow based on what you learned today? What are you excited to share?