For PPAI, 2022 has marked a return to in-person events. Following the success of The PPAI Expo 2022 and Women’s Leadership Conference 2022, the PPAI North American Leadership Conference returned to its in-person format this week for the first time since 2019.
Industry leaders came together at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, beginning Sunday, for educational sessions, keynote speakers and the opportunity to connect with each other face-to-face.
“It’s so great to see everyone coming back together, talking live,” Dawn Olds senior vice president of industry relations and DEI at HALO and PPAI’s board chair. “It can feel nearly impossible to do over Zoom or by email. That creative energy, you can just feel it here. It’s palpable in the room. It’s great to have it back.”
After an outdoor welcome reception Sunday evening taking in the Broadmoor’s famous scenery, the event officially kicked off Monday morning with a packed schedule of informative sessions capped off by the evening’s networking dinner at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum with a talk from Paralympic skier Tyler Carter.
Monday’s sessions tended to focus on technological progress. Earlier in the day, Mike Pfeiffer of American Solutions for Business, who is also chair of PPAI’s Technology Committee, explained the ongoing challenges of cybersecurity. Tech expert Vala Afshar of SalesForce provided the room - full of high-level promo professionals - with a presentation on near- and short-term possibilities afford by technology, including AI, that should be top of mind for company leaders. Afshar also joined Dale Denham for a Q&A diving deeper on the subject of digital progress.
“Every year it’s different, and the topics seem to shift in focus,” says Christopher Duffy, MAS, the CEO of Signature Group Consulting, who has now been to 10 NALCs. “Today seemed to be technology and people, and I find that good. I look for tidbits, and I got pages of tidbits today; things I can apply.”
Keynote speakers from outside the industry were a big part of NALC’s first education day, asking company leaders to think outside of what has been directly in front of them recently.
Claudia St. John of Affinity HR Group – a PPAI partner - proposed hiring practices and employee benefits that might have seemed radical to the company leaders just a few short years ago. Tamara Ghandour, president of LaunchStreet Consultancy even asked each table to build a rocket ship with the scant material accessible at their table. The event also included a “fireside chat” with PPAI CEO Dale Denham, who marked the non-profit trade association’s progress and challenges.
PPAI’s goal to bring together many of the industry’s top-level executives creates inevitable opportunities for networking and ideation, which NALC doesn’t shy away from. An “Executive Exchange” between speakers asked attendees to discuss issues at hand with a small group of peers they were randomly assigned to sit with, leading each attendee to hear multiple perspectives on shared issues that have come up in the industry over the past three years.
“That has been a lot of the conversation,” Olds says. “Conversations around ‘How did you deal with this? How are you driving innovation in a hybrid work environment?’ There were some really great ideas that our table exchanged that I’m excited to go back and apply.”
According to Duffy, the exchanging of ideas at NALC always takes a familiar pattern but with fresh ideas.
“The other benefit is the networking and the connecting,” Duffy says. “I know 90% of the room, and after three years, sometimes it feels like we hadn’t been away, but I just like the connecting and the catching up. This is a room of like-minded people.”
PPAI’s aim with NALC is to encourage the industry’s leaders to push new ideas forward and solve problems together, putting mutual solutions over competition.
“We all just want to do better,” Duffy says. “We all go back to our offices and have obstacles to tackle.”