And it was refreshing! The biennial ISPA conference covered cutting-edge topics — mixed with fun events and one epic awards dinner.
“Learning together. Sharing success.” That was the theme of the 2023 ISPA Industry Conference held March 15-16 at The Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Florida. But as nearly 200 attendees converged on this historic art deco gem along the water’s edge, networking with friends and having fun in the sun also took top billing.
“This was our first ISPA Industry Conference since 2019,” said ISPA president Ryan Trainer. “Ours is a wonderful industry that thrives on the personal connections — seeing and working directly with each other. The breadth of industry participation this year was fantastic. Now that Covid-19 is behind us, I think we all thoroughly enjoyed being in-person learning, networking, having fun and honoring our industry leaders, mentors and friends in beautiful St. Petersburg.”
The event kicked off March 15 with the ISPA Golf Tournament at the Vinoy Golf Club’s sweeping 18-hole course. Despite the unseasonably chilly temps, golfers (or, in some cases, wannabe golfers) warmed up the greens with their camaraderie and friendly competitive spirit.
In the afternoon, a roundtable discussion sponsored by Women in the Home Industry Today tackled important topics such as “Mentorship and Sponsoring Women” and “Creating Reasonable Boundaries.” Afterward, participants gathered on a sunny patio to toast to each other as part of the ISPA Women’s Network Reception sponsored by Variowell.
Crowning the first day, the Welcome Reception & Exhibits, sponsored by Hickory Springs and Atlanta Attachment Co., attracted guests to the Palm Court Foyer and Terrace for cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and the chance to meet other attendees and browse tabletop exhibits.
On March 16, a hearty breakfast buffet greeted participants — suppliers, manufacturers and retailers alike — in the Majestic Ballroom. Time to carb up for the day’s slate of speakers discussing in-depth topics on today’s challenging business environment.
Starting the day in dynamic style complete with flying videos of her F-15E fighter jet, Col. Nicole Malachowski, USAF (Ret.) delivered the opening keynote address on “The Mach 2 Mindset: Decision-Making in a High-Speed Environment,” sponsored by CertiPUR-US.
The first woman Thunderbird pilot and fighter squadron commander discussed the benefits of speed and how to make decisions in three types of environments: chaotic, controlled and unexpected. She also touched on elements of trust, teamwork, communication and sharing the workload.
Next up, David Kepron, author and former vice president of global design strategies for Marriott International, coaxed the audience toward changing traditional mindsets to remain relevant in a digital marketplace. Today’s consumers are different and expect to develop relationships with brands and to engage in interactive experiences. The key is remaining open-minded to adapt to their needs and expectations, he said.
Afterward, Kepron lead a retailer panel discussion on today’s tough retail environment and what customers are now asking for, such as sustainable products, sponsored by NCFI. Panelists included Chris Bradley, executive vice president for NCFI Polyurethanes/BedInABox; Lisa Stansbury Humphrey, president of Fred’s Beds; and Greg Trzcinski, president of The Original Mattress Factory.
Following a lunch break and a dash outside for some fresh air and Florida sunshine, Alexis Bateman discussed “The Path Toward Supply Chain Sustainability” sponsored by the Mattress Recycling Council. The research affiliate and visiting lecturer from MIT stressed that sustainability will soon no longer be voluntary as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission becomes more and more involved. There’s no better time than the present to begin examining your business’ path toward sustainability, Bateman said.
Finally, Eric Termuende, bestselling author and workplace culture expert, began his speech by asking the audience why there is a global hiring crisis. He then laid out his “Blueprint to the Future” — sponsored by Milliken — on how to lead in this “new world of work.”
His three-pronged strategy involved first building a deep sense of trust among employees; then finding a formula to reduce friction; and finally, creating a low-risk culture of experimentation, inviting ideas from all employees, from the most entry level to the most senior.
The conference concluded with the ISPA Awards Dinner held in the Vinoy Grand Ballroom — complete with a signature Dale Chihuly chandelier.
Sponsored by Atlanta Attachment Co. and Hickory Springs, the elegant dinner honored three industry leaders. Ron Passaglia, former president and CEO of Restonic Mattress Corp., received the ISPA Exceptional Service Award. Adam Lava, director of sales for A Lava, earned the ISPA Vanguard Award. And Richard Diamonstein, managing director of Paramount Sleep Co., accepted the Mattress Recycling Council Distinguished Service Award. (Profiles of all three exceptional bedding industry professionals will appear in upcoming issues of BedTimes.)
Finally, the evening capped off with a special tribute to Dave Perry for his 40 tremendous years covering the bedding industry. Perry recently retired as BedTimes and Sleep Savvy’s editor at large, and attendees got the chance to thank him for his service and wish him well in his next chapter.
On the following pages, check out our photo album of all the events. Meanwhile, it’s never too early to plan to attend upcoming ISPA events: the ISPA Sustainability Conference, Sept. 13-14, in Charlotte, North Carolina (ISPASustainability.com) and the ISPA EXPO, March 13-14, 2024, in Columbus, Ohio (ISPAEXPO.com).
ISPA Women’s Network
ISPA Industry Conference – Day One Fun
ISPA Industry Conference – Dynamic Speakers
ISPA Industry Conference – Bringing It to a Close
Photography by Mynda Bullock