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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jazz up your game at SEAA

If you are in the electronics payments industry and would like to sell to, learn from or network with the feet on the street, the Southeast Acquirers Association aims to help you do that and more at its annual meeting.

The two-day conference will be held March 24 to 26, 2008, at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel in New Orleans. The goal of this year's event is three-fold: to address hot topics causing anxiety and ire within the industry, help some Katrina victims and have fun.

The SEAA, founded in 2000, is an independent association open to all acquiring bankcard professionals. It was established to educate the ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) by keeping them informed about the industry's latest trends and regulatory changes.

The SEAA conference is designed to be a venue where exhibitors can get the word out about their products and services. Over 70 vendors will participate.

Dee Karawadra, the founder of Impact PaySystem in Memphis, Tenn., and newest SEAA board member, spoke about this year's conference site. "There are several reasons we chose New Orleans, but the number one reason, of course, was to give back, to do some kind of service for the city," he said.

On the last day of the seminar, March 26, volunteers will have the opportunity to paint a school or clean up a city park. "We'll provide lunch and snacks," Karawadra said. "It's a great mingling factor, and a great chance to get away from the showroom, give people a chance to talk one-on-one and do some real networking."

Karawadra said he is a perfect example of why this show is so helpful. He didn't have industry knowledge or relationships with the right vendors before he attended his first SEAA conference. "I went to that show 5, 6 years ago and met so many people in the industry," he said. He still relies on each of the vendor relationships he formed then.

Each year, the SEAA's advisory board members, who represent all facets of the payments industry, suggest topics that are ripe for discussion. The spotlight this year is on Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) compliance. "PCI used to have the mentality that it only affects the larger merchants, but that's not the case anymore," Karawadra noted. Getting the word out to mid-size merchants is a conference priority.

Breakout sessions are charged with offering fresh insights that will lead to better-educated MLSs who are able to produce more merchant accounts. Cash advance and interchange will also be covered, and forums will convene at which MLSs can air concerns and get questions answered.

In addition, the National Association of Payment Professionals, an organization that caters exclusively to MLSs, will conduct a town hall meeting that addresses issues raised from a survey of 300 industry professionals.

As for Karawadra, he can't wait to return to New Orleans. "The night life is awesome, from jazz bands to every kind of club you can imagine," he said. Regarding the service portion of the seminar, he said, "A lot of people in this industry have made a lot of money, so it's kind of time to give back." end of article

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