Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Many in the payments industry are filling their calendars and heading off to seek their fortune at the Electronic Transactions Association's 2008 Annual Meeting & Expo, taking place April 15 to 17 at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. It is bound to be a fruitful event for all who attend.
Another highly beneficial, albeit smaller, industry meeting just wrapped on March 26: the Southeast Acquirers Association's 2008 Annual Conference. Held at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, which stretches 49 stories above Canal Street on the edge of New Orleans' French Quarter, the event offered multiple networking opportunities with vendors and attendees in a highly congenial setting.
While many regional association meetings have similar objectives and agendas, each is unique. Well-planned by its board of directors through a series of in-depth conference calls and meetings and graciously executed by members and volunteers, SEAA's latest effort was memorable – from equally warm greetings to old friends and first-time attendees alike during registration to the final event, an optional volunteer project at New Orleans City Park.
A main draw on Mach 24 was the Field Guide for ISOs presented by Mark Dunn, President of Field Guide Enterprises LLC. The fact that this continually updated learning opportunity repeatedly draws crowds of 50 or more throughout the country is a testament to Dunn's effectiveness as a teacher. An opening reception followed where people could mingle and get to know one another.
Throughout the conference the catered continental breakfasts, lunches and reception fare were notable – the Cajun flare couldn't help but make it so.
Tuesday's keynote speaker, Paul Martaus, brought so much wit to his talk, which was about Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.'s plans for First Data Corp., as well as recent legislative initiatives to watch out for, it is easy to forget how much effort it must take to bring some very dry industry research to life. His talk, unfortunately, was interrupted by a leak that literally caused electrical sparks to fly, which, in turn, caused a temporary evacuation of several floors of the building.
But the conference soon resumed, and while some attendees chose to connect with vendors in the main meeting hall, others attended discussions, presentations and panels on such topics as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard; emerging markets, new products and business changes; cash advance; and foreign currency conversion, which, given the state of the U.S. dollar vis-à-vis other currencies, is more compelling to our industry than ever.
The last event before Tuesday's closing reception was a town hall meeting called by the National Association of Payment Professionals. A group of leading NAOPP members who are committed to ensuring that merchant level salespeople (MLS) receive the education and respect they require to thrive in their chosen profession have been taking steps to implement effective training for MLSs.
They emphasized the importance of moving forward on this mission, provided some examples of what a training course might cover and implored attendees (who expressed a range of opinions about MLS education) to get involved in the organization.
Finally, those who were able to stay in town through March 26 donned casual duds, boarded a bus and headed off for a morning's work at New Orleans City Park. It entailed digging beds for plants and flowers (donated by SEAA) in front of playhouses in the children's section of the park. It was a fitting contribution from the group, which in 2005 had planned to hold its annual conference in New Orleans, but had to change the venue due to Hurricane Katrina.
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