The Southeast Acquirers Association held its 14th annual conference April 20 to 21, 2015, in New Orleans with a balanced blend of exhibits, entertainment and presentations. The two-day event included networking, presentations, seminars and entertainment in a city known for hospitality, music and world-class cuisine.
Leading industry processors, manufacturers, vendors, leasing companies and technology startups convened in the exhibit hall. Monday evening's opening reception was followed by a Bourbon Street pub crawl led by a live jazz band. Show highlights included an ETA Certified Payments Professional seminar, an array of contests and an eclectic mix of guest speakers.
"In our experience, it was a well-organized, high quality event with a great balance between social gatherings and informative discussions around payments, acquiring and merchant relationships," said conference exhibitor Stephen Ramminger, Senior Business Operations Manager at Atlanta-based ControlScan.
Presenter Jason Oxman, Chief Executive Officer of the Electronic Transactions Association, drew applause when commenting on the ETA's active collaboration with regional industry associations.
"I'm honored to have the opportunity to represent the industry," he said, reflecting on the ETA's 25-year history and continuing focus on education, advocacy and exchange of information. He shared findings from a newly released Goldman Sachs study in which 64 percent of respondents stated they expect merchant volumes to increase in 2015; approximately 45 percent of merchants said they were on track to achieve EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) compliance by the end of 2015.
Oxman noted that the ETA now has four full-time lobbyists in Washington, D.C., currently monitoring six pending bills in Congress. He expressed confidence in the newly formed bipartisan Congressional Payments Caucus and the payments industry's role in powering payments throughout the United States.
Casey Porter, Director of Product Delivery at Visa Inc., co-presented with Oxman on the role of ISOs and merchant level salespeople in the ever-changing payments market. Porter said Visa is working with processors and acquirers "to drive our value and sell our issuing products into the merchant base," through timely offers and discounts at the POS.
Keynote speaker and author Mac Fulfer shared his Amazing Face Reading sales techniques, which included a live demonstration involving four brave audience volunteers. Fulfer noted that sales professionals can take their cues from a prospect's facial characteristics to adapt sales presentations. "There is no law against using face reading," he said.
Other presentations by industry experts included advice on selling merchant portfolios, using technology to acquire new merchants, and effective ways to build a personal brand through networking and relationships.
Winners of the SEAA's Whodat2015 Innovation Program were honored at the conference. Ten finalists competed in four categories: originality, revenue opportunity, presentation quality and market impact.
Finalists had eight minutes to present innovations to a judging panel during the opening session on April 20. Contest rules stipulated that solutions must be production-ready at the time of competition. Entrants were limited to one product per submission form and two product submissions per company with an April 1 deadline.
First prize winner Ping 2 Credit Mobile received $1,000, a complimentary exhibit space in the Payments Next Zone at Transact 16, and a complimentary booth at the 2016 SEAA. Second place winner Click a Waiter Inc. received $500. Third place winner Jory LLC received $300, and fourth place winner Quisk Inc. received a $200 prize.
Lagniappe, a word that means a little something extra, is thought to have originated in New Orleans from the Spanish la ñapa. It also can be used to describe the spirit of camaraderie and partnership at Transaction Cardi Gras.
Gary DeBaise, Account Representative at New York-based Xpress-Pay, said that exhibiting at SEAA increased the company's visibility and credibility. He described the show's overall atmosphere as "friendly professionalism" and offered an example, stating, "I met someone at lunch and he opened a conversation right away about my business, his business and how we can potentially work together."
Michael Doron, Managing Director of Pay.On America Inc., was also pleased by booth traffic and level of interest at the conference. "There's a growing need for secure, PCI-compliant, cross-border e-commerce in the card-not-present space," he said, noting that attendees and fellow exhibitors were equally interested in learning about his company's products and services.
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