It wasn't the 106 degree heat or the thought of encountering roadrunners that drew throngs of payments industry professionals to Scottsdale, Arizona, Sept. 24 and 25, 2008. The impetus was the Western States Acquirers Association's fifth annual conference, dubbed "ISOs in paradise," and held at the Doubletree Paradise Valley Resort.
More than 500 people made it through the registration line where they were rewarded with beach towels and sun visors, along with more typical booty tucked into WSAA tote bags. Much to the delight of conference organizers, there were more regular attendees than vendors.
The fun but seriously informative tone of the event was set just after noon Sept. 24 with Mark Dunn's Field Guide for ISOs seminar. The seminar's theme was "ABCs of starting and growing an ISO." The agenda included presentations by industry luminaries on the following timely topics:
The room was packed for the first three presentations. But, after a short break, it was standing room only for latecomers. So, if you dawdled while getting a cool drink, you lost your seat. But it is really called networking. And time spent making connections was as valuable as the insights shared by the experts who donated their time.
So, the first afternoon alone would have been worth the nominal $75 conf-erence registration fee. But it was followed by a reception sponsored by ExoShield and then an entire day of equally compelling fare.
A Sept. 25 breakfast with vendors (whose booths were arranged in two diagonal lines and along the outside of the room, making the room very inviting) was sponsored by Global Electronic Technology Inc. and Secure Payment Systems Inc. Then Steve Eazell of Secure Payment Systems welcomed everyone to the show and introduced the first panel, which offered three different perspectives on business growth.
Subsequent breakout sessions were on Check 21 and remote deposit capture, and defining and executing a compelling sales strategy.
Lunch was sponsored by Humboldt Merchant Services and USA ePay. Afternoon breakout sessions included two panels: the benefits of in-house services versus outsourcing and how to use alternative payments to maximize your portfolio. Then it was back to the hall to chat with vendors during a break sponsored by Ezic Inc.
Two powerful speakers brought the event to a close. First up was Paul Martaus, an industry veteran and long-time consultant who always delights and informs the crowd with his latest research.
Martaus spoke about the tumultuous financial markets and the potential ramifications for our industry (hesitant investors and lenders are a possible downside, but for most of us, it's business as usual).
To close the day, keynote speaker, Richard Fenton, author of Go for No, revealed what he thinks is the greatest success strategy in the world: seeking instead of avoiding the answer no. It may seem counterintuitive, but he shared stories from his life to drive his point home.
After the closing reception, sponsored by American Express Co., Apriva Inc., Global Payments Inc., and JCB International, United Bank Card hosted another rousing Texas Hold 'Em charity poker tournament.
The only downside: It wasn't possible to attend everything. But there's always next year. When you come to WSAA in 2009, prepare to be wow'd.
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