People attend the Electronic Transaction Association (ETA) annual meeting for a variety of reasons. Twenty years ago, when the ETA first started, (then called the Bankcard Services Association), it was a place where ISO’s and payment providers could meet, exchange ideas, and learn from one another. As time went by, and the payment processing industry matured, the ETA evolved into somewhat of a vendor show, with dozens and dozens of vendor booths offering every conceivable kind of payment service, including some new ones you probably wouldn’t have known existed, without going there. At the ETA, as the show is called, some people spend all their time in the vendor area, and meet with industry contacts off the tradeshow floor, without ever attending the sessions. But that would be a big mistake. This year there are ten sessions. They typically last one hour. They are divided into 4 areas: sales, technology/products, social media/marketing, and government/regulatory. You cannot attend them all, because some of them are overlapping. Choosing the right one to attend can be difficult. ISO’s middle name is “Sales,” and for most ISO’s, the main goal when they wake up every morning is to book new business. But at the same time, there are unprecedented changes swirling around the payment system right now, and even for seasoned payments professionals, it is difficult to predict what the landscape will look like in five years. Of course, much of this is driven by new technology. That in turn is driven to some degree by how consumers will choose to pay in the new environment. And we cannot underestimate the role of regulatory bodies in the payment system. One session is called, “What Keeps You Up at Night?” This is a pretty apt tagline, considering all the things that are going on right now. I will be attending a session called, “Three Analysts with their Heads in the Cloud,” featuring some of the top observers in the industry (Aite, Mercator, and IDC). There are 8 other sessions that bring together some of the biggest players in our industry as speakers. Another benefit of attending is that you can go up to the speaker(s) after the session and talk to them directly, or just exchange business cards to follow up later. Sometimes, this can be one of the most valuable parts of the ETA. Yes, some sessions will be standing room only, and some speakers will compete with the noise in the vendor area and lunchroom, and someone will forget to turn their cell phone off, but when you attend a great presentation, it will all be worth it!