*ERA Conference Under Way in Spain

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BARCELONA - The Electronic Retailing Association's Annual European Meeting officially starts today with several format changes from previous years. ERA president/CEO, Ellissa Myers has taken steps to ensure that attendees accept those changes.

With more than 300 attendees from 36 countries, Myers is making sure they welcome the switch away from "speaker after speaker after speaker," she says, to the new format of three separate interactive workshops taking place over the three-day conference.

In order to accomplish this, she is rewarding attendees just for showing up to the workshops.

"We're splitting everyone in the groups," Myers said. "The winning group -- the group that scores the best in the challenges we've set up during the workshops -- will get free registration at our next conference. We were scared that people wouldn't come because of the new format, so we thought this is an appropriate way to put them in the seats."

The prize is worth almost $2,500 per person per team. The incentive came, Myers said, after several vocal European members voiced concern over the last conference's concentration on new media instead of simply bringing companies together to discuss learning new ways of doing business and making money now.

"Also, any member who attends all three workshops will receive a discount on registration at the Las Vegas show in September," Myers said.

Among the topics to be discussed at the workshop are the consolidation of European direct marketing companies, the influx of membership clubs in the U. S. and abroad, local cable affiliates "stepping on" or pre-empting DRTV spots with their own programming and the mandatory enforcement of closed captioning for all television programs in the United States by 2002.

The workshops start today after a keynote speech by noted hypnotist Paul McKenna, who is producing his own infomercial for airing in the United States and the United Kingdom, which just recently removed laws, which disallowed hypnotists or psychics to direct market on television.

"I'll be sure to implant many positive messages about the conference and the workshops during my speech," McKenna said.

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