NCOF Speaker Uses Humor -- Not Fulfillment -- to Engage Crowd

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DALLAS -- A joke-laced keynote speech highlighted the start of the National Conference on Operations and Fulfillment here yesterday. Meanwhile, fulfillment-based services firms appeared to feel good about the prospects they're seeing on the exhibit floor.

A near-capacity audience of 950 people attended the keynote luncheon speech by Mark Sanborn, president of management training firm Sanborn & Associates. Sanborn delivered a motivational speech about getting the most out of one's employees. He told jokes about alien abductions and his infant son that had the crowd laughing for most of his 40-minute speech.

However, Sanborn's speech didn't address fulfillment or direct marketing issues specifically and could have been delivered to nearly any business crowd. And when compared to Direct Marketing Association president Robert Wientzen's industry-intensive opening day keynote speech last year, it seemed that convention organizers were using Sanborn to lighten up an audience dealing with an economic period marred by uncertainty. The DMA is indicating that this year's attendance is down from last year.

"They were definitely trying to make us feel better," said Lori Sims, West Coast account executive at Sigma Micro Corp., an exhibitor at the conference. "With the economy being confused as a whole, I think (the NCOF) was trying help people's attitudes."

The NCOF, which is being held at the Adam's Mark Hotel in downtown Dallas, has 319 exhibitors this year, which is 23 more than registered in 2000. At the end of the day, many exhibitors appeared to be satisfied with results so far, though those interviewed curbed their enthusiasm, because turning prospects into paying customers in this industry is generally a three- to six-month process.

Sigma picked up six leads yesterday, said Ken Armstrong, East Coast account executive for the order management software firm.

"I can tell you one thing -- it's been a lot better than Seattle," Armstrong said, referring to February's DMA show in Seattle. "Although the traffic here has been a bit slow at times, overall it's been a pretty positive show so far."

Manhattan Associates established contact with 12 companies it now considers potential customers, said Patrick Maley, territory account manager at the fulfillment services firm.

"It's been great because this the core vertical market that we pursue," Maley said. "We have no complaints at all."

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