Don't drink and tweet: Illinois CPA Society president speaks at nation's largest state CPA conference

Last week's Midwest Accounting and Finance Showcase in Rosemont, IL, outside of Chicago, kicked off with approximately 1,700 CPAs in attendance, a group so large that it was clear the need for knowledge and networking is still alive. The annual event, sponsored by the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS), celebrated its 30th year.

Keynote speaker and ICPAS president Elaine Weiss shared with her audience several concerns about issues that the accounting profession faces, including health care reform, an overhaul of Wall Street, and the current hot button among accountants, the IRS's proposal to regulate tax preparers.  She reminded that tax preparing CPAs who do not have  PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number) that they need to get one, and those who already have one need to renew it. As the law currently stands, non-signing preparers also have to have a PTIN, however the ICPAS is working with the AICPA to fight Congress on this issue.

Weiss discussed generational issues in the workplace, referring to this as a hot issue. "We continue to find that people are struggling, particularly in the small firm environment. A couple of years ago we were talking about the fact that all the Baby Boomers would retire and no one would be left to take over. Thanks to a bad economy, we're worrying that the Baby Boomers will never retire."

She suggested that older workers (those who subscribed to the mantra, "Don't trust anyone over 30" when they were joining the workforce) now need to reach out to younger staff members and help them better understand the expectations of their superiors. "Listen to your younger staff, embrace social media. As my kids would tell me, e-mail is so yesterday. It's all about Twitter and LinkedIn."

"When it comes to recruiting employees and generating business, social media is the way to go," Weiss said. She also suggested that senior staff members work with younger staff members to help them understand how to use social media effectively in a business environment. "I tell my children, 'Whatever you do, do not drink and tweet.'" Speaking about social media to the older people in her audience, Weiss said, "You have to learn how to use it, then you teach your younger CPAs not to go overboard."

Weiss explained to AccountingWEB that social media has changed how the ICPAS serves its members.
"We have to be succinct and creating in using social media," she said. To help members who are still learning about social media, the ICPAS set up a Social Media school at the conference where participants could learn how to use many of the social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. "It's one of the most popular booths," said Weiss. "It's surprising how many members are stopping by." She explained that a lot of members are searching for jobs, and they are exciting to learn about the social media tools that might help them.

The ICPAS is also taking advantage of Internet tools to enhance its online presence. Not only does the society tweet, have a Facebook page, and host a LinkedIn group, but the society hopes to be able to move to a 24/7 educational experience by offering online training on demand to its members. "The key is the right format, the right delivery mechanism," explained Weiss.

The two-day conference combined training opportunities in accounting & auditing, tax, technology, practice management, and practice development, with a trade show featuring almost 100 vendors offering products and services to members of the accounting profession. The Illinois conference is the largest state CPA show in the country.

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