For those who might think there is a stodgy side to conferences presented by the venerable AICPA, be prepared to change that notion, because the combined Practitioners Symposium and TECH+ Information Technology Conference was about as far from stodgy as accountants can get.
According to Todd Helton, director of meetings and conferences at AICPA, approximately 1,000 attendees gathered in steamy Las Vegas this week for the first simultaneous Practitioners Symposium and TECH+ Information Technology conference. Participants included CFOs, controllers, firm administrators, managing partners, shareholders, and sole practitioners.
The renowned Bellagio Hotel provided an elegant setting for the vibrant and upbeat atmosphere of the three-and-one-half-day conference that, by all appearances, exceeded everybody's expectations. " We're seeing a level frankly at a level beyond what we anticipated", said Peyton Burch, chairman of the TECH+ portion of the conference. "We're seeing technology people sitting in PCPS [Private Companies Practice Section] sessions, we're seeing in-firm people sitting in the technology areas and participating and understanding and better empathizing with what the other half of the equation's having to do, so it's been great for us, very positive."
Mike Shost, chairman of the Practitioners Symposium portion of the conference, said that attendance at this year's event exceeded the combined total of attendees at 2009's Practitioners' Symposium and Information Technology Conference. Shost said that plans are already in place to combine the events again for 2011 when the conference is scheduled to take place from June 13-15 at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas.
Burch said that the AICPA has learned over the years that Las Vegas itself is a draw for these events. He said that in the past, the conferences used to be held in Las Vegas every other year and in different cities in the intervening years. But the attendance at the Vegas events was always higher, thus the decision to keep the combined conference in Vegas.
The combined conference began on Sunday, June 6, with optional afternoon sessions followed by a welcome reception. Two and a half days of sessions followed, with the conference wrapping at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 9.
Although several participants complained that the 7 a.m. daily starting time was too early, there seemed to be no shortage of attendees at the early morning classes. Some vendors also suggested that the short last day was ineffective. The vendor booths were only open for half an hour on Wednesday, and many participants used that time between sessions to check out of their hotel rooms instead of paying a last visit to the trade show floor.
Working the bugs out is all part of the job with a first time event, but Burch and Shost will have a chance to do just that, as they are slated to handle next year's event as well. "We're looking forward to collaborating", said Burch, although he added",It's a little daunting to try to build on the success we've had this year."