As many accounting professionals (myself included) prepare to attend the QuickBooks Connect conference in November, I wanted to share some thoughts on how to make the best use of your time at a conference.
1. Do Your Homework
Don’t wait until the night before a conference to look at the schedule and sessions. Think about why you signed up for the conference, and what you hope to get out of your attendance. If you are going to take several days away from the office, spending time and money getting there and back, then ensure your resources are being wisely spent. Have some goals for the conference, and write them down. Scientific studies have proven that written goals are more achieved than “thought” goals!
2. Meet New People
It’s fun running into friends and colleagues at conferences, sitting with them at meals and in seminars, and hanging out with them in the evening. My recommendation? Don’t!
That's right, don’t only hang out with people you already know and see regularly. Instead, take advantage of the opportunity to meet people from different practices/firms, cities, and states. Ask them about their practice, what tools they use, what kinds of clients they take, and why. See if you can learn something new about how to attract clients, work with clients, manage your practice, etc.
If you are attending with a co-worker, consider not attending the entire conference like Siamese twins, glued at the hip. Why not split up and attend different sessions, so you can get twice as much out of the conference when you debrief each other later?
Also, break the “rules” and talk to strangers! I purposefully try to eat breakfast and lunch with a table of strangers, so that I can hear something new. Introduce yourself, and smile. It will take you a long way!
3. Choose Sessions with Intention
At the 2015 QuickBooks Connect conference, Oprah Winfrey spoke about living life with intention. She told a story about her talk show, and how she learned the importance of taking a private pause before each show, and thinking about what she wanted to get out of the day’s broadcast. She then let her intention guide her actions.
I have attended many bookkeeping and accounting conferences over the years. It’s too easy to just show up and get swept away by the buzz and excitement of the breakout sessions, the main stage speakers, and the exhibit hall. How about this, before attending a conference, think about what you want to get out of it.
- Do you want to meet more people with a practice like yours so you can network and learn from them?
- Do you want to meet someone with a larger practice and learn how they grew?
- Do you want to get answers to problems you are facing with individual clients?
- Do you want to learn about third party apps?
Most conferences these days have a few different “tracks,” so think about which tracks will help you and choose to attend those sessions.
4. Review the Exhibit Hall Roster in Advance
Think about who you want to talk to in the exhibit hall, and why. Don’t just wander from booth to booth collecting the cool freebies! I now arrive at conferences with lists of questions or topics I want to discuss with specific vendors. For me, I know they include vendors I am currently working with and third party apps I might be interested in trying.
On the reverse side, if I am facing a workflow or other challenge with a specific client, I will come to the conference with a list of my pain points, so I can work my way through the exhibit hall in search of solutions.
5. Open Your Mind and Try Something Unexpected
In 2014, Magic Johnson spoke at QuickBooks Connect. I was ready to skip that main stage presentation, because I didn’t think he could possibly have anything to say which would be of interest to me. Boy, was I wrong! I attended the session despite my misgivings and felt it was the best talk of the conference. Sometimes, we need to empty our cup before we can fill it.
If you take the time to prepare for attending your conference, you improve your chances of getting more out of the conference than if you just show up and go with the flow. So attend your conference intentionally!
Jody Linick is an AIPB Certified Bookkeeper and a QuickBooks® Certified Pro Advisor. Her company, FitBooks Pro (formerly called Linick Consulting), specializes in remote bookkeeping services using hosted QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online. You can find her series of Blog posts here.