Editor's Corner: Why Accountant Conferences Matter
With most of your heads firmly buried in Busy Season work, thinking about continued education or attending an event outside of drinks with co-workers may not be top of mind, to say the least.
But Conference Season as we know it will be upon us before long. More importantly, planning for that time to learn, to network with colleagues and getting to know about new products and processes that can make your firm more efficient and improve your work with clients kind of needs to start now or very shortly.
The fact of the matter is, the majority of accounting professionals simply don’t go to events, at least not the larger national ones hosted by groups or vendors, due to cost constraints or lack of perceived value. It’s all too easy these days to get the CPE you need online, and local and state societies often have enough throughout the year to attend something not too far away from your desk. However, if you don’t hit at least one of these national events, you are missing out and, not that it’s as important to you, but they could eventually diminish or disappear.
Now, before you get any ideas, I’m not a paid advocate for any particular accountant-focused event. But over my 16+ years overseeing the profession, I’ve been to my share and know what they’re about, how they’ve evolved and what they do well.
At the end of the day, every attendee I have ever spoken with always says the same thing about why they're there. Regardless of the amount of products that are displayed or CPE sessions offered, they attend to network; to meet with and hear from their colleagues about issues they themselves are struggling with, and maybe get a business tip or two about how to improve their own practice, work with clients, a compliance concern or experience with a particular application.
Given the rapid advancement and change the profession, and businesses in general, have undergone in recent years – and continue to face – if you are at all inclined to advance your practice or even keep pace with the change, consider attending at least one of the events listed below this year as it could make all the difference in your professional lives.
Mind you, this is not the most definitive list, but in my view, this represents some of the more highly attended and valuable events for an accounting professional. They may even offer you the most knowledge and networking opportunities when it comes to products and processes you need to know about today. So, in no particular order of importance here's what to consider attending between May and December:
*Editor’s note: For nearly a decade this event has been hosted by Woodard Events, a division of the Woodard Group which spends the year educating and inspiring bookkeepers and accounting professionals (predominantly ProAdvisors) around the challenges and changes they face as professionals, and dealing with product-related issues (predominantly Intuit-based products). This year Scaling is expected to host nearly 1,600 individuals from vendors to attendees, exceeding previous expectations to the point that the venue itself needed to be moved from a hotel in Atlanta to nearby convention center in Atlanta. Despite this, or perhaps in part, reports indicate cancellation fees had to be incurred from the change in venue and other bills are owed so Woodard Events had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to restructure some debt. Nevertheless, the show is going on and, again, is expected to reach record attendance levels.
*Editor’s note: This is the first year these events will be at larger venues and under a new owner (Terrapin Holdings). These were formerly run by Flagg Management, which had struggled to attract new attendees or offer anything new or innovative year in and year out. For many attendees, that seemed just fine, but Terrapin seems determined to shed the old image, hosting an Expo-like event for accountant-centric vendors and attendees alike, with a variety of new speakers and, again, larger venues.
*Editor’s Note: Since taking over Sleeter Group’s annual event, Diversified Communications (like Terrapin) is looking to shed its former image and host an event where attendees can come for FREE and learn about new products and practice methods. The Accountex brand itself has had much success in the U.K., where it remains the largest accountant-attended event of the year. The show itself looks to serve as both an expo and educational experience.
Avalara Crush 2018 (hosted by Avalara)
Sage Sessions* (hosted by Sage)
*Editor’s note: Sage has historically hosted a once-a-year event for customers, partners and accountants called Sage Summit, which is likely to return in the U.S. next year. This year, Sage is embarking on a bit of a tour of North America with its Sessions effort, hosting 1-day events in a variety of cities to share learning on technology and industry trends.
Xerocon (hosted by Xero)
Xchange (XCM’s user & partner conference)
AbacusMaximus (hosted by AbacusNext)
Synergy (hosted by Thomson Retuers Tax & Accounting)
CCH Connections (hosted by Wolters Kluwer)
QB Connect (hosted by Intuit)
So what have you attended or, moreover, why haven't you? We'd love to get your thoughts on these events, their value (or lack thereof) to you and why you do or do not attend.