There are three great conferences in the accounting space that we attend each year. They are Accountex (formerly SleeterCon) in August, Scaling New Heights in June, and QuickBooks Connect in November. The opportunities that arise from these events are unlimited. We find that spending the time to ensure that you are leveraging your conference attendance, leveraging your building of relationships, and connecting with experts in the field, has taken our company to the next level. Each conference offers distinct benefits and different concentrations that you may want to consider for your business.
Breakdown of the Top 3
- Accountex (formerly SleeterCon) is the top-rated accounting technology expo. Attendees can learn about the most innovative solutions in the marketplace. This conference focuses on the tools that can make your accounting software better. They extend beyond just QuickBooks to include Xero, Sage, and others. This conference is also Free! Come to see us in Boston.
- Scaling New Heights (SNH) is Intuit-centric, which means the classes are all geared around QuickBooks products. The fee is $750.
- QuickBooks Connect (QBC) has traditionally been geared with a high emphasis on QuickBooks online products, and the classes extend beyond the ProAdvisors to appeal to the end user as well. There are two options: $299 for 1 day, or 3 days for $599.
We plan to attend all three of these conferences this year. Team CBG attended The Scaling New Heights Conference in Atlanta during the week of June 17-20, 2018. It was extremely high paced, with so much to do that it was hard to soak up all the education available. So do the best you can to become the best in your field of expertise.
Leverage These Strategies to Make the Most of Conferences
- Plan Ahead. There is a lot of planning and expense involved that you need to consider. Always take advantage of discounts for admission. Be sure to sign up for the conference when the price is at its lowest. This is usually right after they announce next year’s date. This can be a considerable cost saving. Also, make sure you make an early reservation for your hotel to get the best room available. Room blocks can sometimes sell out and you could get stuck paying high prices at a subpar hotel. Be sure to look at the conference schedule prior to booking to ensure you are able to attend all of the sessions you have your heart set on. You can always adjust your hotel later.
- Set Yourself up for Success with Your Clients. Be sure you have set clear expectations for your clients so that they know you will be gone. You will be investing in your growth as well as your company. It is best to make sure your clients understand that you will be away and that you will get back to attending to their needs as soon as you are available. Conferences are very busy from early morning meetings to late night socials and all the education in between. It is impossible to juggle your phone/email/workload during a conference. The worst thing that could happen is to have an impatient client with a fire to be put out that pulls you away from the conference, that could have been avoided by planning ahead.
- Continuing Education Galore. If you are a CPA/EA, you can earn continuing education credits, making the investment even more appealing. There are issues to consider, including: Do you want to bring your whole team out for the conference, leaving no one in the office? Perhaps you bring some but not all (you could even make it an incentive to be earned)? Will your team benefit from the education? What do you expect your team to do while they are there? Make sure you set your expectations ahead of time, so you aren’t disappointed later. For example, if you want your team member to become QuickBooks Online advanced certified, sign them up for the classes and then outline when you expect them to study/take the test, and whether it is during or after work hours. Give them an idea of when you expect the test to be completed.
- Pace Yourself. Keep in mind that after the regular conference hours, Vendors often throw parties until the wee hours of the morning. Will your team member benefit from attending? What are the pros and cons of participating? If they stay the entire time, they will be exhausted and not productive the next day. Were they landing a new client, or just having fun? Make sure you explain your expectations and goals to your team members prior to attending the conference.
- Network Till You Drop. Are you or your team members teaching any classes? IF so, make sure team members are there to support you or the team member who is presenting, so that the presenter succeeds and reflects well on your company. As you network between classes, and during the time on the vendor floor, make sure you are prepared with business cards. Don’t just hand out cards, collect theirs as well. Write notes on the cards, showing that you are actively listening. Most importantly, follow up after you return from the conference. Is there anyone attending the conference who brings you business? Make sure you get face time with them. An easy way to thank them is to take them out for lunch or even dinner during the event. Quite often conference food is easy and free but not the best. Either before you arrive or once you are there, try to find a nice quiet place for a meal. Just before the conference, reach out and get on their calendar before they get booked up with other clients.
- The Bottom Line. Conferences can be a lot of fun and also be rewarding if you plan ahead of time and think through what your goals are. Conferences can also be very expensive when all the costs are added up and not very productive if you lose your focus and don’t follow up. Sit down with your team and come up with a strategy for before, during, and after the event. Most important, follow-up.
After the conference is over and all the follow-ups are complete, analyze the ROI. Did you gain any new clients? Did you learn a new trick to help you become more productive when working on a client’s file? Did you earn your CE credits? Hopefully, you answered YES to these questions, and if not, you need to re-evaluate to see if this conference is in alignment with your company’s goals.