For me, this time of year is spring training season. Not only is the women’s collegiate softball team I coach, actually doing this physically as they prepare for games, but I am also using the time post tax season to get myself, my team, and my firm in peak condition for the rest of the year, and beyond!
An integral part of my spring training regime is, in fact, training in the form of continuing professional education. While I am a passionate proponent of online education, I also think it’s important to attend at least one or two in-person events each year. Next week, for example, I’ll be attending my first live conference of the year, heading to San Diego for AccountingWEB Live Summit, and I’ll be going to Scaling New Heights in June. I am so excited to go and reconnect with colleagues like you.
If you are hesitating to spend the money and time to attend events like these, or you feel a little uncertain due to the Covid cloud of the past few years, or you are just exhausted, I hear you! However, think about the amazing upside and gains you can make professionally and personally if you do go. In fact, thinking about these benefits is exactly how I stay motivated to keep learning and growing by engaging in our amazing accounting community and connecting face-to-face with my peers.
Here are six ways to prepare prior to attending your next accounting conference to maximize your financial investment and commitment:
1. Create a training strategy:
After tax season, whether you do taxes or not, is the ideal time to reassess your success and think about your goals for your practice in the next 6, 12, 18 months and beyond. A critical corollary to this is to think about the kind of training you need to have to support your vision. Once you have a strategy in regard to the knowledge you need to obtain, you’ll have a better idea of which conferences can help you get it.
2. Map out the conferences to go to to achieve your goals:
Do your homework to see which in-person conferences have the specific continuing education you need, then factor them into your budget and schedule. If you don’t already have an annual plan and money set aside for training, now is the perfect time to do so for next year. While the professional side of things is definitely critical, don’t forget to look at the personal side, too. Pick a few places to go that are on your bucket list!
3. Be sure to visit the vendors at the event you attend:
I am super passionate about leveraging technology wherever I can in my firm to maximize productivity, efficiency and profitability. That’s why spending significant time educating myself on the newest technology in the exhibitor hall at the conferences I attend is fundamental. I recommend that you do the same. Take the time to see what is new from a tech standpoint that can really help you take your firm further in the future.
This is how I have created a tech stack that really works for my firm and allows me to remain highly productive and profitable. Plus, it’s at conferences where I have the time to focus and spend time watching demos, discovering what is new.
I call my integrated tech stack The Team Brolin Starting Lineup because I treat learning about and implementing accounting apps like a softball training strategy…each position on a team corresponds with the position of the app I use in my firm. For example, Veem (which I discovered at a conference last year), plays third base in my firm–it helps drive revenue and payments home with its simple, intuitive and affordable platform. Plus, it is easy to use and not over engineered, offering the ability to complete every type of payment on one platform (ACH, check, international wire, cards, wallet).
4. Prioritize and socialize:
Expanding on the point above, you’ll want to not only think about the location when it comes to your in-person training plan, but you’ll also want to personalize your itinerary in terms of the social side of the events you attend. While the continuing education sessions you attend are invaluable, sometimes connecting with your peers and getting that collegial networking and real-life inspiration can be even more motivating and useful.
5. Use the buddy system:
If the thought of attending a conference alone is overwhelming or intimidating, know that a lot of us feel that way. That’s why we travel in groups or at least with one other person. Call up your favorite colleague, join a pre-conference group online, or take a co-worker with you to your next event. You can buddy up either as travel companions on your way there and during the event, or just meet up at the venue and attend sessions and social time together. Having a buddy makes the whole event so much richer and rewarding plus, you can hold each other accountable for actually following through on your post-conference action plan (Because you are going to create one, right?).
6. Have a post-conference implementation plan, too:
Once you have attended your event and made the most of every moment, it’s time to take all of that learning and all of those amazing ideas and plot them on an action plan or timeline so you can truly benefit from them and accelerate your success.
Coming out from under the cloud of Covid-19, I have found that connecting in-person with colleagues and partners has been really refreshing and rewarding, even if sometimes it feels like I don’t have time to do so before I go. After the fact, I am always glad that I did because the insights and ideas that I come away with are worth their weight in gold. Not to mention, it can be extremely reassuring and stress-relieving to feel the support of a larger community of accounting professionals. I think it is important to have that face time with each other so we feel less alone, expand our networks, and learn from each other.
The support I receive from peers is simply priceless! I think most of us would agree that making the time and effort to attend accounting profession events is well worth it. So take a breather and register for at least one virtual and one in-person event happening this summer, it will give you something to look forward to. And, once you are there, I have no doubt you’ll benefit from being reinvigorated and inspired, which is exactly the type of motivation we need to make the remainder of 2022 a home run personally and professionally.
About the Author:
Dawn W. Brolin, CPA, CFE is the founder of Team Brolin and author of The Designated Motivator, a practical guide for individuals who have the passion for engaging, encouraging and empowering others to reach their full potential in business and their personal lives.
She is CEO of Connecticut-based CPA firm, Powerful Accounting Inc., and the owner of Fight Against Fraud, a training organization dedicated to helping accounting professionals and small businesses optimize their operations and reduce their fraud risks.
Dawn’s extensive accounting expertise and personal entrepreneurial experiences fuel her passion for helping other business owners succeed through the application of smart technology solutions, effective financial management, and comprehensive business continuity and fraud mitigation strategies.
Dawn’s contributions to the accounting profession are continually recognized with many top awards. Most recently, she was named “2020 Top Niche Practice ProAdvisor: Forensics” as well as one of the “2018, 2019 & 2020 Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting” ~ by Accounting Today.
Dawn has appeared on the MSNBC show Your Business and has spoken at national conferences including CPA Academy, Cleveland Ohio Society of CPAs, Intuit QuickBooks Connect Conference, Live Your Legacy, Scaling New Heights, AbacusMaximus, Spark & Hustle, TD Bank, and many others.
Dawn’s in-depth knowledge and down-to-earth, entertaining approach make her an in-demand trainer, speaker, and thought leader on the topics of technology, motivation and strategies for building better professional practices and business organizations.
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