Conferences can offer you a little bit of everything. From socializing with fellow industry professionals to oodles of free swag that can keep your pen drawer stocked for years to come, it’s tempting to sign up for each one that comes to town.
Going to conferences provides a lot of value and learning experiences, but having realistic expectations is integral to making sure the time commitment is worth it. Ultimately, conferences deliver a lot of information and resources, but there’s so much other critical information that doesn’t get discussed.
The key is to balance where you’re getting your information from. Depending solely on conferences means you’re likely going to miss out on some details that affect your clients. Having a reason beyond the free totes and thrill of lanyards will ensure you’re getting the best experience. Otherwise, you’ll come out of conference season looking like this for no reason.
What are conferences good for?
Whether you’re the type to loosen up a necktie or tighten it up before a conference, there’s a little something for everyone. If you know what to expect, you’re less likely to leave disappointed, and here are some of the positives you can depend on.
Understanding big changes in accountancy
If something has a large impact on the accounting profession, it’s going to be discussed at a conference. You can typically check out what the main talking points and presentations will be online prior to committing to going. This allows you to see if the information will be valuable to you before you pay the price of attendance.
Networking for new connections
Getting to know other people in the profession is a great way to stay up-to-date on changes. Making the connection in person is still the most powerful way to leave an impression. This is especially valuable for smaller operations to keep a pulse on how other firms and accountants are changing their processes for the better. Or, at the very least, you’ve got somebody to connect with over a coffee to vent about the most pesky clients.
Discovering new industry technology
Many conferences will feature new tech companies in the space, showing off their new innovations to make your workload easier. It’s a unique opportunity providing you with a marketplace of vendors where you can talk to real people about their product, and understand its potential benefit for your operations. Rather than navigate websites or find contact information, you get the answers and info you need to compare different software and technology all in a single space.
What conferences don’t teach you
When you want something specific out of a conference, picking the right conference isn’t always the question. If you’re looking for any of the following, you might want to look at other options.
Local and regional regulatory changes
Conferences want to attract the largest crowds and thus talk about only the most widely applicable topics. The most up-to-date information on local regulations or legislation is only going to be relevant to the chunk of the audience from that area. If you’re trying to stay on top of all the changes that are most relevant to your operations and local clientele, big, national conferences are likely to underdeliver.
Issues facing local businesses
As much as the bagel shop a block down from your office is the highlight of your day, it isn’t going to be highlighted at a convention. This means that the demographic of your client base might not be represented in the education provided as it skews any marketing or service tips towards a different clientele than yours.
There are 32.5 million small businesses in the United States and 23 million of them have fewer than 20 employees, meaning they’re smaller local operations. Local operations are strongly defined by where exactly they’re operating and understanding the specific wants and needs of those businesses will be more valuable than information for large-scale businesses.
Shifts in specific industries
Similar to location, the industry a business operates in will determine how you can best serve them and the information required to do so. Take, for example, the rising cost of borrowing money.
If you serve industries that need to borrow to amass a lot of physical capital like construction or restaurants, this is going to have a bigger impact than on a one-person life coaching operation. The more you’ve really niched down your services into a few verticals, the less general information will benefit you.
How to fill in the gapS
In the end, having a balanced approach to getting your information from multiple sources will always be best. But time is incredibly valuable, so it’s important to spend it in the right place. Try these options when you’re looking to use them to effectively keep up on the information you need to know.
Checking with state societies
Every state and some cities will have specific associations on all things business. It can be the local chamber of commerce, an SBA branch, or other free resources made available to local entrepreneurs. They will often offer events that present information valuable to your clientele. This offers an amazing opportunity to network with people you’re hoping to serve and learn information that can improve how you serve your client base.
More time talking to clients
As much as accountants are supposed to offer incredible expertise that guides their clients to sound decision making, clients are themselves a valuable resource to guide what that expertise should be. Setting aside more time to consult with them and ask about their growth plans and anxieties will help you understand what you need to know to be the best support system you can be. It will also give you valuable insight on how to get more clients for your accounting firm. Not to mention, a tidbit of information one client knows can be something that’s valuable to another client.
Expanding your local network
Ultimately, having more people who need to know the same information as you in your network is the best fix for staying in the know.
LinkedIn is a great place to start the search. Start by looking at other local accounting firms and checking out some of the people who work there. When you reach out, you can ask specifically about their favorite resources or strike up a conversation about what they’ve been chatting about with clients recently.
Ideally, in the long term, you’ll keep each other in the loop about local events and have someone to go with who has similar intentions.
Waste less time with Botkeeper
Learning anything is going to take time. It’s difficult to balance serving the current needs of your clients and keeping in the know about changes that affect how you serve them. If you’re feeling like there isn’t enough time in your day for both growth and providing your services, you’re not alone.
You can’t make the days longer, but you can maximize the free time you have available. With Botkeeper, powerful software built on machine learning and input from fellow accountants can manage many of your menial, time-sapping tasks. By automating account reconciliations, report generation, document collection, and so much more, you have more time to stay up-to-date and in the know.