Why Accountants Need More From Events Than CPE and Networking

Some of you may know my views on the importance of live events in accounting, but recently I’ve witnessed a shift in why attendees go or need to go: human support.

Sure, CPE, networking and quality content are indeed a thing when it comes to considering the time and expense of attending an in-person event. But accountants these days need more, they need each other I dare say more than ever.

If you are a tax pro, bookkeeper or accounting professional, particularly at a small firm, you have probably felt particularly alone and even hopeless after what you endured these past three years. Many of you may have even questioned the very reason you do what you do, and considered moving on to something else professionally altogether.

But accounting is community, there is no better place or reason to attend a live event than to have and feel a sense that people get you…your pain, your joy, your struggles, your reason for continuing in this challenging and beautiful profession. This sense of belonging, of understanding the changes that are going on in the accounting profession were on full display at Tri-Merit’s recent Unique CPA event: Bridging the Gap.

If you missed it, don’t worry, you will be hearing about it and I suspect it will be around for years to come. Affectionately referred to as “RandyCon,” named for Tri-Merit co-founder Randy Crabtree, CPA, Bridging the Gap delivered on its promise of showcasing what is truly needed for the current and next generation of accountants to belong and thrive. Moreover, it was a reminder that accountants want, and deserve more than the usual array of CPE sessions, with familiar speakers, staid topics, and expected networking events.

The Tri-Merit event boasted sessions that focused exclusively on mental health and well-being, understanding what enjoying your firm and work can be, defining how exactly current and newer technologies can be used, and challenging the notion that “work/life” balance has it backwards. It even had an “awards” ceremony that didn’t take itself too seriously (i.e.: “most background appearances in a Zoom call”).

It’s not to say all conferences need to be this way, or that it was not without its imperfections. But the fact that the key topics were on display, recognizing the true need for support and understanding of current accountant challenges over rhetoric and change-mongering, showed that someone is paying attention.

Issues like DE&I needn’t be “check the box” scenarios. The coming of AI into the profession needn’t be feared, but understood and even enjoyed. The fact that, at times, you want to “throat punch” your clients or even some staff, is OK. And guess what, so is vacationing during busy season(shock! horror!).

All of this points to the fact that accountants want and need to get real. They want to feel OK to laugh, cry, scream and just feel like their authentic selves while navigating their professional challenges. Some even want to compose raps about it.

In short, accountants need each other and to feel seen and heard. They need to feel supported and safe with one another and not put on display because someone thinks they represent their agenda, or dictated to about what they “should” be doing. Any event that can truly deliver and does that with authenticity will have attendees and vendors coming back consistently.

I also want to shout out to other events that have cropped up or continue to grow out of a similar need: Accounting Salon, Thriveal and their Deeper Weekend, and more recently the #TaxTwitter Retreat are good examples. Note that this is no disrespect to any of the existing events in the accounting space, they all have their place and continue to attract vendors and attendees alike for the purpose of learning and growing as a business. I look forward to attending those as well.

But the aforementioned is the future of what meaningful accounting events, in my humble opinion, need to be about and I wanted to spend some words making sure this was known. Do consider attending one in the future, or maybe…come up with your own!

7 comments

  1. On point! i agree. I feel i see the same group of people in most of the conferences… which means there is a whole world of accountants that ignore this.

  2. This is a really good summary and reflection on what we experienced this week. I think there may be a future in smaller, curated events. The irony, and the catch, is that If love more people to experience it.

    1. Thank you, Megan and agreed. I think these events can grow to a point and then just capped or diversified further. But if there’s enough of them, they will each find their audience in numbers and personalities.

  3. Totally on point, Seth. This is a great recap of the event and some of my conversations with you, Megan Tarnow, and others (were you eavesdropping? 🙂 )

    I hope the trend of talking about and creating community as a foundation of a successful practice and healthy owners/employees continues. Relationships with others who share similar experiences is so important for our well-being.

    1. Thank you Tori! I admit part of what I do is active listening, so call it what you will but I listen to all conversations and not just the words. Looking forward to catching up in the future.

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