Someone who is very familiar with an annual show put on for a state CPA society recently complained that the show was too much for the vendors, not for the attendees, and there's some truth to his complaint. It's easy to forget who the show is really for-the attendees.
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Most shows seem designed to please the vendors, the people who pay for a lot of the industry's events. And their needs must be kept in mind. If they don't make money, they aren't coming back. Maybe if more CPA societies put more substance in their conferences, then CPAs would find more value in belonging to state CPA societies.
Of course, sometimes it seems that if there is enough CPE, it doesn't matter whether the exhibits or sessions are any good, as long as credits are available. Walk the floor with a bored look, visit vendor exhibits, and get CPE. But the problems with CPE are for another day.
Some shows, like the Sage and Microsoft reseller shows, have gotten too big. People get lost. But that too is a broader subject.
The one at hand is, to be fair, something of a chicken-and-egg question. Which comes first? Does good attendance draw vendors? Does having a great exhibit floor draw more attendees? Let's make this more a Yin and Yang issue: the two are inextricably intertwined. But it strikes me that some shows are a little too much Yin, and not enough Yang.
This is true, not just of the CPA shows, but also for the vendor reseller conferences.
Few business application areas are getting more attention right now than low-cost accounting software.
With Microsoft's attempted re-entry into the field against Sage and Intuit, there will be a lot of noise for the foreseeable future. Editor Robert Scott tries to sort out the noise from the information and show which strengths the leading vendors bring to the field.
In "A Price for Everything," associate editor Riccardo A. Davis examines pricing trends, both up and down, with tax and accounting software. What product prices are headed which way?
Associate editor Carly Lombardo looks at trends in continuing professional education in "Online CPE." A lot of stuff is on the Web, but classroom instruction continues to play an important role.
In "Just Managing," Lombardo explores how smart reselling firms are utilizing project managers to keep implementations on time and under budget.
Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference is for the vendors, or THE one vendor. It has been an empty-calorie conference, designed more to leave resellers oohing and aahing about Microsoft, and pumping up executives, than it has been about bringing the resellers together for their own benefit. That's not going to fly any more, at least not with software resellers, who are far more sophisticated than Microsoft's Classic VARs.
The real value in conferences is networking. In the Internet era, we can get product information. The vendors hit the road to explain their products, probably in better detail in regional events than they can in national get-togethers.
Microsoft tries to substitute technology for human relations for Reo, its networking system that it trots out for conferences. That's nice, but if you go out with a mindset of what you want to learn and who you want to meet, you end up learning less than if you simply let circumstances deliver new information and new opportunities.
WPC also seems more about glitter, food, and entertainment than about the attendees. It is smoke and mirrors with a big sheen of marketing gloss.
Giving them the old razzle, dazzle worked for Richard Gere's character in Chicago. But it goes only so far with business people who are trying to make money.