The Conference Circuit: Got Gas?

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Conferences are hard enough to run. Just look at the annual accounting conference and exhibition run by the New York Society of CPAs. It’s not enough that conferences are under attack because there’s so much information on the Web. No, the NYSCPA, under the New-York-is-the-center-of- the-universe theory, has seemingly set out to destroy its own show by moving locations and dates. And it did major damage by deciding it could manage its own show. One vendor described the result this year as “pitiful.”

But even without such self-inflicted wounds, show sponsors are going to have an increasingly tough time convincing attendees that their event is worth four-dollar-a-gallon or more in gas, and if you’ve priced tickets for a vacation lately—my family is spending about 30 percent more for air travel for our annual trip to my roots in Indiana—promotion is going to get tougher.

In fact, a recent news report said that high gas prices have done more for teleconferencing services than about anything else in history.

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The problem is that there’s still no substitute for connecting in person. So, in-person events aren’t going away. But it’s likely that attendees choose to attend fewer events, rather than staying off the road completely.

At the same time, the number of conferences has continued to expand—although plans for those were largely in place before the acceleration of energy costs.

Intuit has launched four conferences in the last three years. It has turned its QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions conference into a reseller conference, which will be followed on consecutive days by a user conference this fall. Last year, it quietly held a QuickBooks/Lacerte conference, which is being offered this year as two conferences, one in Orlando, followed by the same show in San Diego.

Thomson Reuters, the part of it that was known as Creative Solutions, is planning a series of Partner Summits, partly as a place to spend money that was going to some of the shows.

These are more regionally focused, and maybe as with the Intuit conferences, cost will force more vendors to offer shows that follow that avenue. It’s always been tough to get West Coast attendees at East Coast shows and some already alternate between different areas of the country.

It also seems likely that general shows, like the state society shows, would be more vulnerable than the user conferences, as the user conferences have a stronger focus. There is a more compelling business reason for the attendees to show up.

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Editor Robert Scott also writes “Consulting Insights,” a free, twice-monthly electronic newsletter that addresses issues concerning the consulting and reselling market. It’s insight with an attitude. If you want to subscribe, put the following in your browser address line: subscribe.webcpa.com. You can also visit us at www.accountingtechnology.com

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