At the very tail end of August, I went to scenic Rosemont, Ill., to catch the annual Midwest Accounting Jamboree, one of the biggest trade shows on the calendar, and I thought I’d share a few observations.
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First off, some people call it “the Chicago show,” but this is a mistake, most likely caused by the fact that airborne attendees like me fly into the same airport that one would use if one were actually visiting Chicago. Before this trip, I had never been to Chicago; after it, I still haven’t. Rosemont is in Terminaland, one of those interchangeable zones of low-rise office parks, highway overpasses and vast parking lots that spring up around major airports; you’re right near O’Hare, but you could just as easily be near LAX, JFK, BWI, or any of a dozen other three-letter neighborhoods.
Next year, I’ll come a day early and get to see Chicago. In the meantime, I got to see the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, which is named after the mayor who took a sleepy village and made it the Rosemont we know today -- as well as endowing it with a museum of Hummel figurines, based on his own enormous personal collection. (I didn’t get to see the museum. Maybe I’d better come two days early next year.)
To get to the convention center from my hotel, I had to cross the six-lane road that runs between them. Every time I went back and forth (which was a lot of times, given all the things I routinely forget in my hotel room, like pens and charging cords and socks and the name of that movie -- you know the one -- with that guy? and the other guy as the uncle?), helpful policemen stopped traffic for me -- because there were no stop lights or crosswalks with Walk/Don’t Walk signs. Most likely the budget for them was siphoned off to pay for the Hummel museum.
Anyway, those aren’t the observations I wanted to share with you. The ones I wanted to share came from inside the convention center, at the actual show. As I mentioned, it’s one of the biggest on the calendar, and offers some unique opportunities to spot trends, or the beginning of trends, or just weird things.
1. More choice. The exhibitor floor was pretty full, and the cloud or the Internet played an important part in most of the products on offer. With barriers to entry dropping, we’re seeing more new products (and more innovation), particularly in areas that had previously only had a few players. Not since the late 1990s have so many new software packages and apps come on the market. Not all of them will succeed, but enough will to offer you all sorts of options and new ways to do things.
2. One step forward … . The accounting profession still has a long way to go in its treatment of women, but I was pleased to note that women had a very high-profile presence, from jam-packed keynotes by Illinois Society chief Elaine Weiss and CCH tax head Teresa Mackintosh, to seeing women in charge of many of the exhibitor booths, rather than just serving as “booth candy.” We’re not there yet, but it felt more like the future should.
3. … and one back? One exhibitor’s booth even had a stock of all-male booth candy, with a woman in charge. This refreshing bit of reverse-sexism was somewhat marred when one of the men found himself the subject of a ham-handed and more-than-mildly creepy proposal from a gay accountant. Remember -- the goal is for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual preference, to feel comfortable in the profession -- not for everyone in the profession to feel comfortable harassing everyone else.
4. It’s a very small world. The universe of vendors serving the accounting profession can fit in a relatively small space — and in Rosemont, they have to. It’s called Gibson’s, and is, apparently, the only decent bar/restaurant in the area, as proven by the fact that when I went there to meet a vendor for drinks, I saw every single one of their competitors, too. Disappointingly few bar fights broke out, but there’s always next year — after I visit the Don Stephens Hummel Museum.