Let’s face it, the accounting industry is changing and related conferences need to do likewise. Some of them are, for sure, but there simply has to be more than the lure of CPE.

This isn’t just me and my years of covering this profession. Any CPA interested in evolving their practices will tell you there’s more of them than you may think.

The attraction of earning CPE credits has long been the standard at any notable (and some not so) accounting industry event. It does serve its purpose and may for a long time to come. 

However, if you listen closely enough—in between sessions, in the hallways, at the cocktail receptions—you will hear the sound of accountants expecting more than the required 50 or 90 minutes and a signature. They want more for their airfare, their gas, their hotel stay, their rubbery chicken with side of veg.

Ideas, the exchange of information and experiences with growing pains, the chance to learn from and share with colleagues and industry experts, and real-world examples are becoming more expected, and some conference hosts are recognizing it.

Not two weeks ago at our own Growth & Profitability Summit, I overheard this very discussion between three CPAs—how more conferences need to get people engaged and not just tell attendees what they already know. I was pleased to hear they were having a positive experience at our event.

There may always be a place for those who just want their continuing education credits so they can continue doing their tax work and for those who just want to do QuickBooks consulting. It works for them, and who are we to say that it’s wrong?

You can’t force change, though it is often forced upon you, be it through clients, competition, the economy or some internal need. I believe we have hit a point in the profession’s history where there are more accountants willing to listen and willing to change. Just don’t tell them they need to, tell them how. Offer more than coffee, tea and CPE.

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