Conference highlights 2017

Apr 12, 2017
The Chartered Accountants Ireland annual conference takes place on 12 May 2017 in the Radisson Blu, Galway and is now taking bookings from accountants and non-accountants, members and non-members. The line up is excellent and there is something for everyone.

My first conference...ever

Looking ahead to this years Chartered Accountants Ireland annual conference on Disruption on 12 May 2017, I cast my mind back to my first ever conference. Several years ago I attended an education conference with my then employer. The room was small, stuffy and crowded and my brain had switched off before I even left the house that morning. I was going under duress, with my logic being that if I could fuel up on free coffee at the start I might just last the day without wanting to stick sharp objects in my eyes out of sheer boredom. This was all going to be for the experts, the educations geeks.

There were about six speakers during the day across various topics and despite my misgivings, I was really captivated by all of them. Looking back now, it makes sense.

What a conference should be

First of all, the organisers need to cover the full spectrum of their industry and to find the best available people to represent their areas meaning you’re likely to hear from experts, not wafflers.

Secondly, the people being approached likely have form with these things, ergo are pretty confident, good speakers and engaging to listen to.

And finally, the format won’t let them steal the show and drone on for hours. There is little room for egos here: everyone gets the same allotted time and the person ultimately in charge is the techie at the back of the room who really doesn’t care and will quite happily turn off your microphone after the 40-or-so minutes are up. It is the responsibility of the speaker to fit in their best bits in a manageable concentration time and give us the highlights and headlines. It is perfectly pitched to people like me!

My first Chartered Accountants conference

Having then learned to not judge a book by its cover, I went along to the Chartered Accountants Ireland annual conference last year thinking it might have a few interesting bits and pieces but that most of it would not be of interest to me. I am not an accountant and in fact never took so much as a Business Studies class at school so what could I possibly be interested in from an accountant, never mind a hotel full of them?

I was somewhat comforted by the fact that there were keynote speakers from other industries such as economics, sport, entertainment who I knew would at least spin a few good yarns and maybe even pose for a snap – the selfie being the new autograph. I was not disappointed on either count.

As staff, we are assigned to rooms to be time police to the speaker and to deal with any operational issues of the session. It was so well organised that really nothing went wrong in terms of anything I could do: the equipment all worked, there were enough chairs in the room, the speakers had water, the attendees could all see and hear. I hope I didn’t offend any speaker too much with my now near-perfect “wrap-it-up” sign language while pointing frantically at the clock.

Engage with the content

Some of my colleagues were in the technical rooms and at the start I smiled at them pityingly, but actually most of these sessions were packed to the rafters and really very interesting. The rule held true that it can be fascinating to hear someone at the top of their game speak enthusiastically about their area of interest and expertise. The passion is contagious and it is so much easier to learn when we’re engaged.

For myself, I sat in on a talk from a founding member of a distillery (himself not an accountant) and learned so much about marketing, business, exports…and perhaps most importantly if I were in business, what mistakes were made and what challenges were overcome. I am not a fan of “celeb culture”, but the talk Niall Breslin gave on his trials and tribulations with mental health was inspiring in every sense. The whole room was hanging on his every word.

So much to learn

The key thing I took from everything I saw and from every person I met was that the information is entirely transferable. Ideas about marketing a product or service, about reaching into new markets, dealing with state bodies for support, problem solving…all of these are applicable to every person, product, service and sector. It was all about putting your best foot forward and going for success.

There was such a lovely supportive atmosphere that oozed around all the rooms. People were interested in what other people were doing, how they might help each other. There seemed to be a lot of people reconnecting from having known each other in previous workplaces, training, education or socially not to mention making new connections.

What's coming up in May 2017

This year as I look over the schedule, I see plenty that looks really interesting. The theme is disruption and who hasn’t faced that?! I see technical sessions here that will be relevant to industry, practice, managers and employees. I see business advice sessions that will guide on harnessing and prevention of disruption within technology, teams and systems. There are leadership sessions about career management, personal development, company development and even our physical health.  All relevant and all so helpful to know.

Don't assume anything

My one piece of parting advice comes from Oscar Wilde via one of my primary school teachers: “When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me”. Don’t assume anything. Don’t assume you’ll be bored, don’t assume it’s not going to be relevant and don’t assume there’s nothing in this for you. Prove yourself wrong.

The Chartered Accountants Ireland annual conference takes place on 12 May 2017 in the Radisson Blu, Galway and is open now for booking.

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