XU: Hi Zoe, could you start by telling us about the Accountex journey and how it has developed over the last few years?
ZLC: Diversified Communications acquired Accountex in 2015. Sure, when we took it on it was in a fairly healthy state. But we still had a transition period to navigate. So we launched a steering committee, bringing together all the top software vendors, the accountancy associations and media partners and got them all round a table to air their views. As you can imagine that was quite fun!
We were a bit unsure how it would go but it actually worked out really well. They just sat down and said, “look, the show is great, but it needs to grow up a little bit; here are some ideas.”
The first thing to improve was the conference programme. There had been no content management to speak. So we got to work on that straight away, improving the offering and focusing on a genuine CPD programme for our visitors.
Now we do a call for speakers. Anyone can enter, anyone can join in. But then we go through a lengthy editing process. For instance, this year we have had 265 speaker session submissions, but we had only 120 places available. So only 45% of entries managed to get on the programme for 2019.
Going back to the journey… since we took on the show, we have increased the number of visitors by 45% which is pretty exceptional! We are nearly at the 8,000 mark now!
We have also invested in new stands and bigger theatres. And another focus has been to target those people who have never been to Accountex before.
A further exciting development is the launch of our content platform Accounting Insight News. Ian Moss, a former FT journalist, manages that for us. We now have an Accountex presence all year round. We’re keeping the network connected!
We put ourselves out there as a non-biased platform for any vendor, any association, any media partner to get involved and work with us.
All this, we hope, is for the good of the accounting profession. Bringing people together, that is what we are doing – building up and facilitating relationships. Our partnerships with HMRC, ICAEW, and ACCA are great examples. We are working with new partners, too, like Accountancy Age, which is really exciting.
And that really sums up our journey to date.
XU: What attracts you to Accountex each year?
EF: I find it a hugely valuable time to network with suppliers and peers. There is nothing like grabbing a coffee with your account manager or another accountant who you usually network with online. For me, I am also always looking for new apps, software solutions or just a better way of doing things so roaming the halls to see who is exhibiting is fabulous. Sometimes you can come across a solution that you looked at before but was not right then – but is now! It is a great time to speak to someone in real person rather than relying on online chat.
NK: The large number of attendees under one roof and the variety of presentations and talks – a lot of areas can be covered in one visit for both cloud and non-cloud items and those things are great for the practice and also great for the client.
WF: Accountex gives you a unique opportunity to see all the major vendors under one roof. It also has the largest pool of speakers and topics you can hope to find to help meet the challenges the industry is embroiled in right now.
XU: How important is grow and improve, and what extra value do you think these events have brought to the accounting community that may not have been there before?
ZLC: With everything moving to th ecloud… online …on email … on Slack groups, it’s all getting a bit anonymous. We are losing opportunities for face-to-face networking. But when I turn up at Accountex and take a moment just to stop and have a look… just having these accountants in one room, under one roof, just for two days; you can see they really thoroughly enjoy being together.
They love to catch up, they love to share their insights because (I get the impression) they work on their own quite a lot.
They just don’t get the opportunity to get out to talk to other practices and learn and engage. And that’s where I think we do things really well.
We are an unbiased platform and we are good at running events but, at the end of the day, it’s the accountants and all of the other contributors who make it what it is.
XU: How has attending Accountex influenced your career as an accountant/bookkeeper?
EF: Attending Accountex helps to reiterate why I do what I do. Seeing how well we are doing and how far we have come amongst the mix of other bookkeepers and accountants at the conference. It has also helped me to slide into another revenue stream of mentoring other Bookkeepers wanting to make the Cloud journey – my first mentoring client was someone I met at Accountex 2018!
XU: What knowledge and networking partnerships have you gained from attending Accountex?
EF: Attending Accountex has directly resulted in me starting my mentoring program for other Bookkeepers. I am also in the process of setting up an exciting new partnership business following an in-depth discussion over dinner the night before Accountex last year 🙂
XU: Have you taken staff out of the office to attend Accountex? What value has it added to their day-to-day work? Was it a valuable experience?
NK: Yes – not only from a CPD perspective but for all to gain a better understanding of considerations for the practice and the varied elements throughout the profession.
XU: How do you keep Accountex relevant and forward thinking for exhibitors to come back year after year?
ZLC: In a nutshell, what we’ve done this year is we have stepped it up. Ian Moss, our editor, focuses on quality content and staying in touch with the industry – speaking to people; to the thought leaders, the influencers, to the gurus.
And because I’m not focusing on launches this year, I’ve also had a chance to start from scratch and build and reinforce some really strong relationships with those thought leaders and influencers.
What’s come from that is that we have this natural link between them, myself and to Accountex. So not only have we got them naturally supporting and promoting us, but they also have suggestions from their contacts and connections that we should be getting involved with. Our network and our reach just keeps on growing.
So, our knowledge and our contacts are getting wider. We have more access to data than we ever have had before. In terms of social media, one single person can have a great impact on what we are doing. I think that is what is happening with Accounting Insight News.
Also, with me being able to go out there and build more relationships, just listening and getting people involved and really enhancing our understanding of the profession what we should be doing to stay super relevant.
XU: Why go to Accountex again if you only visited 12 months ago?
NK: The profession is changing at a fast pace and consequently an annual visit to Accountex should be on the agenda for firms that either want to discover things for the first time, or to see what changes there have been over the past 12 months.
XU: Between Accountex 2017 to 2018, what were the major advances that you noticed?
WF: I felt there was a big shift last year. Previous Accountex events seemed to focus on the ‘why’. Why did firms need to adopt new tech. In 2018 I noticed a shift towards the ‘how’. Suggesting firms have got it now and they need help on how to implement the change.
EF: A real understanding of MTD! People were actually starting to take it seriously!
XU: Will and Emma, you’ve both spoken at Accountex. How do you prepare for your talks and how do you make them memorable?
WF: I always talk with passion, I am reliving the things we did wrong, the mistakes we made so others don’t have to make them. My openness and genuine desire to help firms, I hope, ensures my sessions are memorable!
EF: I have given a few talks and I am always interested in opportunities to talk at certain events. I focus on the importance of daily bookkeeping – all the technology is only at its most useful when you use them to truly show you your daily financial position – it can help when making important business decisions and is imperative when using tools like Float for cashflow.
XU: How important is it to be able to visit all exhibitors under one roof?
EF: It helps with comparisons – you can go talk to one vendor, ask a few questions – then move onto another but go back to the first if you have more questions. It helps with a true understanding of what the apps offer when you can compare them ‘live’.
NK: It is a massive time saver as you can, over 1 day, cover a wide range of areas, these can then be followed up as needed and when most useful or convenient – effectively you can have 20 conversations in one day as opposed to on 20 seperate days so a much more efficient way of speaking to exhibitors, colleagues and connections
XU: What advice would you give a delegate visiting Accountex for the first time?
ZLC: Accountex London can be a pretty overwhelming event. There are loads of speaker sessions, about 250 exhibitors to see – it’s pretty crazy! And it’s a lot to do in two days.
We are trying to make the visitor journey easier. But it’s all about planning. At the point of registration, we ask what “tech journey” the attendee is on. Are they tech savvy, cautious or curious?
We also ask what they’re looking to get out of the show. Then we ask those same questions to our speakers, so we can match our speaker seminar sessions to the visitors.
We are hoping to develop this to then send them nudges like: “If you are tech savvy then here are some speaker sessions that would be great for you, and here are some exhibitors that you might like to see.” We are trying to do a little bit of clever matching for people so it’s not so daunting.
Also, we’re trying to make it easier to find information about the programme on our website. We are constantly thinking about how to improve the visitor experience.
I also recommend looking at all the free parties that you can go to!
Receipt Bank, Practice Ignition and AccountingWEB all do some pretty awesome shin-digs. Get on social media and talk about it; sometimes people arrange meetups.
Rob Brown is going to be putting a video together for me with some influencers about how they think you can get the best out of Accountex. We also have a speaker session at the beginning on Thursday on how to get the best out of the show, and how to implement your takeaways when you get back home.
Don’t just turn up and wander around. Turn up with a plan. Turn up and learn. Go to the sessions that are relevant and go and implement the advice.
Bring your team, don’t just go by yourself. Your team are invested in your company and your business. Get them involved, too. That’s a big strapline for us this year.
XU: How would you pitch Accountex to others in 3 sentences?
NK: 1) Be open to looking at new things and don’t attend with any preconceptions
2) Plan well in advance in terms of what to see and what to spend your time doing, it is important to get the most out of it
3) Try and make as many introductions as you can and continue conversations you have already started
Ok, there’s a fourth…
4) Have fun!
XU: Do you think Accounrex and Xerocon complement each other?
WF: I do it brings balance. Xero is about the razzamatazz! Its almost a celebration. Accountex for me is focussed on the opportunity to really spend time engaging with add-on partners. Sometimes it is difficult to find the time to do this at Xerocon with the focus on keynote sessions.
XU: To finish off, what’s the future for Accountex London? Where do you see it going? Is there anything new on the horizon?
ZLC: We’re just really focusing on providing the best quality show. We are listening constantly to visitors and to influencers on how to makeit bigger, better and useful for people…
We have invested a lot of money into making our theatres larger so people don’t have to stand outside in the aisles. We’ve also invested lots in AV, so there’s lots more audio going on. We have also reduced the number of theatres because our visitors said they were a little bit overwhelmed with there being too many sessions last year.
So we now have four big, draped theatres in the corners. And we think visitors will love the new set-up!
XU: Thank you all so much