Posted in: AG Events, Mark's Insights,

Here we are in September 2021, and I’m facing many of the same decisions we were making in the early spring this year. Do we or don’t we go live, offer hybrid, or pivot to virtual with our conferences?

Back to the….Past?

I wrote about this back in March in my Decisions, Decisions blog post. At that time we knew the APAC Regional Conference and EMEIA Regional Conference would be virtual due to travel restrictions between countries. We were considering keeping the North American Executive Team Conference (ETC) as a live/virtual hybrid, with a similar approach for the LATAM Regional Conference. Feedback was telling us that about half of the regular attendees were in. All of those attendees, of course, were from the US, as there were travel restrictions everywhere else.

We were thrilled with the results of ETC, as I shared in my post The Future is Hybrid. And while extremely successful, we also learned some valuable lessons for the future. At that time, we felt confident that we were coming out of the pandemic and travel was going to open up everywhere. Turns out we were extremely lucky. We were also careful and had excellent safety protocols in place.

That was May. By August, we had to shift the LATAM Regional Conference to virtual, again due to limitations on travel between countries.

Plans for Fall Conferences

So here we are looking at our fall conferences. The Global Forum, which was scheduled for Dubai in October, has now gone virtual. Then we have our North American Summit in November, which is currently scheduled for hybrid. We’ve been polling our association and board members asking for feedback throughout the decision-making process. It seems many of our members are comfortable traveling within their own country—if they can—but to travel internationally is a risk that many aren’t willing to take.

Given that and the financial risk and requirements we faced in Dubai, we had to make a decision fairly early, and we decided to cancel the live option and go virtual. For Summit, while US firms plan to send participants and the registration numbers look strong, it’s unlikely that we’ll see live participants from Canada or other countries. And for both the Global Forum and Summit 2021, we have taken the lessons learned from our year of virtual and hybrid events to make each experience top-notch.

Changing Rules of Live Engagement

After traveling these last four months, I can tell you that the rules around live engagement are all over the place. We will continue to institute the appropriate safety protocols to ensure that live attendees are safe and that we’re following all the local rules.

Some have asked if we plan to limit attendance to fully vaccinated attendees. Allinial Global is not taking that position. We will, however, conduct daily temperature checks and require each participant to complete a health safety survey at the start of each day. We implemented both of those measures at ETC, and they seemed to work well.

We are trying to provide the best experience possible, whether live or virtual, and we look forward to a busy fall filled with great content to help our member firms with their top concerns.

Both the Global Forum and Summit are now open for registration, and we hope to see you at both.  


      
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Posted in: AG Events,

From June 14–15, 2021, Allinial Global hosted its EMEIA Regional Conference virtually, welcoming 70 participants for two half days of interactive online sessions. Our presenters shared some outstanding content, and it was great to see members embracing the virtual format and enjoying new ways to engage with association peers. As travel continues to resume, we look forward to hosting hybrid events that foster choice and increased engagement.

Below are my top takeaways from this year’s event.

No matter what, business strategy comes first. In his opening remarks, President and CEO Mark Koziel underlined the importance of technology transformation and change management. Although it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of new technology, Mark reminded us that business strategy should always be our first priority when we want to transform our firms and the way we do business.

Cultural fluency can build trust. Keynote speaker Keith Warburton of Global Business Culture addressed cultural differences and communication challenges that arise when working across borders. Participants shared their experiences in a Q&A session and in interactive breakout rooms, identifying ways that cultural fluency can help us overcome barriers of culture, geography, language, and technology. To succeed in today’s global business environment, your people need tools that help them navigate cultural differences with confidence. If you missed this session, our Global Business Compass resource is a helpful starting point for member firms that want to enhance cultural fluency.

Career transitions are important and should be managed well. George Wilkinson of Milestones London reminded us that major career transitions have a profound impact at both the individual and firm level. As we discussed the loss, challenges, and opportunities that accompany career transitions, George highlighted the importance of preparing for these transitions psychologically and practically. To manage the actual transition process, our firms must take deliberate steps to protect value, mitigate risk, and improve the experience of major career transitions.

Sharing best practices is key. This year’s conference featured some fantastic examples of member-to-member learning and best practices sharing. Zoltán Gálffy of Falcon Group and Philip Gudgeon of Schneider Group facilitated a discussion on business development that touched on EMEIA industry lines, client relationships, service excellence, cross-border engagements, and how to boost commerce and collaboration between firms. If you’d like to sharpen your skills and learn from like-minded peers, Allinial Global offers over 20 member-led communities that meet throughout the year to help each other grow and learn, including several communities focused specifically on the EMEIA region. We’d love to see you get involved!

Progressive content is key to success and transformation. It hasn’t been easy keeping up with the change and disruption of the last year. Members are looking to their associations to advise them on developments in the profession and to provide the tools they need for transformation. We hear you loud and clear! To that end, our upcoming Global Forum will feature a session on strategic planning and how you can leverage the work of Allinial Global to strengthen your firm’s strategy and future readiness.

Miracles happen. Do believe them! Member and second-day panelist Zoltán Gálffy of Falcon Group became a grandfather during the conference. Congratulations!

Thank you to all our best-in-class members who joined us for this two-day event. And finally, thank you to Mark Koziel for his inspiring leadership as captain of the enterprise. As we seek innovative solutions and new technologies for transformation, we are exploring new worlds in our profession, leading members to the final frontier—to boldly go where no association has gone before!

If you missed the EMEIA Regional Conference, join us at the 2021 Global Forum, a hybrid event where you can network and learn with Allinial Global members from all over the globe. The conference will be held from October 24–26, and registration opens soon. We hope to see you there!

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Posted in: AG Events, Mark's Insights,

Last month Allinial Global hosted its first-ever hybrid conference, which included the first live component in over a year. The meeting was held from May 16–19 in Charleston, SC, with virtual attendance as an option.

When we first made the decision to go hybrid, we expected attendance to be lower than previous years with a split of one-third live and two-thirds virtual. In actuality we had two-thirds live and one-third virtual, and the same number of total attendees. We can attribute our success to several factors:

  1. Far more members have been vaccinated, although they probably didn’t think they would be by the meeting.  
  2. Having the meeting at the Belmond in Charleston, SC, which has been holding live events throughout the pandemic, allowed us to assure members the environment would be safe with appropriate protocols in place.
  3. A dedicated Allinial Global staff focused on creating an experience that was almost identical between the live and virtual versions. This included using Conferences.io for polling and Q&A during sessions, both live and virtual strategic partner and sponsor booths, and breakout sessions and roundtables for both the virtual and live experience.

The live attendee feedback thus far has been nothing short of exceptional. Although some of this joy may have come from just being somewhere—with anyone—the virtual feedback was also glowing. Of course, several items of improvement were suggested, so we will be making some immediate changes for our next hybrid event.

  1. Depending on the live location, we will look to a better start time for all potential attendees. A North American conference on the East Coast starting at 9 a.m. is pretty early for the West Coast and nearly impossible for Hawaii. Maybe the 9 a.m. session should be localized to roundtables so that keynotes could start after 11 a.m. Eastern.
  2. Continual reminders to the live audience that the virtual audience is also participating. Even though using Conferences.io allows for a common Q&A experience, it’s important to allow for an open microphone from the virtual audience as well.
  3. Consider creating smaller packages of attendance or provide pricing in four-hour blocks so that attendees don’t feel obligated to stay on for the entire conference. Three-tiered pricing could include options for a half-day, full-day, or full conference pass.

Every attendee I’ve spoken to sees the huge benefit of continuing hybrid events. This is so others within a firm can take advantage of seeing and hearing exactly what firm leaders are seeing and hearing at Allinial Global events. Several members mentioned sessions that they wished their partners or leadership group could have attended virtually. Now they will look at future agendas to make sure others in their firm attend to enjoy the same great benefits of seeing world-renowned speakers.

One thing is for sure, it’s not a question of “or” when it comes to live vs. virtual—it’s an “and.” We will continue to see attendance grow as we provide even greater value that goes much deeper for our member firms, and we look forward to offering an ever-improving hybrid experience for future events. In fact, the Allinial Global team is already working hard on our next hybrid program, the Global Forum. Taking place from October 24–26 this year, the Global Forum will feature a live component in Dubai, UAE, along with a simultaneous virtual experience. Registration will be opening soon, and I hope to see you there, whether in person or online.


      
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Posted in: AG Events, Mark's Insights, Practice Management,

Meet Mark...Borg?

                Meet Mark...Borg??

From October 26-28, 2020, Allinial Global hosted its first-ever virtual Summit, welcoming a total of 255 attendees for three half days of interactive online sessions. We had a great time getting together to explore our theme of Focus on the Future, and I’m confident that we’ve all gained some valuable insights about where we are headed as firms and as a profession.

Attendance was up by over 30% this year, and with four concurrent tracks (A&A, Advisory, Firm Management, and Tax), there were lots of exciting things happening each day. Whether you were able to attend or not, I thought it would be helpful to highlight some broad themes from Summit 2020.

Below are my top five takeaways.

1. Strategic transformation. No matter which track you attended, you probably heard one message loud and clear: the future is here, and firms need a clear strategic vision to survive and thrive. When we think of change management and future readiness, we typically turn to tools, training, and technology. But no matter what change we are facing, we need to think carefully about the business strategy behind that change. The goal isn’t simply to dump our legacy systems into new technology or formats—it’s to build and execute a deliberate strategy for the future. Our Summit speakers provided some fantastic takeaways about what this looks like in practice.

2. The role of virtual. Hosting Summit virtually taught us that virtual can work, but it can never replace live, in-person events. Most of us would have preferred to gather in person in Vegas, but it was helpful to have this opportunity to learn how to navigate a new format and clarify the role of virtual in a post-pandemic world. While virtual can’t compete with the value of in-person connections (unless we all become Borgs), it can enhance and broaden reach. I think we are walking away from Summit 2020 with some great insights about how live and virtual can come together next year. Summit 2021 will be even bigger and better because of this year’s experience.

3. Relationships and trust. In a time when people are feeling increasingly disconnected, relationships are more important than ever. They are central to everything we do, whether it’s how we show up for clients during the pandemic or how we manage our teams virtually. And as our speakers reminded us, relationships do look different in a virtual world. While it can be more challenging to communicate clearly and maintain trust from a distance, Summit 2020 was packed with practical tips about how you can develop critical virtual skill sets that enhance connection and engagement during these difficult times.

4. Leading the charge. As I mentioned in my opening session, now is the time for CEOs and firm management teams to take charge and drive transformation. It takes a coordinated effort to get exceptional results—and leading that charge isn’t easy. We hear you. In our Summit evaluations, some managing partners said that there were certain presentations they wished they could have shared with their entire partner group. We have been uploading session recordings into Pathable so that you can share the presentations you found to be most helpful with your teams. This is a great place to start if you’re interested in sparking discussion and getting your team on the same page.

5. Common concerns. With the highest attendance and ratings in sessions dedicated to the CARES Act/PPP, SALT, international tax, M&A, and firm management, it’s safe to say that many of our firms are facing similar concerns. In that respect, Allinial Global members are a tremendous resource for each other. In this year’s Firm Management Roundtable, for example, we had some great discussion about what remote work looks like for each firm and how leadership teams are managing people they can’t see. I’m proud to see our members realizing that they can’t just wait for things to “go back to normal” if they want to attract the best and brightest talent. They are embracing “the New Normal” now by putting processes in place to prepare for a future where flex work and hybrid office and work-from-home schedules will likely become the norm.

I look forward to navigating this future together with our member firms. Together we will ALL come out stronger than before.




Posted in: AG Events, Growth, Value Pricing,

Last week, Allinial Global hosted over 50 business developers, marketers, and partners-in-charge of marketing on Zoom for the annual BD/Marketing Conference. While all of us missed the magical moments that inevitably happen while connecting in person, our members, presenters, and staff made the most out of two half days together and even set a record for the longest continuous Zoom session here at Allinial Global. On our first day, we went from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. EDT!

If you weren’t able to join us last week, I’ve shared my top three takeaways below. Most of us are familiar with the 3 Cs of marketing—company, customer, and competition. But have you noticed what I’d like to call the 3 supplemental Cs of accounting marketing—courage, collaboration, and community? Please allow me to explain.

1. Courage. As accounting marketers, most of us are in a team of one or a few, outnumbered by accountants who think quite differently from the way we do. This means that we face many opportunities to convince our executive team—with moderate to high risk-averse tendencies—to try something new for the firm, such as social media, Google Ads, or video. And here’s where our first supplemental C of marketing comes in. We need courage to question and change the status quo. Testing new approaches is a critical component of digital transformation. We can’t rely on Excel spreadsheets to keep track of prospects and clients forever. Sooner rather than later, we need to identify and implement affordable CRM solutions for our firms. We can’t rely on outdated websites and anemic social media presence if we expect to recruit the brightest young talent and win next-generation clients. We need to continuously update and enhance our digital presence with the help of different groups of stakeholders. Future-ready firms are transitioning to value-based pricing and leveraging three-tier pricing and subscription models for their services, especially for Client Accounting Services (CAS), and we need to find allies within the executive team to move the pricing needle. This point leads me to the introduction of our next supplemental C: collaboration.

2. Collaboration. For accounting marketers, collaboration with your internal stakeholders is obviously important. No marketing initiative—whether it’s a virtual or in-person event, email campaign, or new niche/service line—can be executed without collaborating with your practitioners. Depending on the project, you may also collaborate with other departments as well—IT, HR, and so on. In fact, we had a panel dedicated precisely to this topic for this year’s conference! But in a post-pandemic world where the pace of change is accelerating and unpredictable, collaboration with your external team is also critical. How do you pivot to virtual events when you’ve never even hosted a webinar before? Do you proceed with strategic marketing projects during uncertain times? How do you get into video marketing with zero budget? If you’re a member of Allinial Global, you’re in luck! You can connect with a virtual team of marketers who will not hesitate to share their insights and experiences to help you make an informed decision.

3. Community. Last but certainly not least, community is the third and perhaps the most important of the supplemental Cs. Whether you are a member of the Association for Accounting Marketing, Allinial Global, or some other alliance, having your own community of marketers is invaluable—regardless of your experience level in accounting marketing. At Allinial Global, we have a formal system to create and cultivate this sense of community by segmenting marketers beyond just firm size. Recognizing that the marketing tech stack is playing an increasingly important role for the accounting profession, I will be creating a HubSpot mastermind group, for example. I believe that we learn best by executing, not just attending a class or reading a book, and we improve the fastest by connecting to a community of peers who share similar goals. Cultivating and improving this type of community within Allinial Global is one of the things that I LOVE about my job, and I can’t wait to share my future plans with you all.

If you are interested in joining the extraordinarily talented and generous marketers and business developers of Allinial Global, please reach out to me anytime.