NOTE: This is a guest blog written by Brad Ewin of Chaser. Chaser is an application available in the QuickBooks App Store that gets your invoices paid sooner and saves over 7 hours a week on accountants receivable. Chaser is also a finalist in this year’s Small Business App Showdown and will be competing on stage at QuickBooks Connect for a chance at $100K.
Every year Intuit celebrates their QuickBooks community all around the globe with their event QuickBooks Connect. There are QuickBooks Connect events in London (which we exhibited at in February this year), Sydney, and Toronto. But the biggest one of them all takes place on Intuit’s home turf of California – QuickBooks Connect San Jose. Coming up this November 5-7, QuickBooks Connect San Jose promises inspiring speakers, energising sessions, and engaging experiences. This is set to be an unmissable event for accountants and bookkeepers in the QuickBooks community. It’s designed to help empower you, your firm, and your clients, to thrive.
If you follow us on social media, you may have seen we’re a finalist in the QuickBooks $100k App Showdown. In preparing, we wanted to round up the definitive top 10 tips for accountants, bookkeepers and developers to get the most out of attending QuickBooks Connect San Jose. We rallied our own past experience, that of the online community at large, and that of seven key luminaries within the QuickBooks-sphere, to bring you this guide.
In this post you’ll read advice from:
- Annie Terry, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Intuit
- Aynsley Damery, Founder and CEO of the Clarity project
- Bobby Chadha, Senior Manager of Product Innovation & Acceleration at Deloitte (formerly Senior Product Manager at Intuit)
- Carl Reader, one of the UK’s leading experts and advisors to small businesses
- Jenny Fogarty, Head of Marketing at AutoEntry (an App Showdown finalist from 2017)
- Trent McLaren, Head Of Accounting & Strategic Partnerships at Practice Ignition
- Wayne Schmidt, Founder of PracticeEQ and accounting industry mentor
What to do before the event
1) Don’t forget to pack these
Everyone knows a conference is a bit of a physical ordeal. But QuickBooks Connect isn’t just any old conference – it’s a value-packed experience. For accountants and bookkeepers, the upcoming QuickBooks Connect San Jose comprises dozens of scheduled events across 3 days (November 5-7). Our recommended packing list comprises:
- Comfy shoes | You’ll be on your feet a lot
- Clothing sporting your firm’s branding | So people can recognise you, and to boost your firm’s presence
- A light jacket | In case it gets chilly inside the huge convention centre
- Chargers and portable batteries for your laptop and phone | If nothing else, you’ll be making a lot of use of social media
- Notepad and pen | For those of us who can’t take extended notes on our phones
- Business cards | No matter who tells you they’re outdated, they’re still not dead yet
- Water bottle | Got to stay hydrated!
- A pack of gum or mints | Never goes amiss – who knows who you’ll end up speaking with!
2) Get in the right mindset
Accounting and bookkeeping is a rapidly growing and changing industry. QuickBooks Connect is a celebration of that. It brings together not only accounting and bookkeeping professionals, but also small businesses, the self-employed, and app developers like us here at Chaser. Intuit say it best on their event page: “[QuickBooks Connect is] an event for dreamers and doers – those with passion and drive who blaze their own trails to business success… Discover the latest trends in innovation and how they can impact your business.”
Coming into QuickBooks Connect with strongly-held preconceived notions about ways of working, or which apps are right and wrong for you and your clients, can be dangerous. At best, you’ll waste the time and money you spent on attending. At worst, you may completely miss huge opportunities for your firm and clients, and lose your competitive edge.
3) Do your research
Without a doubt the most important thing you must do before you attend QuickBooks Connect. Due to the sheer scale of this event, winging it does not apply. You’ll get many multiples more value from this event with just a few hours of research and preparation.
Start by identifying the areas of your firm and your clients’ businesses which stand to gain the most value. Perhaps you have a long-standing issue you may had given up hope of finding a solution for. Trent McLaren suggests turning this pain point identification into an app stack plan.
“QuickBooks Connect is the best time of the year to meet as many technology partners as you can. It’s a great time to identify what the core gaps are in your firm’s workflow. Then check out the exhibitor list, identify the apps you need to visit, and go hound them. It’s a great opportunity to meet the people behind the apps, find out why they exist, who they want to serve, and how they want to work with you.”
Once you’ve identified the key apps to visit at QuickBooks Connect, do your initial research on them in advance of the event. That’ll allow you to make most efficient use of your time when you’re there, preventing you from needing to ask generic exploratory questions, and enabling you to ask specific questions tailored to your firm and clients. “Nothing beats an in-person, one-on-one demo,” says Jenny Fogarty, “And you might get yourself a special offer on the product, or at the very least some swag to take home.” You should also check out each app’s reviews on the QuickBooks App Store to get an idea of existing users’ opinions of it.
Just as you should be researching and picking the apps you want to visit in advance, you should do the same for all of the scheduled sessions. Aynsley Damery recommends once you’ve chosen the sessions you’ll attend, to arrive early so you don’t miss out. But on the flipside, for the sessions that aren’t valuable for you to attend, they provide the perfect time to visit apps as the show floor will be quieter.
4) Schedule these 3 things in your calendar
Amongst the hustle and bustle of QuickBooks Connect, it’s easy to get carried away filling up your time with anything that’s on offer. This poses a problem if there are specific individuals in the space that you want to meet. Whether it be a fellow accountant or bookkeeper, an industry influencer, or one of the great team at Intuit. Don’t rely on bumping into them somewhere and striking up a conversation – they’re just as likely to be jam-packed with their own schedule as you are. Get out ahead of this by dropping them a polite email (or a LinkedIn / Twitter message) in advance of QuickBooks Connect saying it’d be lovely to meet / catch-up, and suggesting a time to do so. A 5-minute coffee in one of the break slots is perfect – they won’t have any sessions to attend, and it’s hard to decline 5-minutes and a coffee.
The second thing you never want to forget to schedule in, according to Carl Reader, is down time.
“You’ve got to take some time out! This might sound counterintuitive but make sure you book yourself an hour alone and grab a coffee somewhere quiet. Reflect on everything you’ve learned and everyone you’ve met, and convert those thoughts into actionable tasks for your return to the office.”
And the third thing you never want to forget to schedule in is time immediately after QuickBooks Connect. Book out the entire two days after the event in your calendar – no calls, meetings, or other work allowed. This gives you the best opportunity to follow up with people you’ve met and apps you’re interested in. And also ensures you make the most of the momentum you’re carrying from QuickBooks Connect. Because if you don’t act while you’re brimming with inspiration and energy from the event, you’ll quickly find yourself swept up in the torrent of regularly scheduled work. And opportunities will be lost.
What to do during the event
5) Start each day simple and smart
Bobby Chadha says one of his deceptively simple top tips for QuickBooks Connect is not to start the day with a big breakfast.
“Intuit really know how to treat their guests well. You’ll be made to feel welcome with chilled vibes, great hot food, and a wide selection of drinks. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself at QuickBooks Connect – you’ll get more out of it with a positive mindset.”
Once you arrive at the event, split up if you’re with co-workers. Sure, it’s comforting being with people you know. But separately you’ll be able to cover more ground, meet more people, and gain more valuable knowledge for your firm.
6) Be on social media
When it comes to QuickBooks Connect, not everything happens on the show floor. An important part of the event takes place on social media. Although LinkedIn is the more traditional professional network for accountants and bookkeepers, Twitter firmly holds its place as the ubiquitous social media platform for QuickBooks Connect. Make sure you’re following @QuickBooks and regularly check on the #QBConnect hashtag during the event. This will ensure you don’t miss any updates as they happen.
And whenever you find something of value to yourself, share it on Twitter with the #QBConnect hashtag to help boost your own profile.
7) Attend sessions
If there are two sessions you absolutely can’t miss at QuickBooks Connect, it’s the App Showdown and the Intuit Keynote. Annie Terry says about the Showdown:
“You’ve got to go to the App Showdown. Not only do you get to see the lineup of 2018’s ten best new apps, they’re on stage battling it out to win $100,000. Go check it out!”
On the Intuit Keynote, Trent McLaren describes it as sheer excitement.
“The last two years Intuit have showcased their latest innovations like the Hey QB Bot, built directly into the smartphone app, as well as painted a vision of where the company is headed next. This year with Sasan Goodarzi stepping up into the CEO role will be an exciting time to see where he sees Intuit moving forward, and how they believe they will continue to keep driving innovation for the small business customer and the proadvisor.”
When it comes to breakout sessions, Bobby Chadha recommends you attend as many of them as possible.
“Seeing a celebrity is an amazing experience and very inspirational, but don’t accidentally undervalue the breakout sessions by comparison. They are an awesome way to learn new skills and hacks whilst networking with your peers.”
Aynsley Damery recommends always arriving at the breakout sessions early to avoid missing out (they do fill up!), and we suggest grabbing a seat near the back. That way when the session ends, you’re first to reach the app exhibitor booths (or lunch!).
8) Visit the app exhibitor booths
Outside of Keynotes and breakout sessions, the show floor is the place to be. Here, the teams behind more than 80 QuickBooks apps will be exhibiting the latest from their product, and how it can save your business time and money. Jenny Forgarty shares her checklist of what to get out of a visit to an app you’re interested in:
- Ask every question you need to, so you completely understand how the app will benefit your firm and your clients, as well as how it works
- Get a live product demo
- Ask if there are any special deals on the product for QuickBooks Connect attendees
- Grab some swag to take home
When it comes to questioning app developers, Bobby Chadha says don’t be afraid to ask them to demonstrate specifically how they will solve your firm and your clients’ pain points. Wayne Schmidt suggests always asking these four questions of any app you’re interested in:
- What is the business problem your product solves?
- How would you describe your ideal customer?
- How many of my clients would suit this product?
- What is your certification process and education strategy?
And once you’ve visited the apps you shortlisted in advance of QuickBooks Connect, use any spare time you have to wander around the booths and just take a look. Carl Reader says:
“You don’t always know what you need! Browse around, speak to the teams behind these apps, and see and feel what’s happening in the industry. You might end up with a new shortlist for further review.”
It’s easy to connect with your fellow attendees on social media. Don’t be shy to connect face-to-face as well. Annie Terry puts it best:
“QuickBooks Connect is all about the connections. Find people who share your passion, who put in the same hard work you do every single day. Connect with the developers whose solutions can make your firm or your clients’ businesses run smoother. Come say hi to the Intuit team, bring us any questions you might have. Stay up late laughing and dancing and chatting with your new global friends. Eat too much food, drink the beer, enjoy the company. And you’ll come home with amazing experiences and lasting connections.”
Our quick tips around making these connections are:
- Firstly, reassure yourself | With the fact that every attendee is in the same boat as you – they are all here to meet new people and learn
- Meet a variety of people | Not just the app exhibitors but also fellow accountants and bookkeepers, influencers and thought leaders, as well as the lovely team at Intuit
- Optimise opportunities | Your best bets to make new connections are immediately after breakout sessions, at app booths, and in gathering spots like coffee stands
- Solidify those connections | If you’ve made a connection you think you could get ongoing value from, don’t just stop at hi – swap business cards and connect on social media as well
One thing that’s always worth asking your fellow accountants and bookkeepers attending QuickBooks Connect is what they think of the apps you’re interested in. Especially if they’re users of the product themselves. You’ll get a ground-level insight to what the product is like, from the perspective of someone like you.
And make sure you don’t miss out on the after hours drinks opportunities. Aynsley Damery suggests heading to the bar at the Fairmont hotel (directions here) when the day’s over.
“It’s where everyone who’s anyone hangs out after hours. It’s great for networking and connecting and making the most of your QuickBooks Connect experience.”
What to do after the event
10) Leverage the momentum
Thankfully, you will have now booked out the two days immediately following QuickBooks Connect. No getting swallowed up by regularly scheduled work on your return to the office. The tasks to cover in these precious 48 hours should include:
- Reviewing your notes (and your colleagues’, if they attended too)
- Synthesising an action plan to turn your learnings into value for your firm and clients
- Follow up with the people you met that you wish to sustain a relationship with
- Taking out trials of apps you’re interested in
- Share relevant learnings with your clients
And that’s that!
You’re now ready to have the most valuable experience possible at QuickBooks Connect San Jose. To help you get started, we made a shortlist of the next actions you need to take:
- If you don’t have firm-branded clothes, get some
- If you’re running low on business cards, place an order
- Book out the two days following QuickBooks Connect
- Book in some downtime to reflect alone during QuickBooks Connect
- Follow @QuickBooks and keep an eye on #QBConnect
- Map out your firm’s and your clients’ pain points
- Review the exhibitor list to find solutions to pain points
- Write down your shortlist of apps to visit
- Check out their websites + app store listings and reviews
- Develop a list of questions to ask them
- Similarly, make a shortlist of the sessions you want to attend
- Think about who else you want to meet or chat with + drop them an email and/or connect with them on social media
See you there!
Thank you so much for your support, and we look forward to seeing you in San Jose in November!