Sharing My EDGE Conference Experience

by Dr. Sean Stein Smith, CPA, Lehman College – August 11, 2017
Sharing My EDGE Conference Experience

I recently had the great opportunity to present at the AICPA’s EDGE conference (August 2-4, 2017 in New Orleans) on the topic of sustainability. Specifically, my presentation focused on the intersection of accounting techniques, information technology, the increased attention being paid to sustainability in the marketplace, and action steps to implement change. That said, this is not a summary or reflection on my presentation, nor is it really a review of the specific sessions that I attended while at EDGE. Rather, as I was wrapping up my time at the conference, I was truly struck by the great content, energy of attendees, and enthusiasm of the presenters. And, I felt that if I could help spread the word about this event, that I would begin the process of giving at least a little bit back to the profession that has given me so much.

For those of you who are not familiar with EDGE, I wholeheartedly recommend that you try to attend at least one of the conferences. Beginning next year, the plan is for EDGE to become part of the AICPA’s ENGAGE conference series which had its inaugural showing this past June in Las Vegas. I know what you are thinking when it comes to accounting conferences, because we all tend to have similar thoughts. Technical conferences, no matter how engaging the presenter or interesting the material being reviewed, tend toward the drier side simply due to the amount of information that needs to be reviewed. State societies organize conferences in different ways, and if your state chooses a venue or format that does not really jive with your preferred style, it can be difficult to drum up enthusiasm to attend.

This experience, however, was totally different – it really was an engaging and interactive event. Of course, like in life, you get out of events and conferences what you put into them, and I decided that I was going to go all-in on this conference to get the most out of it. Four things, in particular, stood out to me during my time at the conference:

  1. The energy – From the moment that I arrived at the conference, I was impressed by the energy and buzz that seemed to be in the air. Among the AICPA staff, exhibitors, fellow conference attendees, fellow presenters and the EDGE task force, the excitement for this event was palpable. Such genuine enthusiasm and passion is sometimes difficult to find and well worth the trip in and of itself.
  2. The content – This conference is not your usual combination of technical lectures and updates, although there were at least two sessions that did focus on these areas. The EDGE experience is oriented directly toward emerging leaders of the profession, and the content reflects that. Everything from blockchain, to body language, to how to balance work/family were discussed in an open and engaging way.
  3. The interaction – This is probably the best part of the conference, from a content and informational perspective, and this really made an impression on me since I tend to be an outgoing person. Every presentation, breakout session and refreshment break was punctuated by chances to really interact and engage with presenters, exhibitors and fellow attendees. Some of the interaction, like ice breakers and sitting at round tables, was structured, but a lot of it was spontaneous and due to the commonalities of energy and enthusiasm that all of us seemed to share.
  4. The AICPA presence – Before attending EDGE, I had never seen Barry Melancon, the president and CEO of the AICPA, in person. But he not only presented the opening keynote, but made himself available for people to talk with and get a chance to really meet him. Talk, we all know, is cheap, but by showing up and investing the time in this event, it clearly communicates what value the AICPA places on this conference.

If enthusiasm, the ability to meet fellow CPAs from all over the country who are working through the same opportunities and challenges you are, and doing so in an interactive format all sound good to you, this is the right conference for you. This is particularly true if you are an emerging leader in the profession and want to keep current on the AICPA.