Hosting an accounting event

Accountant & Bookkeeper Guides

8 min read

Events can help you build stronger relationships with clients and expand the work you do for them. So how do you get people to come along, and ensure you get a return on your investment?

Events work

Marketers agree that events are the most effective way to deliver new information and ideas. Respondents to a survey by the Content Marketing Institute said in-person events worked better than videos, webinars, newsletters and case studies.

Events allow you to connect with people on a level you can’t achieve online or over the phone. The face-to-face interaction is better at holding people’s attention and helps you build a personal connection. It’s also an opportunity to show that you’re genuinely invested in their success.

When to host an event

For those reasons, events are a great way to deliver complex information and build trust. But they’re also a big commitment for everyone involved.

  • Hosts have to do a lot of planning and inevitably spend money

  • Attendees need to block out the time, and may have to cross town to come

It’s not worth holding an event unless you’re going to:

  • deliver value – pass on important and potentially beneficial information

  • get value – grow your business, improve client loyalty, or save yourself from holding dozens of one-on-one meetings

Specialists in hosting accounting events

Events are a great opportunity. You have control over the guest list, the content, and the interactions you have with clients. There’s a lot to like. But many accountants are intimidated by hosting events. It seems like a lot of effort and there’s always a concern that people won’t show up.

Xero’s hosted hundreds of accounting events – both for accountants and for small businesses. We're often asked how to do it. Here’s our advice.

Before you even start

Like anything in business, you need to have an objective for your accounting event.

  • What is it that you’re trying to accomplish?

  • What message do you want to deliver?

  • Is there an action you’d like attendees to take?

  • How will you make sure they take that action?

It’s really important to think about the results you want. That’s your payback for hosting. So start by asking “what’s in this for me?” and work backwards from there.

What’s your budget?
It costs money to host an event. Even if it’s a small get together, you’ll probably need to provide food and drinks. If you’re trying to build loyalty, upsell your services or win referrals – those things have a value to your business. Set your budget accordingly.

Choosing the time and place

Timing matters. Your clients are busy and more likely to attend an event that doesn’t disrupt their schedules. The day of week and time of day are important.

Target the:

  • middle of the week (Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday).

  • beginning or end of the day (breakfast or Happy Hour)

Try to choose a venue that doesn’t require guests to commute too far, or through difficult traffic.

  • Your office might work if it’s in a central location, but it won’t create much excitement.

  • A cafe or bar will create a friendly, casual atmosphere, but make sure you can be heard.

  • A creative event space can entice people, but make sure it’s not too big.

Timing and location can have a huge impact on attendance. Don’t just take the options that are easiest or least expensive for you.

Sending invites and reminders

Inviting and reminding guests about your accounting event is a balancing act. You need to give them plenty of notice, but they’ll dismiss the invite if it comes too early.

  • Try to send a ‘save the date’ two months before the event.

  • Send invites at least a month before the event.

Keep the invites simple, and send them by email. Services like Evite make it easy and allow recipients to RSVP straight from their email. Make sure the invite:

  • clearly states the purpose of the event

  • mentions any hooks, such as catering, entertainment, or a cool venue

  • says when RSVPs are due (usually one week before the event)

Consider allowing invitees to bring a guest. It’ll increase your chance of reaching a new audience and getting referrals. But if you offer that option, request that they  let you know the names of their guests in the RSVP.

When should you send reminders?
Invite reminders will help drive up RSVPs, just don’t take it too far. You don’t want to sound spammy. Mention the event in emails or on calls with your clients – but don’t request an RSVP at these times.

  • Send a formal reminder 7 to 10 days before the big day.

  • Remind people who’ve said they’re coming when the event is five days away

People will drop out – but don’t give up on them

Don’t be disappointed with no-shows. It’s common for up to half of RSVP’d guests to pull out on the day. They might forget about you, change their minds, or get called away to something more urgent. Bad weather can hurt attendance, too. Don’t take it personally, and don’t give up on those people.

Whether they show up or not, people who’ve signed up for your accounting event are good prospects. They’re engaged, so include them in your follow-up campaign. Call or email to see if they want more information, or a one-to-one meeting to discuss the meeting topic.

On the day

Try to limit your accounting event to between 60 and 90 minutes long. It’ll help keep you focused, while ensuring you don’t chew up too much of your clients’ day.

Welcoming guests

Welcome guests as they come in the door and keep the vibe casual. Reserve the first 30 minutes for mingling. It gives latecomers time to arrive, while giving others a chance to get settled.

  • Have background music playing so guests don’t walk into an awkward silence.

  • Give out name tags to help people get familiar with each other.

  • Make sure you have enough staff to make introductions and facilitate networking.

Hospitality and entertainment

Hungry or thirsty guests won’t focus on your message, so provide some food and drinks. The setup doesn’t have to be elaborate, but the courtesy is important.

Light entertainment such as a local food truck, a local-celebrity speaker, or a wine tasting could help liven things up. If flagged on the invite, these sorts of things can improve attendance, and will help make your event memorable. Just make sure your entertainment is appropriate for your audience, and the topics being discussed.

Presentation and content

Don’t let the presentation get too detailed. What are the top one or two thoughts you want to convey? Cover only the major points that are crucial to delivering that message. If attendees want more detail, they’ll ask for it during your Q&A session at the end. Or you can offer that information as part of your follow up.

Make sure you’re prepared for your presentation, but avoid sounding too rehearsed or stiff. Try to keep the tone light and conversational – humour often helps.

Making the best use of technology

Audio-visual (AV) can be a big help in presenting information but it can also be your enemy. It’s not a good look when you have to fix a malfunction during your talk. Guests will become distracted and you’ll lose your flow.

If using slides, keep them to a minimum. Only have a few words or simple images on them. Keep the type big so everyone can read them.

Tech tips:

  • Have a plan B – how will you present your content if the power goes out?

  • Do a test run before the real deal. It’ll help iron out glitches.

  • If giving a demo on a computer, hardwire the internet rather than relying on WiFi.

  • Keeping a copy of your presentation on the desktop of your computer will also protect against WiFi issues.

What about a guest speaker?

Adding a guest speaker to your accounting event will create more work. You’ll need to schedule them, brief them, and make sure they stay on point. But the upsides can be substantial, and there are options for all budgets. You could get:

  • a local business leader to tell of their experiences

  • an expert to talk on a relevant topic

  • a fellow accountant with a different area of expertise to discuss business trends

  • a client to tell their story

A client story can be particularly powerful if you’re trying to upsell your other clients. It’s a great way to share the benefits of a new product or service in a way the audience can easily relate to. Check out your guest speaker in action before you book them. It’s important to hear them doing the real thing. It’ll reflect badly on you if they give a poor performance at your event.

Wrap it up

Allow some time for questions at the end of your presentation. You will have skipped over details in order to communicate the big idea quickly, so this is the opportunity to fill in the gaps. If people want clarification, it’s a sign they’re interested. But don’t let question time drag on. Offer to connect with curious attendees after the event.

You should also create a summary of the key talking points from your presentation. You could:

  • leave it on each guest’s seat

  • place it in a swag bag

  • put it in their hand as they leave

  • email it to everyone as a follow up

Keep the momentum going

After the event’s over, how will you reconnect with attendees? It’s important to keep the conversation going while everything’s still fresh in their minds.

Create a schedule for contacting attendees and inviting feedback on the event. They may have insights that will make your next one better. Use the opportunity to revisit content that was presented.

  • Answer their questions.

  • Deliver personalised advice.

  • Have a more in-depth discussion.

Following up will take time so make sure you plan for it. It may also cost you money if, for example, you decide to produce a meeting report as part of your post-event outreach.

Accounting events shouldn’t be hard

Events don’t have to be epic. You can hold something that’s intimate, informative and fun with relatively little cost and stress. Most marketers agree it’s worth the effort.

Just make sure you know what you want out of it – and create a strategy for getting there. It’s all about keeping it simple and following up.