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Tales from the CPE crypt

April 8, 2019  |  Kinzie Jensen

Tales from the CPE crypt

I walked into the conference room on a bright February morning, excited to learn some new writing tips from my favorite marketing podcaster. Choosing a seat, I introduced myself to my table neighbors. "Kind of chilly in here," I remarked. Things went downhill from there.

As the workshop started, I listened intently, ready to jot down any tidbit that would help me do my job better. But soon, my notes were nearly indecipherable because my hands, numb from the tundra-like room, could barely grip my pen.

I was so cold that I couldn't focus. I know we discussed goals, editing and persuasion, but mostly what I remember is how I could not WAIT to get out of that refrigerated conference room. You know Jack Nicholas at the end of "The Shining"? That was me.

My story is all too familiar. Unfortunately, reality doesn't always meet your expectations when it comes to continuing education. Curious as to what others had endured while at a workshop or conference, I asked around for more horror stories. Here are just a handful of doozies:

  • "At one course I attended, we were crammed into a tiny room like sardines. There was only one way in and out of each row of tables. If someone had to use the restroom, everyone in the row had to stand up and move the tables to let them out."
  • "At a conference, construction workers were jack-hammering a marble floor. Quite distracting to say the least."
  • "I attended a keynote presentation where the presenter had her back turned to the audience THE WHOLE TIME, reading her slides word for word off the slide deck. It was insane."
  • "Once I had an instructor who kept dropping the names of famous people he knew and went into a semi-diatribe against one of them. It was very distracting from the course content."
  • "I attended a large conference where you don't pre-register for sessions, and the meeting planners misjudged the appropriate room sizes. For three of my sessions, there were no seats left; people were standing in the back and sitting on the floor. At one point, the fire marshal came in and told us if we weren't in a chair, we'd have to leave the room. The organizers tried to fix the problem by adding a live video feed for attendees in another room, but the technology failed. Attendees were incredibly frustrated."

We've all been there: the speaker who says "um" every third word, chairs that feel like football stadium bleachers, coffee that might have been dredged from the Mississippi.

Kidding aside, these infractions truly make a difference in your learning experience. And when you're a CPA working in a world with changing tax laws, accounting regulations and technology, you want to leave your CPE course with exceptional knowledge -- not a stress headache or frostbite.

Some of this is out of your control. But here are a few pointers to make sure you're setting yourself up for successful learning experiences:

  • Ask for recommendations. Your peers are a fantastic resource about where to get high-quality CPE. Ask them who to seek out and who to avoid.
  • If possible, scope out the venue. If you've never been to the facility and you're committing to a day (or more) of training there, do some detective work. Check out their website for photos or videos of the space, and look for the accommodations that matter most to you -- whether it's plug-ins for your laptop, convenient parking or a setup that's conducive to networking. Never been to the MNCPA Education Center? Check out some photos or stop in for a members-only meetup to see what it's all about.
  • Don't assume food is included. More and more, you'll find vendors trying to reduce costs by cutting food, leaving you to fend for yourself. Fun fact: Full-day MNCPA seminars and conferences include breakfast, lunch and two food breaks, while half-day seminars include break food. We'll even do our best to accommodate food allergies and special diets.
  • You get what you pay for. You don't buy sushi from a gas station and expect fine-dining quality. If you enjoy comfortable chairs, friendly service and top-notch speakers, you must budget more for it -- but you can expect a better experience. (Bonus tip: Never buy sushi from a gas station.)
  • If you don't speak up, the problem won't get fixed. You know that pesky evaluation you're asked to complete at the end of a course? People read those! Share your opinions and constructive feedback on evaluations to help staff determine what's on the CPE schedule, where to cater in lunch and which speakers to invite back. You can provide feedback to the MNCPA anytime by emailing customerservice@mncpa.org or calling 952-831-2707.

If you have a CPE horror story to share, let's hear it in the comments below. Yes, even if it was with the MNCPA! We care about your experiences and we want to know how we can improve so you'll come back to our programs.

As you work toward earning CPE before the next deadline, I hope your learning experiences are positive, fulfilling and decidedly unscary.

Topics: Professional Certification, Personal Development

Kinzie Jensen

Kinzie Jensen is the MNCPA senior CPE marketing coordinator, working to ensure members know about the wide variety of CPE options available through the society. She spends her working hours writing and brainstorming ideas while quietly jamming out to the music of Steely Dan, The Avett Brothers, John Mayer, Genesis and The Black Keys. Kinzie lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two daughters, and fills her free time with yoga, running and struggling to play the acoustic guitar. Her other obsessions include coffee, llamas, IPAs and sunshine. Kinzie can be reached at 952-885-5515 or kjensen@mncpa.org.

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