Supporting Accounting and Auditing Developments and Synergies

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Basic Event Information

Date: 29-30 June 2021
Location: Skopje, North Macedonia and Online
Organiser: Center of Excellence in Finance and Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy
Client: Public officials in the accounting and auditing profession

EVENT CATEGORY: B2I
EVENT SUBCATEGORY: Best CSR Event / B2I
EVENT FORMAT: HYBRID


Event description and key objectives

  1. Managing Public Sector Assets covered:

• The challenges of improving public sector non-financial asset management (AM), institutional frameworks, ownership policy, the role of accounting reform in AM processes, effective AM, the role of performance auditing in managing public sector assets, building a Community of Practitioners in the field of AM to create synergies between countries with similar challenges, encourage inter-institutional and international cooperation, and foster improvements in this area.

  1. Anticorruption addressed:
    • Current examples of fraud and anticorruption frameworks, effective systems of internal control, accounting and auditing relationship to promote anti-corruption and anti-fraud practices
    • Education and training opportunities to address fraud and corruption prevention practices
  2. Leadership for reforms spoke about:
    • Success stories of leadership supporting the implementation of reforms, successful management of public finance during the pandemic crisis and post-crisis period, change management bridging from technical skills and knowledge through IT towards leadership to support the implementation of reforms
  3. We also discussed Promoting Accountants’ and Auditors’ Learning and Knowledge Sharing – how learning concepts and modalities can support both professions in gaining the required knowledge and skills to increase performance and contribute to the implementation of reforms.
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Key challenges

In the preparation phase and during the delivery of the conference we were facing different challenges:

  • Two organization teams from Slovenia and the UK had to coordinate from a distance and communicate with service providers only online
  • Whether to opt for a hybrid format or just prefer online instead, and when to transform the agenda completely to an online format, if circumstances were unfavorable due to Covid-19 and would require such a decision
  • Unstable and challenging airplane connections that increased the cost of flights and prolonged the time of travelling
  • Would we have a sufficient number of participants who would be willing to participate face-to-face
  • Would the experts be willing and able to travel and participate live
  • What would be the setting of participants in the conference room due to the changing measures of the hotel because of Covid-19 (sitting order, meal arrangements and networking activities)
  • How to prepare a program that would engage both face-to-face and online audiences, so that no one would feel excluded
  • How would the moderator facilitate the discussion combining face-to-face and online panelists
  • How would two co-moderators coordinate the discussion, if one was online and the other on spot
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Creativity

  • With weekly online meetings 6 months before the event, the two organizing institutions overcame the challenges of distant event coordination and strengthened communication and trust.
  • The learning initiative was designed as a hybrid event, bringing together participants from all over the world.
  • The hybrid aspect of the event enabled smooth interaction between participants and experts both online and f2f.
  • The event was delivered in English and Macedonian. Simultaneous translation was available online and on spot.
  • With the agenda already finalized, we were still approached by experts wanting to introduce their country cases. Since the agenda could not be changed, we let them use part of the time slots intended for discussions. This way everybody benefited from hearing about the best practices.
  • Since we still had to observe health recommendations, all face-to-face participants received protective masks with the logos of the organizers and a slogan “Speaking up for public finance”.
  • For every session, we appointed selected experts to act as “reporters”. They had to prepare a summary of the discussion, identifying challenges, needs for improvement and potential best practices. The reports will be published, giving a broader audience insight into the outcomes and serving as a platform to organize the next conference in 2022.
  • As a post-event activity, a professional artist will prepare a drawing this September. It will feature the elements and outcomes of all topics discussed
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Innovation

Cooperation of the CEF and CIPFA teams brought together a pool of international and regional experts and made it possible to reach a very broad audience – 30 countries from around the world. By using a hybrid format, we were able to attract distant experts and participants who could not have otherwise participated at a live event. By co-creating the promotion of the event and having preparatory meetings with panelists, they became part of the team before the event even started. This contributed to a relaxed and positive atmosphere at the conference. We strengthened the recruitment process also with a podcast interview with both organizers to shortly introduce the conference and both teams. A broader audience could follow the conference by using #CEFCIPFAconf21 on different social media. At the conference, we collected experts’ statements which we will use after the conference as a wrap-up and input for the preparation of the next conference in 2022. Instead of introducing the speakers in detail at the conference, we prepared a digital brochure of their biographies per discussion area, presenting also the organizing teams. A digital brochure was published on the CEF website as an introduction to the event and participants were guided to it with a QR code printed on the conference agenda. The logos of financial contributors were visible during the conference on the LED screen instead of using a banner. All the conference materials were distributed digitally, except the agenda.

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Execution

Preparation of the event started few weeks before the event in order to make the space suitable for the event. Setup of the scenography, technical and program rehearsal were done day before the event. Another program rehearsal was done morning.

We started preparing for the conference already in December 2019. The preparation group consisted of three CEF staff members and three CIPFA staff members;other colleagues joined in the execution phase of the event. It took a lot of effort to prepare the agenda because we were carefully choosing the relevant topics and experienced experts. At that time, we were still not sure if it would be possible to go for a hybrid format, due to the pandemic.

In order to reach a wider audience, the program started at 13:00 CET, which allowed us to connect various countries from all over the world and promote regional cooperation. At the same time, the introduction of cases globally showed that different public sector environments may face the same or similar challenges. The two-day event brought together accountants and auditors from ministries of finance and line ministries, representatives of supreme audit institutions, HR managers, representatives of academia, certified CIPFA accountants and auditors, and other public officials whose work relates to the discussion topics. The title of the conference proved to be the right choice, as the blend of excellent presentations and vibrant discussions, both at the venue and online, provided a great opportunity to build on the knowledge of both professions. As the pandemic severely hindered access to networking and the benefits it brings, for those attending the conference face-to-face, this was also a chance for a more direct exchange of ideas.

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Measurable results

• 197 delegates from 30 different countries
• More than 90 different institutions
• Overall satisfaction: 4.8 out of 5

A few messages from participants after the event in the evaluation form:

  • Everything was perfect.
  • I have no recommendations on this topic, everything was organized at the top level.
  • It was very useful, I don’t know what else should be improved.
  • Excellent arrangements. It was a useful program.
  • You did a great job. Looking forward to new conferences.
  • I was able to obtain additional knowledge. Thank you very much for organizing such an event.
  • Thank you so much for an excellent conference – great speakers and discussions, and very well organized.
  • Thanks for delivering the topics in the conference. I hope to be part of other conferences in the future, for my personal and professional development, to share and do things in a different way, and use the experience gained from you. Thank you again.
  • I very much enjoyed the conference and I thought you and your team were brilliant, so well done!
  • You organized and delivered the whole event perfectly well. In these challenging pandemic times, very few international organizations provide professional development and networking opportunities in my field of academic and professional interest. Look forward to our joint future conferences, trainings and development projects.
  • AFROSAI-E remains grateful to having been given such an opportunity to share its tools in such a diverse forum of experts.
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Communication

The invitations were sent to the public accountants in North Macedonia. They had a priority in registration, but otherwise it was open to a worldwide audience. We conducted a selection of participants. Starting already in May, we involved some of the panelists to give insights into their topics and published them on social media. An info letter was sent to the registered before the event, and a thank you letter with digital materials and photos after the event. There was also a follow-up with selected individuals on their involvement in particular sessions, meeting outcomes, calls/e-mails, etc. Strategy:

  • Creating visual aids for online promotion
  • Creating hashtag #CEFCIPFAconf21
  • Increasing event registration by publishing short statements of the speakers and behind-the-scenes photos and agreeing externally and internally on information distribution in different social media channels
  • Posting regular updates
  • Recording statements from participants and speakers during the event (multi-purpose, post-event usage)
  • Podcast recording with the organizing partner
  • Execution & results:
  • Live reporting from the conference in social media channels
  • Utilizing Instagram stories for the reporting
  • Facebook coverage: The average reach and engagement rates of the conference posts were seven times higher than usual
  • Instagram coverage:Reach rate of 165 vs. the usual average
  • 3 posts out of 4 ranked among top 10 posts since our Instagram relaunch in April 2020
  • 20 new followers

The use of sustainable practices

We decided to use the existing event page to publish the biographies of the speakers. This way we limited the usage of paper that would otherwise be spent for printing 100+ copies of the multiple-page event brochure with biographies. The only printed event material was the agenda leaflet, containing the QR code leading to the page with biographies.
We also gave reusable masks to the participants attending the conference face-to-face to minimize the environmental impact of disposable masks.