The annual Walker Wayland conference was held in Brisbane in early May, themed ‘Community and Change’.

Presenters came prepared to challenge everyone at the conference. The sessions were more workshops than presentations with everyone called upon to work in groups on a range of projects.

Scott Patterson explains the importance of accountants to SMEs

Chris Ridd, Australian Managing Director of Xero, kicked off the presentations on Friday, describing the strong uptake of mobile accounting. He explained that, in 2011, Xero launched its Touch app for iPhone. Within two weeks, 25 percent of customers had downloaded the app from the Apple iTunes store.

Paul Hilton introduces speakers at the conference

Claire Madden of McCrindle Research provided an overview of the widely varying attitudes of generations of Australians - from Generations X, Y and Z to the babies of Generation Alpha - along with their expectations and means of communication.

In between the intensive presentations and focus on change came a hectic team challenge through the streets of Brisbane’s CBD on Friday afternoon.

At stake for teams was the Warhol Award to be presented at the gala dinner on Saturday evening, fittingly at the Gallery of Modern Art on Brisbane’s South Bank.

If attendees were feeling a bit slow on Saturday morning, David King of Vue Consulting quickly woke them with his fast-paced insight into the power of referrals and why accountants are particularly bad at asking for them. In clever cameos he showed that telling stories to clients about our capabilities can open windows to referral. Asking directly will rarely work.

Our own Scott Patterson explained that accountants are the most trusted advisers for SMEs.

“But we need to learn to integrate our services, not work in silos of specialty,” he said. “Think of a wheel. The spokes are the specialties such as tax advice, superannuation, audit and so on. The hub is where it all comes together. Do you want to be a spoke or the hub?”

Maria Nolan and Tracy Cooper from SeeChange Consulting ran a two-session tag-team presentation that had everyone on their feet to demonstrate how poor we are at identifying change in one another - let alone the world.

“Change brings stress,” they said. “There is a strong desire to go back to where we were before we began a change process; even if the ‘before’ was not as good as the new place will be.”

The conference was celebrated at a gala dinner in the halls of the Gallery of Modern Art not far from the hotel in South Bank. Amid dramatic art works, the Warhol Award was announced. Bottles of Coke and Flowers tied, with Flowers eventually declared winners with their Joker photo showing them ‘sprouting’ out of a metal flower pot art piece they found in the city.

The team at the Gallery of Modern Art on Brisbane's South Bank