ICAEW New logo 2017

ICAEW Women in Business & Leadership Event

Last week I attended my first ICAEW event, hosted by Liverpool Society of Chartered Accountants. The event was aimed at women in finance and business and special guest Penny Haslam spoke about how she delivers concise and compelling content, confidently.

Personal and professional development is something close to my heart. In my biggest moments of doubt – including my ¼ life crisis – the common theme was that I lacked challenge and therefore was no longer forging forward at the pace I preferred. 2017 has been the year where I’ve broadened my development horizons. I’ve opened up my diary, said yes to almost every invitation and met some brilliant and inspiring people as a result. My first ICAEW event was no exception.


Pizza, Tea, Biscuits and a dose of Confidence

I walked into a hotel conference room full of accountants and made a bee-line straight towards the tea and biscuits, obviously. I was attending with two senior finance professionals from my team and one of my fellow KPMG alumni (now friend and fellow networking group member) who had first alerted me to the event. I scoffed my first biscuit, wondering whether it was chocolate or toffee flavour – or both. Whilst I was musing as to how easy it would be to replicate the recipe, we were escorted into a smaller room set up with 3 round banquet tables and a projector.

We took a seat at the back table, immediately grabbed the free 4-colours-in-1 ball point pen and ruffled through the materials in the shiny clear plastic wallet in front of us. The title for Penny’s talk was ‘Gain the Expert Advantage and Lift Off In Leadership’ – quite an intimidating and powerful title.

Penny Haslam Gain the Expert Advantage Vimeo

Click on the image to view the key note speech

When Penny took her position at the front of the room, the audience warmed to her immediately. Perhaps this was because she manages to appear confident and knowledgeable whilst also seeming approachable. Perhaps it was also something to do with the fact that I had progressed through my teen years seeing her face on the BBC and therefore felt like I knew her a little already.

Penny talked us through her broadcasting career and life since leaving the BBC before the big question came…

“Who in this room considers themselves to be an expert?”

No hands were raised in the audience.

Penny pledged that she would do her very best to change that and in the 1.5 hours that followed she covered a variety of topics, delivered some harsh truths and equipped the room with some tools to take away and deploy in our personal and professional lives.

The session was engaging and not at all studious and CPD-like. Audience participation was high – something which is particularly rare when the audience is made up of accountants!

At the end of the session, with pizza reduced to crumbs and tea and coffee cups empty, Penny asked the question once more.

“Who in this room considers themselves to be an expert?”

I found myself raising my hand without hesitation. I surveyed the room and noted that everyone else had done exactly that. Modesty is something most Accountants (and the British generally) are built on, so the mere fact that any hands were raised was indicative of how we can change the way we perceive ourselves, and therefore how others are likely to perceive us.

So it was good then?!

Personal and Professional development is something that requires constant work. I appreciate it doesn’t sound like the most exciting way to spend your Thursday evening and add to that the looming pressure of maintaining your CPD file and it’s easy to feel like you’re at the Malmaison due to some misplaced feeling of obligation to the institute or to ‘tick a box’.

I certainly thought the event was a valuable use of my personal time, but what did others have to say?

“It was really informative. Penny was really engaging and the skills shared were really useful! I’ll definitely go on to use these in the workplace.”

Rebecca Trebble, Senior Finance Manager, Shop Direct

The course was very interesting, we learnt lots of great tips. There was lots of interaction which kept everyone feeling engaged, motivated and inspired. I will definitely be attending more courses in the future. “

Stephanie Lucas, Senior Finance Manager, Shop Direct

Having attended my first ICAEW event I can now say that it was more than a box-ticking exercise. In fact, I’d strongly encourage anyone not already doing so to attend events like this – what do you have to lose?

F x


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