Four Steps to Making Delightful Presentations as a CPA

Who says CPAs can't make lasting impressions?

In this article, I provide you with four steps for making delightful presentations–even if you are a CPA. Yes, this can be done!

If you’ve read the book Presentation Zen, you know that many speakers–without intending to–hide their message. In watching CPE presentations and board presentations, I have noticed that (we) CPAs unwittingly hide our messages. How? We present slide decks that look like intermediate accounting textbooks–chock full of facts, but too much to digest. And do we really believe that those attending will take those slides back to the office and study them?

Probably not.

My experience has been those slides end up in the office dungeon, never to be seen again. We have one chance to communicate–in the session.

four steps to making delightful presentations

Courtesy of iStockphoto.com

It is the presenter’s duty to cause learningSo how can we  engage our audience (even those sitting on the back row reading the newspaper)? Let’s start with the slide deck.

1. Make Simple Slides

I try to have no more than two points per slide, and I leave out references to professional standards (at least on the slides).

What happens when you see a slide that looks like it contains the whole of War and Peace? You may think, “Are you kidding? You want me to consume all of that in the next three minutes. Forget it. I will not even try.” And then you begin to think about your golf game or your next vacation. So how much information should you include on a slide?

Nancy Duarte recommends the glance test for each slide. “People should be able to comprehend it in three seconds.”

2. Include a picture related to the topic

For example, if I am presenting to governmental auditors, I might create a slide that simply says Bribes with a picture of someone being bribed.

3. Tell a story (and ask questions)

People love stories. If your presentation is about bribes and you have not audited a bribery situation, Google bribes, and you will find all the fodder you need. If you can’t find a story, use a hypothetical. Why? You are trying to draw your audience in–then maybe they will put that newspaper down (your most triumphant moment as a speaker!).

Also engage your audience with questions. Stories get the juices going; questions make them dig. And, if the audience is with you at this point, you now have dialog. This is when it gets fun. Those talking learn, the audience learns, and, yes, you learn.

4. My last point: Move

Move. Not too much, but at least some.

A statue is not the desired effect. Michael Jackson is also not the desired effect (moonwalking was never in my repertoire anyway). But movement, yes. I like to walk slowly from side to side (without moonwalking) and will, at times, move toward the audience when I want to make an important point. And, no, I am not moving constantly.

Presentation Software and Handouts

Presentation Software

If you have an Apple computer, let me recommend Keynote as your presentation software. I do think PowerPoint (for you Windows users) has improved in the last two years, but I personally still prefer Keynote.

One More Point

If you need to provide detailed information, use handouts (I sometimes provide narrative summaries in addition to the slide deck). Then, if you like, refer your audience to the supporting material.

Your Presentation Tips

What do you do to make your presentations sizzle?

What’s on a CPA’s Computer Desktop?

I'm sharing what's on my computer desktop

I’m always curious about what another golfer has in his or her bag. 60-degree wedge? Belly Putter? Callaway driver? You can tell a lot about a golfer by what he carries.

The same is true with, “what’s on a CPA’s computer desktop?” Our desktops say a great deal about how we think and get things done.

So, in the interest of sharing, here are some things on my desktop. Hopefully, you’ll see some ideas that you can use. 

CPA's Computer Desktop

 

CPA’s Computer Desktop

1. Checkpoint Tools for PPC.

With one click I can see all of the practice aids I’ve subscribed to, things like:

  • Engagement letters
  • Audit programs
  • Risk assessment forms
  • Letters to those charged with governance

I also have access to PPC’s Interactive Disclosure Libraries. I use this to find sample note disclosures.

2. The peer review general audit engagement checklist.

With one click, I can see what the AICPA peer review checklist says about work papers. (There are many more peer review checklists, but this one provides a generic quick look.)

3. The most recent PPC disclosure checklist.

The checklist provides me with quick answers to disclosure questions.

4. TValue Link.

Need a loan amortization? It’s one click away.

5. Scansnap Organizer Link.

I keep a Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap scanner on the corner of my desk. When paper arrives, I scan it and file it.

6. Link to Excel (in Windows toolbar).

One click to spreadsheets.

7. Link to Word (in Windows toolbar).

One click to documents.

8. Snipping Tool (accessed with Windows Start button)

I use the Windows snipping tool to capture anything on my screen quickly.

9. Link to Adobe Acrobat (in Windows toolbar).

How can one live without Adobe Acrobat? Scan and annotate your documents.

10. Link to Judy’s Tenkey (in Windows toolbar).

One click to my electronic adding machine.

11. Link to Evernote (in Windows toolbar).

One click to my personal digital library.

12. Link to Firefox (in Windows toolbar).

Yes, I’m a Firefox fan (I like it better than Explorer).

13. ShareFile icon (in Windows toolbar).

One click to secure file sharing.

14. Zoom icon (in Windows toolbar).

One click to conferencing software.

Finally, let me recommend Fences (by Stardock) for Windows-based systems. It allows you to group your desktop icons into one area of your screen (e.g., Research). 

That’s what’s on my desktop. What about yours?

How CPAs Can Use the Evernote App on Their iPhones

Here is a series of videos showing how you can use the Evernote app on your cell phone

How can CPAs use the Evernote app on their iPhones? Evernote is one of the most valuable tools that an accountant or CPA can use. You just have to know what it can do and how to use it–and it’s not that hard (I promise).

Here’s an Evernote short-course. See the four videos below for demonstrations of how the iPhone Evernote app will work for you.

Using iPhone Evernote app

1. An Evernote Overview

This video provides an overview of the Evernote app on an iPhone. You’ll see how easy it is to create and search notes.

For more information, see my post Evernote for CPAs. This post provides a printable summary of how you can create and use notes.

2. How to Add a New Note

This video shows you how to add a new note to your Evernote library.

3. How to Add Audio and Photograph File to Evernote

This video demonstrates how to add audio files or photographs to your Evernote library. You can start a new file in seconds. Click here to see how.

For additional tips regarding how to add new notes, see Seven Ways to Feed Evernote.

4. Using the Search Bar

After you’ve used Evernote for a while, you may have several hundred files. Then you may find it more challenging to find the needle in the haystack. But Evernote provides a powerful search bar that enables you to find what you need.

Here are additional Tips on Searching Your Evernote Account.

You can download your Evernote iPhone app here

How to Organize Your Computer Desktop with Fences

Do you get lost looking for app or document icons on your desktop?

Most accountants like organization, yet I often see total chaos on their computer desktops.

A typical CPA’s screen looks like this.

Organize desktop

We’d be much better off if our desktops looked like this.

fences

Creating Order on Your Desktop

So how can you bring order to your desktop?

Use Fences. The cost is $9.99, but well worth the iconic bliss.

Once Fences is downloaded, you simply right-click and drag on your screen to create a new fence (see below). Above you see a fence titled “Programs.” You can arrange the icons in whatever order you wish. To add an icon to a fence, you simply drag it to the desired location.

Create Fence

Once you arrange your icons, they stay that way. When you reboot your computer the next morning, you’ll find your icons in the same order. 

Fences YouTube Video

Here’s a video that provides additional information:

My Experience with Fences

I’ve used Fences for about five years and have found it useful. I recommend it.

To see physical office setup ideas for accountants, click here.

Evernote for CPAs: Developing a Super Power

Here's how you can use Evernote to make yourself more productive

Evernote is a game-changer for CPAs.

What is Evernote?

Think of it as your personal digital library. 

Evernote is a cloud-based storage system which allows you to capture and file voice recordings, documents (including Word, Excel, PDFs), pictures, and videos. Once information is placed in Evernote, it is searchable in a Google-like fashion. Even hand-written notes are searchable.

Evernote for CPAs

Picture is from AdobeStock.com

Things CPAs Can Do with Evernote

Here are examples of what you can do with Evernote:

  • Create a personal digital library (e.g., use an Evernote digital notebook to store Journal of Accountancy articles, CPE material, and videos of class instruction)
  • Share individual files or notebooks (a compilation of files) with others (with the premium version you can collaborate with others, allowing them to change Excel or Word files)
  • Capture meeting conversations with your smartphone and save them to Evernote
  • Use your smartphone to take a picture of meeting notes on a whiteboard (remember manually written words are searchable in Evernote)
  • Encrypt selected text within an Evernote note (password protected); it can’t be viewed without the password
  • Add selected web information to Evernote using an Evernote clipper 
  • Email any document directly to your private Evernote email address (which adds the emailed information to a “to be filed” folder in Evernote)
  • Create a local Evernote notebook for sensitive information (the notebook resides on your local computer and does not synchronize to your Evernote cloud account)

The Skeletal Framework: Notes, Notebooks, and Tags 

The skeletal framework for Evernote has three elements: Notes, notebooks, and tags.

 

Evernote for CPAs

1. The primary element of Evernote is a note.

Think of a note as a blank piece of paper on which you can type. You can also attach other files to the note (e.g., an Excel spreadsheet or a picture taken with your cell phone or a voice message recorded with your cell phone).

2. Notes are placed in notebooks.

Think of a notebook as a three-ring binder.

For example, if I want to create a note about comprehensive income, I can do so. Then I can attach related files (e.g., PDFs) to the note. Next, I might add a note about other comprehensive income and another about reclassifications from other comprehensive income. The separate notes can be–for example–a text file, an Excel file, and a voice message.

All three notes can be added to a notebook titled Comprehensive Income.

3. You may also tag each note.

Alternatively, I can place the comprehensive income notes in a notebook titled accounting (a more generic category) and tag each note as comprehensive income. Then I can search and find all comprehensive income notes by using the comprehensive income tag. When I type tag:”comprehensive income” in the Evernote search bar, all such notes appear.

Getting Information Into Evernote

Feed your Evernote account in multiple ways.

You can use Evernote apps or programs on your iPad, PC, and smartphone to add information to your account. 

I use this smartphone app to make and save pictures, notes, and voice messages to my Evernote account.

Evernote also provides you with a unique email address that can be used to feed information into your personal cloud. When you find something you want to store, you can email it to your Evernote account.

Also, you can use the Evernote clipper to capture information on the fly, such as when you are browsing the Internet. Just download the Clipper program from the Evernote website. 

Another neat way to get information into Evernote is with your scanner. I use a Fujitsu ScanSnap to feed scanned pages directly into Evernote.

Using Evernote on an iPhone – An Example

In this two minute video, I demonstrate the use of notebooks and notes inside of my Evernote account.

To Create Your Account

To create your account, go to the Evernote website and follow the directions. There is a free version if you desire to try it out. The premium version is $70 per year.

Recommended Books

Here are two recommended books if you desire to learn more about Evernote:

  1. Evernote Essentials 
  2. Evernote For Dummies 

How to Review Financial Statements on Computer Screens

Here are suggestions to help you review financial statements

Today I give you seven steps to review financial statements on computer screens.

I recently provided you with a post titled How to Review Financial Statements Efficiently and Effectively. That article provides information about creating and reviewing financial statements, but it does not provide information about doing so on a computer screen. Many accountants prefer to review physical copies of financial statements. Others prefer to do so on their computer screens. This article is for the latter group.

reviewing financial statements

How to Review Financial Statements on Computer Screens

  1. First, open and visually scan the entire financial statement (spend two to three seconds per page) just to get a feel for the whole product. How do the parts fit together? Are the financial statements subject to the Yellow Book? Do they contain supplementary information? Are the statements comparative?
  2. Second, use a large computer screen (22 inches or more) to compare your financial statement pages. Reduce the financial statement page size by holding the control key down and scrolling back with your mouse. As you do so, you will see multiple statements on the screen, for instance: balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement.  Now that you can see multiple statements, you can tick and tie your numbers. I use step 2. to compare the financial statement numbers. For example, I compare the net income number on the income statement to the same number on the cash flow statement. Then I use step 3. to compare the financial statements to the notes and the supplementary information.
  3. Next, use two to three computer screens to compare your financial statements with the notes and supplementary information. Open the financial statement on each screen–for instance, the balance sheet on screen 1, the notes on screen 2, and the supplementary information on screen 3. In Word, click View, New Window and another instance of the document will open. Then you can move the new instance to a second screen. Alternatively, you can use the side-by-side feature in Word to place two open documents on one screen. (To see my physical office setup, click here.)
  4. After completing your review of the notes, return to and take a second look at the balance sheet to see if the disclosures are complete. (Since you just reviewed the notes, it’s easier to compare them to the balance sheet. If, for example, you look at the balance sheet and see inventory but no disclosure for the same, you’ll more easily see the error.)
  5. Use the find feature (in Word, click the Home tab, click Find, then key in the number–or word–you are looking for) to locate words or numbers. If you want to compare the long-term debt number on the balance sheet to the notes and to supplemental information, type that number into your search dialog box and you’re immediately taken to the same number in the notes. Click next, and you will see the next instance (in the supplementary information). You can do the same with words. (Note-If you embed Excel tables in the Word document, the find feature will not locate numbers in the embedded tables.)
  6. When needed, take breaks. Never spend more than 1.5 hours reviewing statements without taking a short break. You get more done by relaxing periodically.
  7. Finally, if you are reviewing financial statements in Word, consider turning on Track Changes and key in suggested revisions. Word reflects your modifications in a distinct color–that way, others can see your suggested changes. They can also see who made the suggested corrections. Thereafter, they can accept or reject the proposed changes.

Your Suggestions

Those are my ideas. What are yours?

10 Super Easy Ways to Increase Your Productivity

Here are ways for CPAs to be more efficient

Are you a CPA looking for ways to increase your productivity?

Here are ten suggestions.

CPA Productivity

Courtesy of Dollar Photo

1. Control f

First, I see too many CPAs hen-pecking around, trying to find information in their electronic piles. Many times the quickest route to finding information is Control f (Command f on a Mac). Hold your control key down and type f. This action will usually generate a find dialog box–-then key in your search words. Control f works in Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Adobe Acrobat.

2. OCR Long Documents

Computers can’t read all electronic documents (that is, not all documents are electronically searchable). Sometimes you need to convert the document to OCR. OCR stands for optical character recognition. So how can you make an electronic document readable and searchable?

Scan documents into Adobe Acrobat and use the OCR feature to convert bitmap images into searchable documents. Then use Control f to locate words. When should you OCR a document? Typically when it’s several pages long. Do so when you don’t want to read the entire document to find a particular word or phrase.

For example, suppose your client gives you a one-hundred-page bond document, and you need to locate the loan covenants. Rather than reading the entire document, convert it to searchable text (using Adobe Acrobat) and use Control f to locate each instance of the word covenant

3. Dispatching Paper Quickly

A clean work surface enables you to think clearly.

So make filing decisions quickly–as soon as a paper or electronic document is received. Keep your desk (and computer desktop) clean.

If you can dispatch a document in less than two minutes, do so immediately. For documents that take more than two minutes to file, electronically scan them. Then place the document in an action folder on your computer’s desktop. (If you don’t have time to scan the document at the moment, create a To Be Scanned pile in a paper tray.)

You’re thinking, “But I’ll forget about the document if it’s not physically on my desk.” Allay this fear by adding a task in Outlook to remind you of the scanned document (you can even add the document to a task). I create tasks with reminders. So, for example, the reminder pops up at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning; attached is the relevant document. That way I don’t forget.

For more information about scanning, see my post How to Build an Accountant’s Scanning System. I also recommend David Allen’s book Getting Things Done which provides a complete system for making filing decisions.

4. Close Your Door

An open door says what? Come in.

A cracked door says what? Knock and come in.

A closed door says what? Don’t enter, especially without knocking.

I close my door for about an hour at a time. Additionally, I turn off all electronic devices and notifications. Doing so allows me to focus on the task at hand. 

5. Use a LiveScribe Pen

Do you remember everything someone says in a meeting? I don’t. Livescribe allows me to take notes and simultaneously record the conversation. Then I can hear any part of the conversation. For example, if I–in a meeting–write the words “intangible amortization,” I can (later) touch the tip of my pen to that phrase (in my Livescribe notebook) and hear what was said as I wrote those words. That way, I don’t have to call a meeting attendee and ask, “What did you say about intangible amortization?”

6. Take Breaks and Naps

Another idea is to take breaks and naps.

Counterintuitive? Yes, but it works.

Breaks

I come from the old school of “don’t lift your head up or someone will see how lazy you are.” I’m not sure where this thinking comes from, but you will be more efficient–not less–when you take periodic breaks. I recommend a break at least once every two hours.

Naps

Naps? You may be thinking, “Are you kidding?”

Research shows you will be more productive if you take a nap during the day. It doesn’t have to be long, maybe ten or fifteen minutes after lunch. You’ll feel fresher and think more clearly. According to Dr. Sandra Mednick, author of Take a Nap, Change Your Life, napping can restore the sensitivity of sight, hearing, and taste. Napping also improves creativity.

Michael Hyatt recently listed several famous nappers:

  • Leonardo da Vinci took multiple naps a day and slept less at night.
  • The French Emperor Napoleon was not shy about taking naps. He indulged daily.
  • Though Thomas Edison was embarrassed about his napping habit, he also practiced his ritual daily.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, used to boost her energy by napping before speaking engagements.
  • Gene Autry, “the Singing Cowboy,” routinely took naps in his dressing room between performances.
  • President John F. Kennedy ate his lunch in bed and then settled in for a nap—every day!
  • Oil industrialist and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller napped every afternoon in his office.
  • Winston Churchill’s afternoon nap was non-negotiable. He believed it helped him get twice as much done each day.
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson took a nap every afternoon at 3:30 p.m. to break his day up into “two shifts.”
  • Though criticized for it, President Ronald Reagan famously took naps as well.

For empirical evidence that naps help, check out the book Rest, Why You Get More Done When You Work Less.

Also, here are more ideas to create energy in your day.

7. Answer Emails and Phone Calls in Chunks

If you pause every time you get an email or a phone call, you will lose your concentration. Therefore, try not to move back and forth between activities. Do one thing at a time since multitasking is a lie.

Pick certain times of the day (e.g., once every three hours) to answer your accumulated emails or calls.

8. Exercise

I run (by myself) or walk (with my wife) six times a week–usually in the morning before work. Exercising helps my attitude and clears my mind. Also, I feel stronger late in the day.

9. Lunch at 11:30 a.m. or 1:00 p.m.

Another idea: Go to lunch at 11:30 a.m. or 1:00 p.m. Why stand in line? 

10. Take One Day Off a Week

Finally, I usually don’t work on Sundays (even in busy season). For me, it’s a day to worship, relax, see friends, and revive. I find the break gives me strength for the coming week.

Muddled minds destroy productivity.

Your Ideas?

These are a few of my thoughts. Please share yours.