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Kara DeFrias is Senior Manager, Brand & Innovation Experiences at Intuit. In this role she leads brand and innovation experiences for the Intuit PR team. She is deeply involved in managing the user experience at QuickBooks Connect.
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San Jose Convention Center
The San Jose Convention Center is centrally located to most of the host hotels and will be turned into a "main street" like atmosphere for the one of a kind QuickBooks Connect.
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San Jose Farmer's Market
The San Jose Farmer's Market is one of the many things attendees can do while they are in town. The food served at the Convention Center is sourced locally, so to if you like what you eat, you can probably find the farmer at the market.
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Santana Row offers shopping, strolling and general R&R during the non-show hours.
In the webinar “Partnering for Success,” Jim McGinnis (Intuit, Leader Intuit Accountant Professionals Group) said, “There are tons of accounting shows. There are tons of small business shows. There are shows for entrepreneurs and there are shows for developers, but Intuit may be the only one in this space that can bring these four demographics together under a single roof . . . and have them all be part of a community.” This statement demonstrates how QuickBooks Connect in San Jose, Calif. will be a truly unique experience. So you’ve heard so far about what will be going on at the event and about the different connection opportunities available, but now we’ll be going even more in depth into:
- the feel and location of the event
- what specific things it will have to offer attendees
- what type of connection opportunities will be available
- and what else you can gain by attending
To help answer these questions, we spoke with Kara DeFrias, one of the Executive Producers of QuickBooks Connect.
When asked about this event specifically and why it was being put on now, Kara said, “The vision of QuickBooks Connect is to bring together the QuickBooks ecosystem in a way that nobody has done before to help them create connections. This is going to be accomplished not only by having a fantastic lineup of main stage and breakout session speakers, but also by having:
You’ll get inspiration on the main stage, education in the breakout sessions, and connection during the breaks.” She then added, “We’ve been thinking about doing an event like this for years, and the time is right to bring accountants, developers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs together so that they connect with the content, resources, and each other to achieve their business dreams.”
According to Jim McGinnis, QuickBooks Connect is expected to get “4,000 attendees (including 1200 small businesses) and be the biggest gathering of accountants in one place,” but Kara also mentioned that the area of the convention itself will be “very walkable.” This means that (in most cases) it will be easy to walk from your hotel to the convention center and easy to find and walk to nearby restaurants and shops.
Then once you’ve reached the convention center that’s where the fun will really begin. Some of the things Kara says that attendees will be most excited for are:
- The Opening of the Show
- Main Street and the Exhibit Hall
- The Networking Park
- The Wednesday Night Party
The Opening Speaker
Intuit will be starting this event off with a bang by inspiring you with an amazing speaker. Kara said, “It’s one of those where you want to make sure you are sitting down at 9 a.m. on the dot – if not 15 minutes early – to make sure you don’t miss a thing.” She also announced that they’ll be taking a cue from Broadway and holding a number of front row seats for the winners of their “Tweet for a Seat” contest to get those special attendees “closer to the action.” More on that contest will be announced later on.
What we can share with you in more detail is what will be going on at Main Street and the Exhibit Hall.
Main Street and the Exhibit Hall
Here is where the experience design team has really put consideration into your experience. Kara said, “Yes, you’re in a conference hall but you’re also in a main street-like space.” What she means is that the entire area will have been transformed to look like and make you feel like you’re walking down a city street, replete with shops. And that theming spreads into the exhibit hall, as well.
Six ways that the team will do this are by:
- Building booths that look like store front facades (incorporating them seamlessly)
- Having a coffee shop with a live musician playing (to give you a place to relax and enjoy yourself)
- Having a Innovation Gallery Walk (where the most helpful innovations will be highlighted to help small business owners, accountants, entrepreneurs, and developers succeed and grow their business)
- Having sponsors who will be spread into three different areas, to open up the reimagined exhibit hall (gone are the days of 10’x10’ booths with pipe and drape)
- Having two Q & A bars, which are places to speak to Intuit employees directly. One place to talk about the products you use, how you use them, or to ask any questions you have on them. And one place to ask small business-related questions.
- Putting on speed mentoring, a one of kind opportunity where you’ll sign up with a high profile mentor and have 45 minutes to present your most pressing issues and have them answered for you in a one on one session.
Kara said that the speed mentoring will also be especially valuable to attendees because you’ll also be getting that advice and time with someone very big. She explained, “You kind of want to look it as ‘Wow, I get to meet with them?’ These are people you would love to get 45 minutes with. It’s an opportunity to take those things you think that are unique and special to your business and get 45 minutes with somebody who has been there, done that, and who can give you some really good insights.”
Another exciting part of the convention for attendees will be the Networking Park.
The Networking Park
Here the design team will continue your experience by making you feel like you’re entering a real park. Kara said, “We’re transforming part of the convention center look like the Dolores Park.” Here you’ll not only be able to relax and talk to the other attendees during the extended breaks and lunches, but you’ll also be able to use the hammocks and Adirondack chairs to really get off your feet. Or if you’re looking for a little fun, you’ll be able to play some checkers on the full-sized board.”
The Networking Park will also be the location for the Wednesday Night Party.
Wednesday Night Party
Here, Kara said, is when the networking park will be “transformed into a night market” with strings of lights hanging up and a come as you are atmosphere (meaning the dress code is casual). The food will also be a truly “gourmet experience” with passed Hors D’oeuvres and small plates to facilitate conversations and connections. There will be lots of good music and good drinks so it’ll “feel like you’re at a really good party with a bunch of friends.”
While those will be the main parts of the event, another very big part will be the connection opportunities. Some of the ways that you’ll be able to connect with the other attendees will be:
- Name tags that help you find those with similar jobs
- The ability to have more time with speakers after their sessions
- Book signings and meet and greets with speakers
- An app that will help you stay connected
Kara also said that she and her team will be encouraging folks to interact with each other throughout the event and that you’ll find that interacting and connecting will become easier the more you participate.
With all of these great things going on the QuickBooks Connect team also plans to make your experience even more enjoyable by catering to your food and comfort needs. Kara said, “We want to make it easy as possible for you not have to worry about anything during the day. We’ve designed an experience to take care of you so you can focus on making connections, getting educated at and getting inspired by the show.”
Some of the ways they will be doing will be by:
- Providing you with gourmet food and making it easy to get (breakfast will be served at the show, and three farmers markets—one in the exhibitor space, one on the Networking Park, and one out next to Main Street—will be available throughout the day)
- Giving you the freedom to choose the sessions you want to attend (even if it’s not part of your track)
- Having places throughout where you can charge your laptop and cellphone
- Letting you choose how you’ll experience the main stage shows (you’ll be able to choose what you want to sit on aside from the usual rows of chairs)
- Giving you other ways to explore the San Jose area (when you’re not busy at the convention there will be other things you can go to and see in the area and the Intuit team will help you get there)
Overall, this is sure to be a great learning, training, and interactive experience for attendees, and an enjoyable time. To make your hotel reservation now and to find out more about the things we’ve mentioned in this article (including who the speed mentors will be and about the other to dos in San Jose), visit the QuickBooks Connect website quickbooksconnect.com and stay tuned for updates on Intuitive Accountant as we’ll be publishing them as they become available.