Get Past Presentation Anxiety by Reframing by TXCPA2B Blogger Rachel McKenna

Public speaking: a phrase that strikes fear in the hearts of otherwise confident people is something that seems natural for some, and feels like punishment for others. Still, public speaking is something that we all need to get comfortable with in our profession of choice.

More and more, accountants are serving in an advisory role for companies, and that job responsibility is not likely going away any time soon. As a student who myself wondered when public speaking would ever become comfortable, I thought I would share some of the reframing tools I have used to help me survive (and maybe even enjoy) presentations.

The audience wants you to succeed

From my experience, people have interesting things to say; you just have to listen! For the audience, this is a chance to gain a new perspective on a topic they might not know much about. Since you are the presenter, you have put the time and effort in to become well-informed on the topic you are covering. As the subject-matter expert, the audience is not actively looking to point out your faults as much as they are seeking to understand where you are coming from as the presenter.

Use that idea to your advantage in developing your presentation and see if that makes the preparation process more enjoyable for you. Positive thinking allows you to claim the power to decide how you will approach the situation and shows that you are willing to make the best of the uncomfortable circumstances.

You can turn your anxiety into excitement

Nervousness is a natural physiological response to standing in front of a crowd. We are human after all! How anxiety affects you is entirely up to you, though! Feeling nervous typically makes people more alert and aware of their surroundings. This is something that can be used to your advantage when delivering a message to an audience.

Try asking yourself: “Why am I nervous?” Oftentimes, the reasons we feel nervous are fleeting and will not be relevant in the long-term. If you think about the bigger picture of your purpose in delivering your presentation, you can form an idea of why your message matters to you. Ultimately, uncovering your motivations behind public speaking allows you to take a step back and realize that your presentation is tied to meaningful goals that you set for a reason, and that can propel you to envision a positive outcome.

Think of the value you are adding

Rather than wishing your presentation to be over, consider why you have been asked to speak in front of an audience in the first place. Chances are, you have completed the time-consuming part of doing your research to prepare for a speech. You want your preparation and knowledge to shine. The best way to do that is to forget about how many people you are speaking to and to think about what are the main desired takeaways for them.

If you take your research further and consider who your audience is, you can gauge what their objectives are from sitting in on your presentation and cater the message to them. When you do this, you are ensuring that they feel they have gained something from the experience and you are adding value in the process.

This is a learning opportunity

Just as the audience wants to learn from you, you should keep an open mind about learning from the audience, too! Think about it – which classes have been the most enjoyable for you? Chances are, the most memorable classes are those that you actively participated in.

Whether your reason for participating in class discussions was to pass the time or because you were genuinely interested in the topics mentioned, this is the type of environment an effective presentation inspires. As a speaker, you should leave the door open for audience interaction and signal to them that you care and want to learn from them as much as they can learn from you.

Are you uncomfortable? That is great—that is a sign that you are growing as an individual and stretching your limits in a positive way! By reframing your thoughts and giving them a positive spin, you will be well on your way to becoming a more effective and confident public speaker. Like with anything else, believe that you can and you’re halfway there!

Student Blogger: Rachel McKenna

TXCPA2B is a blog written by Texas students in pursuit of the CPA certificate. The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily held by TSCPA or our members.


To Blame or Not To Blame

How often have you heard the maxim fix the problem, not the blame? Management gurus point out that by searching for blame when something goes wrong, you simply incent your staff to avoid taking risks or worse, hide the truth when something goes wrong. Those two outcomes are definitely something to be avoided, but never seeking an understanding of what, or who, caused the problems leads to unintended consequences that could be just as bad.

People can talk about how we have to be “permitted to fail” and how allowing failure allows people to take chances that result in successes that might not have otherwise occurred, but people, your team, wants something else too – accountability. If you don’t believe me, just look at what happened after the financial crisis in 2008. Our government leaders were all very proud of how they “fixed” the problem and avoided a meltdown that might have led to another depression. In doing so, however, they failed to do one thing in many people’s eyes – hold those who caused the problem accountable for their actions.

If you think back to the savings and loan crisis and the junk bond problems of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, there was a big difference. Yes, a crisis was diverted, but lots of people, hundreds of them, went to jail too. Even the Enron and WorldCom disasters early this century resulted in people being held accountable for their actions; that is, going to jail. The public doesn’t like seeing a lack of accountability. So what happened? If Wall Street wasn’t accountable, then government certainly was for their actions and people are holding them accountable. Oh, maybe not by voting the incumbent out of office, but by showing a complete lack of confidence in government institutions that is unprecedented in the history of this country.

So am I saying we need to get out the pink slips and start firing people when something goes wrong? Well, if that something is lying, stealing or harassment, then yes. However, if that something is not morally corrupt, but fixable, then no one needs to be fired, but someone has to be held accountable. Who is that someone? It is you, their leader. Saying it is your fault for pushing too hard or taking on too big of a risk – that is, taking accountability – is as important as fixing the problem.

Holding yourself accountable is the ultimate practice of servant leadership and allows the team to move forward because they know what needs to change and who will be accountable for making that change happen.

ISO Feedback

Most people say they want feedback, but also tend to react badly when negative or even constructive feedback is given. What most people really want is affirmation that they are doing a good job. They want the participation trophy that really doesn’t tell them anything about how they did or what they can do to better themselves. As a result, when people ask for feedback, most respondents either avoid answering or try to get away with giving some platitude like “you are doing fine” or “I wouldn’t change a thing.” The problem is such feedback does nothing to help you improve.

If you really want to improve, you need to ask for feedback in a way that lets other people know you mean it and that they won’t be open for attack the minute they open their mouth. The best way to do that is to limit the request and be specific about the topic. The limit is satisfied by saying “tell me one thing…” The specificity is then up to the requester. Some examples:

  • Tell me one thing that would improve our weekly staff meeting.
  • Tell me one thing that would make my emails better.
  • Tell me one thing that would help you get more out of your periodic evaluation.

Just as too much choice leads to indecision, too much leeway in asking for feedback has your evaluator running a myriad of possibilities through their mind. By limiting the scope and topic, you help the person being asked to give feedback to focus and prioritize. An added benefit of asking for such focused feedback is that it usually ends up being something concrete that can actually be changed.

So are you ready for some feedback that will help you change? If so, ask me one thing….

Texas Sunset Commission

Texas state law requires that every state licensure board be reviewed every 12 years to determine if the board should continue. The first step in the review process is a report by the Sunset Commission staff to the Sunset Commission. That step was recently completed when the report was released August 2nd. The full report can be found here. In addition to the conclusion that the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy (TSBPA) should continue for another 12 years, the report included a number of recommendations, with three key recommendations being:

  1. Changes to the composition of the Board of TSBPA
  2. Changes in requirements for non-CPA owners
  3. Changes to peer review requirements

The Sunset Commission staff report recommended that the board composition of TSBPA be changed from a ratio of 10 CPAs and five public members to eight public members and seven CPAs. This recommendation was primarily in response to a recent United States Supreme Court decision regarding anti-trust activity by a North Carolina Dental Board. TSCPA believes that such a change does not guarantee immunity from anti-trust claims, and other changes, including several already implemented by TSBPA, would be more effective in alleviating such concerns.

The recommended changes to non-CPA ownership requirements include eliminating requirements to hold a bachelor’s degree, as well as the requirement to receive 120 hours of continuing education every three years. These changes would not impact CPA requirements in both areas. Requirements for non-CPA ownership around percentage of ownership and responsibility for assurance services would also remain unchanged.

The Sunset staff is recommending that TSBPA amend its Peer Review rules to allow CPA firms to be reviewed on a frequency based on risk factors, such as if the CPA firm performs lower-risk work (compilations) or a low volume of work (only one compilation a year). The facts are that firms that perform only one or two compilations show a high percentage of deficiencies, so these are the very firms that need to be peer reviewed rather than eliminating the requirement. Compilations are included in the definition of attest services in Texas because the public places a high level of confidence in financial statements issued by a CPA. The recent addition of preparation work as a non-assurance service also provides another avenue for firms to provide the services previously provided under the umbrella of compilation services. The Sunset staff also recommended that the Board implement rules to ensure that non-members of TSCPA pay the same administrative fees as members, which would mean that peer review fees would need to be adjusted accordingly.

One other recommendation from the Sunset staff is to require fingerprint-based criminal background checks of all licensure applicants and all current CPA license holders as is required of all new licensees and many other professions, including doctors and lawyers in Texas. I’m sure there are many CPAs who wish this didn’t have to happen, but like it or not, such requirements are the norm these days and going through a background check is really not much of an incremental task to ensure the integrity of the profession. If you would like to see a full copy of the TSCPA comment letter, you can find it here.

The Sunset Commission will hold hearings on August 29th and 30th where the staff report related to TSBPA will be discussed. The sunset process will continue with formal recommendations from the Sunset Commission in November and then passing legislation in 2019 to ensure the continuance of TSBPA. Without a state licensing authority such as TSBPA, CPAs would no longer be licensed in Texas, so TSCPA will be working to make sure TSBPA and your CPA license continue during the next legislative session.

Long-Term Financial Planning by Guest Blogger Olivia Riley, CPA

For years, best practices have recommended long-term planning for organizational operations, upkeep of major assets and healthy continuity of business operations. A common caveat to long-term planning warns that forecasts exceeding 10 years may yield incorrect results. Hence, it is better to calculate forecasts for a 5 to 10 year period.

The market offers many tools for developing and maintaining a solid model to help with long-term planning. The tool one uses is not as important as the ability to insert all the crucial data needed to properly plan for the future. Most models consist of an Excel workbook with linked sheets and assumptions used in the calculation of future activities. An important task to remember is the gathering of all the available data that needs to be considered as one plans for future revenues and related costs.

The initial step needs to include a complete list of revenues generated by the organization. All revenues commonly generated by operational activities should be considered in the long-term plan model. In calculating the 5 to 10 year revenue projections, gathering 3 to 5 years of actual results and calculating an average amount per year is a good start.

Once all demographic and economic impacts have been determined, assumption ratios can be calculated. These assumption ratios will be helpful in growing revenue and costs amounts from year to year for up to 10 years.

Next step, information of all operational expenses needs to be gathered. Actual operational expenses for a 3 to 5 year period will help with the preparation of the long-term plan related to operational costs. As stated above, a yearly average for each type of expense should be calculated for the base year and the assumption ratios will similarly be applied to the base expense year to calculate expenses for the 5 to 10 years projections.

Final step, major improvements and replacements need to be considered for the same period of time that operational expenses are projected. It is highly recommended that an organization spread the cost of replacements over a period of time. Annual amounts should be calculated and a reserve should be funded annually to accumulate the amounts needed for these major purchases.

Once all the above information has been gathered, it’s time to create the plan. Start with a description of all revenues and costs to be forecasted. Separate operating costs from capital replacements and improvements so that operating net revenue can be displayed separately from reserve balances. Columns need to include actual results of activities for comparison with the forecasted amount.

Finally, your plan is created so the fun begins to see how actual results match up to your forecasts. GOOD LUCK!

Olivia Riley, CPA is CFO of the Town of Addison. Before joining the Town of Addison, Riley worked for the City of Cedar Park and spent 20 years in public accounting where she worked as an auditor for counties, school districts and cities. Riley is a member of TSCPA’s Board of Directors and former president of the Austin Chapter.

August 2018 TSCPA Executive Board Meeting

While the core purpose of professional associations like the Texas Society of CPAs (TSCPA) continues to be about helping members achieve success; member expectations about what that help should be continues to evolve. And like everything else in life these days, that evolution and change is occurring at an accelerating rate.

The TSCPA Executive Board received updates on two key task forces dealing with those changes. One task force is dealing with brand issues, so members know the TSCPA and its 20 local chapters work together to support our members. Another task force is looking at how TSCPA and chapters can help each other and be more efficient in serving those same joint members. Our members are all both a member of a local chapter and the state-level TSCPA; and member expectations cannot be successfully met by either organization on their own. Together, however we can provide a range of support, resources and experiences that will satisfy not only our existing members but draw new members to the paired organizations.

The TSCPA Executive Board also spent a significant amount of time diving into the future of continuing professional education (CPE). One of the hallmarks of our profession is the embracing of continuous learning by our members. We even embraced CPE in our requirements for continued licensure. The model of monitoring hours in a classroom or conference served us well for four decades, but the world has changed, and member expectations about how and when to receive CPE has changed with it. Three of the mega-trends impacting CPE include:

  1. Cost and quality of CPE are no longer directly correlated
  2. Participants expect just-in-time delivery of CPE topics
  3. Participants expect interaction in their CPE

TSCPA is working on a CPE specific strategic plan to address these and other changes to CPE to ensure our members continue to be able to look to TSCPA and their local chapter as a key enabler of their continuous learning throughout their careers.

The TSCPA Executive Board meeting covered several other topics including the report from the Texas sunset commission. The good news is that the sunset commission recommended the continuation of the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy (TSBPA), so your license is safe for another 12 years. In my next blog I will go into more detail about all the recommendations from the sunset commission about the future operations of the TSBPA.

Bad Behavior

If you are a sole proprietor with a staff of one, you don’t have to worry about workplace issues among employees.  If you work in any other size office, you may have to deal with issues between employees.  I’m not talking about honest disagreements about how to best serve customers or grow the business.  I’m talking about the possibility of one employee intimidating, discriminating against or harassing another employee.  It seems like every day another headline comes out about a high-level individual either committing those acts or not handling the situations appropriately when it was brought to their attention.  The list seems to be endless; John Schnatter, Les Moonves and Urban Meyer are just the latest high-powered individuals to be caught up in the results of bad behavior.  But, bad behavior does not just occur at the top.  Behavior that can disrupt or even take down a business can occur at all levels.  That is why every business must do three things.

First, have a policy about such behavior.  Having such a policy sounds obvious, but many smaller businesses don’t bother with such things because “everyone knows what to do.”   The short answer is if you don’t tell them what is wrong, the defense will be “I didn’t know we couldn’t do that.”  The policy does not have to be a detailed list; a few sentences will do.  And, have every employee acknowledge they have read the policy every year.

Second, have a way for people to report incidents, a process for investigating the incidents and a plan for taking action based on those investigations.  While asking the person to first report incidents to their supervisor is good, there have to be other paths because it might be the supervisor or the supervisor’s supervisor that is exhibiting the bad behavior.  Asking someone to confront their perpetrator does not work. While some people do make up charges to get a person in trouble, a vast majority of the time, the reported behavior really occurred, so the behavior must be dealt with.  Telling people to just act better is not enough, especially if the offense is truly serious or has occurred multiple times.  Every business needs to be prepared to discipline or even fire the offending employees.

Third, make sure everyone knows it is their responsibility to report bad behavior.  The person suffering at the hands of another employee may first reach out to a co-worker or a different supervisor.  It is not enough to tell the person they need to report the employee harassing them.  Employees need to know if they are told about bad behavior, they need to report the behavior as well.  Reporting bad behavior is not about retribution.  Reporting is about doing what is best for the business and making sure all the other stakeholders are protected.  That protection is everyone’s responsibility.

As CPAs we take pride in our integrity and our pledge to put the public interest ahead of our personal gain.  In today’s world, where business reputation is as important as publishing accurate financial results, are you ready to step up and make sure the business is protected from employees doing bad things?