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Your body clock tells you it’s two in the morning. You’ve just finished your third cup of coffee, but your eyelids are still getting heavier as the presenter, who’s been speaking for 40 minutes, continues with their recommendations. You look down the attendee list to keep yourself awake, or get distracted by email. “I really must find the time to talk to Karen about our new publication,” you think. But that time never comes. You’re in the middle of a two-day meeting filled with heavy agenda papers, detailed discussion and speakers, and when you finally have the time to network, you have little left to give.

Sound familiar? It is a challenge faced by conferences, events, and in managing committees, particularly those that like the IFAC Professional Accountants in Business (PAIB) Committee, include busy participants from around the globe.

Improving meeting outcomes through truly engaging participants was one of the drivers for the fundamental change to how the PAIB Committee conducts meetings. Gone is the static boardroom-style meeting. In its place are dynamic sessions involving small group discussions and interactive exercises to solicit the knowledge, experiences, and input of this international group of business and finance leaders chaired by Charles Tilley, Executive Chairman, CGMA Research Foundation.

The new approach is designed to fully leverage the precious little time we have with committee members to inform IFAC and the profession on the opportunities and challenges facing business and the public sector, and the consequences for finance and finance professionals. At the same time, the approach delivers greater value to the meeting participants, and helps to create more effective connections between them.

The transformation began at the March 2016 meeting using innovative meeting techniques based on small groups siting at small tables to encourage more deep and meaningful conversation. We used a modified bingo game as a fun and effective way to collate and further discuss insights and points raised. We had a graphic illustrator capture the meeting’s main points as we progressed through the agenda, which added a new dynamism. A variety of sessions utilized different approaches during the course of two days. For example, a horse-shoe seating arrangement without tables was used to facilitate sharing of experiences, ideas, challenges, and opportunities. Facilitated small table discussions enabled in-depth peer-to-peer mentoring. The important thing is that nobody sits in the same position for a long period of time.

The PAIB Committee’s second meeting last September featured a scenario planning session to explore how to reposition accountants working in business in risk management. This culminated in an elevator pitch competition, where small groups presented on the accountant in business’ role in risk management to the full group to capture key themes and messages.

The PAIB Committee meetings highlights for March and September are captured in two meeting reports available online. These reports have become important vehicles for communicating the richness of the committee’s debate, and actions for the profession.

Ultimately, the meeting design and each session enables crowd-sourcing knowledge, ideas, and experiences to benefit IFAC, the global profession, and meeting participants themselves. We are still learning what works and what is less effective, but the shift has been welcomed by committee members, observers, and speakers who report that the new dynamic format is refreshingly engaging and personally rewarding, and allows them to develop new ideas and connections.

Rachel Sinha

Consultant, Global Accountancy Profession Support

Rachel Sinha is an award winning social innovator, founder of The Systems Studio. She works with individuals and organizations to build strategy for systems change that creates clarity and joy.


Stathis Gould

Director, Member Engagement and PAIB

Stathis Gould is responsible for IFAC member engagement and leads IFAC’s advocacy for professional accountants working in business (PAIB) and the public sector. A key element of his work is developing thought leadership and guidance in support of enhancing the recognition of and confidence in professional accountants as CFOs, business leaders, and value partners in the context of sustainability/ESG, data and digital transformation, and other emerging business trends and issues.

Before joining IFAC, Stathis worked at the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), where he was responsible for planning and overseeing a program of policy and research that promoted and developed management accountancy. Prior to serving the accountancy profession, he worked in various roles in the private and public sectors in the UK. There, Stathis delivered financial and performance management in the National Health Service and worked for a technology company responsible for delivering the localization of software and content across the globe.

Stathis holds a BA in European Business Studies, an MBA (with distinction), and a postgraduate certificate in Environmental Management, Economics, and Policy. He is a member of the Institute of Management Accountants.