Xerocon - Where networking meets learning
Have you always wanted to know what happens at Xerocon but were afraid to ask? Well, grab your virtual boarding passes because I am about
to hit you with a whirlwind tour through last week’s 2023 event, held at the International Convention Centre in Sydney. It gets bigger
every year, and this year did not disappoint. In fact, my poor body is still trying to recover from all that learning and networking.
The Pre-Conference Buzz
The excitement was palpable, even before we set foot in the conference venue. Darling Harbour was brimming with delegates from around the
globe arriving to dive into the world of accounting and bookkeeping innovation. But even more importantly, they were there to network and
connect. Pre-conference meetups were the name of the game, and the daddy of all of those networking events is the Ignition Precon party.
This event is held the night before Xerocon every year and is hosted by a bunch of innovative tech companies, the most prominent being
Ignition. It is my favourite event. Imagine going to a reunion of all the people you love to hang out with, the ones that just get you, but
you only see once a year. That’s Precon! There are lots of squeals of delight, hugs, and loud chatting. Throw in a few cold beverages and
some cool “toons” and you get the picture. The hardest part is not going too hard or staying up too late on the first night. You have to
pace yourself so you can get the most from Day 1’s insightful content. This year, the Precon sense of camaraderie was off the charts!
Day 1: Inspiring greatness
The conference kicked off with a bang! Picture this: a sea of thousands of eager faces, an awe-inspiring stage decked out with futuristic
LED screens, pumping music and Julia Zemiro as MC. Coffee was not the only thing that woke us up on Day 1. The morning began with a keynote
by Joseph Lyons, Xero Managing Director- APAC, sharing the power of trust. There was also a focus on AI, how to be an inspiring company and
leader and finally, a discussion with Sam Elsom, the CEO of Sea Forest, sharing his thoughts on how small businesses can collectively make a
difference through sustainability. If you have not heard of Sam, look him up. This guy is growing red seaweed called Asparagopsis in
Tasmanian oceans to create a seaweed supplement for animal feed.
The supplement has been promoted as being able to cut animal methane emissions by between 80% and 96%. Here is a guy, running a small
business, which is committed to making a world difference. So inspiring!
The afternoon breakout sessions were little gifts, like Christmas morning for the mind. From deep dives into AI-driven accounting and
bookkeeping to panel discussions on the marriage of fintech, advisors and small business, our brains were in overdrive – in the best
possible way! And let us not forget the expo floor. This year, Xero had a huge bee hovering over massive flowers telling us to “Bee well.”
There was ping pong, giant bowling, hairdressers, barbers, massage therapists, giant cereal bowls, and a room full of Xero piggy banks. All
this, while we were catching up with peers we knew and ones we admire and want to get to know. It was a lot. And I have not yet mentioned
the vibrant tech marketplace where the latest accounting tools and apps were showcased. Everyone in an upbeat mood to sell, learn and listen
with opportunities to cash in on cheeky merch handouts along the way.
Day 2: Knowledge Avalanche
Today was less educational structure and more “choose your own adventure”. It began with a fireside chat between Julia Zemiro and
Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, the inspiring new CEO of Xero. She spoke of her past work gigs, her excitement at landing the Xero role and her
plans for the future. It felt more real than sitting listening to Sukhinder give a bog-standard business presentation. We were then held
spell bound by Mark Pesce, a leading futurist and AI expert, and entertained by the thought of bringing sexy back to the accounting
industry. Now, that’s a hard sell! Then we were free to partake in the wide variety of fabulous break-out sessions. The final formal
session was a lesson in High performance mindfulness from Emma Murray, who worked with Richmond Football Club during their period of three
premiership wins in four years. What an inspiration she is. And finally, the one I had been waiting for, Daryl Braithwaite closed out the
conference with a small set of his hits. I have been a fan since his Sherbet days. At fourteen, I convinced my friends to help me write
thousands of times “Can we please meet Sherbet” only to have the whole lot thrown out by my Mum because she thought I had left rubbish
lying around. Daryl was worth the wait and his performance gave me the opportunity to drag out my old Sherbet merch and sing “Howzat” to
myself for a week. Score!
As the conference drew to a close, a sense of inspiration hung in the air. We left with our minds buzzing, hearts full, and a stack of new
contacts that could rival a small phone book. The whispers about where the next Xero conference would be held were also silenced. 2024 will
have two events – one in London in June 24 and one in Nashville in August 24. So, start practicing drinking warm beer and singing country
music to become one of the cool gang. Then, the only thing left to do was celebrate.
The Grand Finale – the Xerocon after party
It was always going to be hard to top last years party at Luna Park. But damn, they went and did it. This party was held a The Ivy, a very
hip Sydney city nightclub. The theme was Paradiso, and everyone came dressed to impress. The club was a riot of colour, noise and fun,
filled with Brazilian dancers and drummers, and many, many people. I will not lie, the place was so packed that the safety queen in me was
making sure to clock the fire exits, just in case. Sneaky Sound System were the entertainment and had the place hopping from the get-go. It
was a worthy end to a fabulous conference.
So, there you have it. The Xero conference in Sydney for 2023 was nothing short of spectacular – a symphony of networking, innovation, and
laughter. Now I need a really long Nanna nap.