Xero pre-con: Should accountants join the party?

Xerocon London
Share this content

Have you got your VIP wristband for the Xerocon pre-con party yet? On the eve of this week's big event, John Stokdyk ponders the cultural significance of the software tradeshow and its offshoots.

In the past few years, accounting software tradeshows have become a key battleground for the profession’s loyalty. In the war of the widescreens, global giants QuickBooks, Xero and Sage have competed to see which of them can pour away the most money on celebrity speakers, CPD theatres and hospitality at their ever-increasing corporate bonanzas.

Almost without knowing it, software marketing has become a branch of the entertainment industry.

The phenomenon originates in the US, where holidays are strictly rationed. Many business owners, bookkeepers and accountants work in isolation and lack the support and feedback of working in an office full of peers. In this setting, the big software events are all about filling that hole with inspiration, copious amounts of alcohol and a sense of belonging. Or, as the attendees would no doubt explain in the white space on their tax returns, business-related networking.

Xero has transplanted the model to Australia and New Zealand and now heads the table in the UK with its annual Xerocon event, which takes place in London next week.

Xero UK managing director Gary Turner likes to characterise Xerocon as “Glastonbury for accountants”, but a more interesting parallel is the Edinburgh festival. What started out as a low-key gathering has grown so large that it has spawned its own satellite circuit – the fringe or pre-conference 'pre-con'.

If you’re a glutton for all things Xero, you can sign up for the Xero University the day before. That evening, there's a choice between competing fringe events with a pre-con party hosted by Practice Ignition and Receipt Bank's VIP Yacht Party, featuring a personal appearance by Mr Turner himself.

Though Gary would scoff at the suggestion from his perch in front of the 30m wide stage display, he is a direct descendant of celebrity CEOs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Larry Ellison, who made the software tradeshow what it is today. In a way, the remote nature of cloud software has intensified this trend. If you don't actually have to have someone visit your office to install the system, how are you going to hassle them about the new feature you want, or moan at them about how long it takes to answer the support line?

As a seasoned semiotician, Turner would no doubt appreciate the subtle irony that the spectacle over which he presides has become the epitome of the "society of the spectacle" predicted by situationist Guy Debord in the 1960s. See you down by the dockside on Tuesday night, folks!


For more information on the Practice Ignition pre-con party click here. And for Receipt Bank's yacht party click here.

About John Stokdyk

John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight

AccountingWEB’s Head of Insight has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.


Please login or register to join the discussion.

08th Nov 2018 11:20

Great final paragraph John. Had to look it up:

"semiotician: noun (used with a singular verb) the study of signs and symbols as elements of communicative behavior; the analysis of systems of communication, as language, gestures, or clothing. a general theory of signs and symbolism, usually divided into the branches of pragmatics, semantics, and syntactics."

Thanks (1)
08th Nov 2018 14:51

I'm heading to Xerocon, but skipping the parties. Accountants at parties - the whole concept just feels wrong, somehow.
There's a big element of showmanship, which I think Xero does quite well. Hopefully they won't go as far as the Quickbooks event earlier in the year - by far the most hipster-ish event I've ever been to. The speakers fist-bumping each other as they entered and left the stage was decidedly off-putting.
A chance to talk to the exhibitors, some much needed CPD hours, and a break from the office. All looks good to me.

Thanks (1)
By Tornado
08th Nov 2018 15:18

"copious amounts of alcohol"

A excellent environment to make serious decisions about long term commitment to Accounting software.

Thanks (1)
to Tornado
08th Nov 2018 16:10

I manage to combine both from the comfort of my own home.

Thanks (2)
08th Nov 2018 17:48

I'm also skipping the parties. I object to the cost being bundled into the overall conference charge - it should be optional. I wouldn' go to an awards dinner if you paid me - always accepting that there is a (large) figure which might change my mind - but generally they are nauseating

I've worked out which sessions I want to attend and which I don't. The "showmanship" does nothing for me, and if it gets too evangelical I'll be off. I do like the software and have used it for a long time now, but some of the presentation is way OTT

Thanks (1)
08th Nov 2018 19:29

If it walks like a spiv and talks like a spiv, then it is a spiv. Especially when it is losing money, bleeding cash and has an FD who is a wally.

Thanks (1)
to mr. mischief
09th Nov 2018 10:45


Thanks (3)
09th Nov 2018 09:42

Overall I do welcome the influence the software guys have had on our industry, as they have knocked down a lot of the stuffiness that there used to be..

My idea of hell used to going to institute black tie dinners with a room full of other accountants.

I much prefer the less formal get togethers we have over a few beers these days. A good chance to chat with others and share ideas.

Also as I come form a city that hosts the best night out in the UK, I find London pretty poor if you are on your own, so I will pop along to one of the functions for a steady half dozen on the Tuesday before Xerocon

Tom and Richard from AWEB are also big fans of these events from a purely professional point of view (obviously).

Thanks (1)
09th Nov 2018 10:51

Up until the last few weeks I'd considered the pre-Xero events as an opportunity to talk to software vendors away from the hustle and bustle of the main event.

After the deluge of the 'are you coming to our party' emails over the past 2 weeks I'm reconsidering.

Too many are seeing it as an opportunitty for a jolly.

Sorry but while I enjoy a few beers and good company, I'm going there to hear interesting talks/debates, talk to vendors and share information and experiences with peers.

I'm not interested in getting so [***] at the Excel Centre that:
a) I struggle to get home
b) Get to the main event late
c) Feel so hung over I can't take anything in at the main event.

Looking down from my ivory tower/pedestal I'd say it all looks and sounds a bit juvenile.

Thanks (1)
to Mark Telford
09th Nov 2018 12:20

Give over Mark, if you had software startup company funded by other peoples money, you would on the Grey Goose bottle service every night at these events.

Thanks (0)
09th Nov 2018 13:38

Here in the Lake District I am doing some Xero accounts. It takes a minimum 30 seconds for every trial balance item to load the detail report when you click on it. A minimum 60 seconds to then edit a journal or other posting.

So call that 2 minutes. The same thing takes about 20 seconds in VT, yet this is supposed to be progress.

Thanks (2)
09th Nov 2018 18:04

When I used to attend Iris World each year (free of charge) 90% of it was, as Mark describes above, concerned with talks, debates, vendor info, roadmaps and sharing stuff with peers and so I was able to grit my teeth through the 10% fluff.

I have never attended Xerocon because my impression is that not only will the fluff be much more than 10% but they expect me to pay for it.

Now they are offering a pre-con con?? All a bit sickly and pre-funny handshakes

Thanks (1)
to Paul Scholes
09th Nov 2018 21:32


"Now they are offering a pre-con con?"

As John notes the pre-event parties he's referring to are not run by Xero.

Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero

Thanks (2)
to garyturner
09th Nov 2018 23:41

Thanks for the info, I must have missed it in all the fluff.

So, it will be interesting to see if the pre-conned attendees are still up for the main one.

I know, I’m a rude terrible person

Thanks (0)
12th Nov 2018 15:31

So I am now attempting to reconcile the Xero TB payroll to the Xero payroll module reports.

TWO YEARS down the line the reports are still rubbish and still don't run properly.

How on Earth can anyone consider this sort of drivel to be acceptable? Xero is the Emperor's new clothes all over again and I for one would be happy to be on a similar outcome, I've seen this sort of spiv stock hype and crash so many times over the years.

Thanks (1)
to mr. mischief
12th Nov 2018 20:04

True Xero payroll is the sort of tosh that I would never recommend anyone using.
The accounts package is worthy of attention however.

Thanks (1)