Zero to a Hundred in 12 Months

by Tony Prior, CFE

In September, the Sydney Chapter hosted its inaugural Financial Crime Conference at Macquarie University, with more than 100 people in attendance.  With the formal commencement of the chapter occurring only 12 months prior in September 2015, it was an incredible result. Below are some insights into how we went about achieving this feat.

One of the strengths of this newly formed chapter is the diverse composition of the board. Our directors include academics, regulators, in-house corporate practitioners, consultants and former law enforcement agents. Using each person’s experiences and individual networks and relationships, was paramount. Everyone on the board was involved in the process to organize the conference.

Since our chapter membership is also diverse, the question we asked ourselves was, “How do we appeal to all our members?” Identifying topics and speakers to ensure we were relevant were the key challenges for the board. While there were many aspects of our planning, such as venue, catering, programs, marketing and communication, the big three items for us were:

  1. Selecting the conference theme and streams
  2. Identifying available speakers
  3. Agreeing on speaker topics.

Over a lengthy lunchtime session in early 2016, in front of a large whiteboard, the board collectively addressed these three items. The remaining tasks were allocated to individual board members to perform. 

Our final speaker list included representatives from the “Big 4” agencies, academics, law enforcement, an overseas speaker from the FBI, regulators and lawyers, and in-house practitioners. 

To broaden the potential target audience appeal we; 

  • designed a particular topic for potential new persons entering the profession and for those who wanted to break into the fraud examination field.
  • invited five exhibitors/vendors to display the “latest and greatest,” “newest and strangest” in anti-fraud practices. 
  • introduced multiple short sessions throughout the conference to create networking opportunities. Additionally, my opening remark encouraged attendees to ”speak to someone today whom you have never met.”

Tips for Having a Successful Event

  • Maximize audience appeal.  Select relevant topics by working with industry experts to understand what’s hot and what’s not. Offer attendees value for money through early bird and competitive pricing of the conference fees. Use as many volunteers as you can; this will keep costs manageable. 
  • Create networking opportunities.  Several, shorter breakout sessions are preferred to one long lunchtime session.
  • Exhibitors/vendors. Promote competitions and offer door prizes to encourage all conference attendees to stop by each vendor; they love the foot traffic!
  • Media profile. Advanced notification to media outlets maximizes the opportunity for coverage. We had a major news agency post an article about our keynote presenter; it was online by lunchtime. 
  • Simplify payment and registration process. Use an online payment system. 

We also ran a program for financial crime university students to compete for complimentary conference registrations. In return, the recipients were to perform certain administrative duties on-site, such as registration and managing individual speakers’ requirements.  

Finally, we sought feedback after the conference via SurveyMonkey to get critical feedback on what attendees enjoyed and what needs to be improved. Next year’s conference will be even better!

In closing, I would like to thank the Sydney Chapter Board of Directors, who brought the conference to fruition through their collective efforts: Nicole Biskop, Paul Curwell, Verity Greenwood, Rodrigo Lucero, Chris Taylor, David Wildman and our webmaster Laura Rullo.

Tony Prior, CFE, CAMS, is founder and president of the ACFE Sydney Chapter #185. He can be contacted at