Category Archives for "Technology"

steps to delightful presentation
Feb 03

Four Steps to Delightful Accounting Presentations

By Charles Hall | Technology

In this article, I provide you with four steps to delightful accounting presentations–even if you are a CPA. Yes, this can be done!

four steps to delightful accounting presentations

If you’ve read the book Presentation Zen, you know that many speakers–without intending to–hide their message. In watching CPE presentations and board presentations, I have noticed that (we) CPAs unwittingly hide our message. How? We present slide decks that look like intermediate accounting textbooks–chock full of facts, but too much to digest. And do we really believe that those attending will take those slides back to the office and study them?

Probably not.

My experience has been those slides end up in the office dungeon, never to be seen again. We have one chance to communicate–in the session.

Four Steps to Delightful Accounting Presentations

It is the presenter’s duty to cause learningSo how can we  engage our audience (even those sitting on the back row playing with their cell phones)? Let’s start with the slide deck.

1. Make Simple Slides

Make simple slides.

I try to have no more than two points per slide, and I leave out references to professional standards (at least on the slides).

What happens when you see a slide that looks like it contains the whole of War and Peace? If you’re like me, you may think, “Are you kidding? You want me to consume all of that in the next three minutes. Forget it. I will not even try.” And then you begin to think about your golf game or your next vacation. So, how much information should you include on a slide?

Nancy Duarte recommends the glance test for each slide. “People should be able to comprehend it in three seconds.”

2. Include a picture related to the topic

Include a picture.

For example, if I am presenting to auditors, I might display a picture of someone being bribed. Verbal information is remembered about ten percent of the time. If a picture is included, the figure goes up to sixty-five percent. Quite a difference.

power of pictures

3. Tell a story (and ask questions)

Tell a story and ask questions.

People love stories. If your presentation is about bribes and you have not audited a bribery situation, Google bribes, and you will find all the stories you need. If you can’t find a story, use a hypothetical. Why? You are trying to draw your audience in–then maybe they will put that cell phone down (your most triumphant moment as a speaker!).

Telling your story at the right pace and volume is also important.

Also engage your audience with questions. Stories get the juices going; questions make them dig. And, if they answer you, there is dialog. And what’s the result? Those talking learn, the audience learns, and, yes, you learn.

4. Move

Move. Not too much, but at least some.

A statue is not the desired effect. Moving like Michael Jackson is also not what you desire (moonwalking was never in my repertoire anyway). But movement, yes. I walk slowly from side to side (without moonwalking) and will, at times, move toward the audience when I want to make a point. So, am I constantly roaming? No. Balance is important.

Now, let me provide a few thoughts about presentation software and handouts.

Presentation Software and Handouts

Presentation Software

If you have an Apple computer, let me recommend Keynote as your presentation software. I do think PowerPoint (for you Windows users) has improved, but personally, I prefer Keynote.

Another option—though there is a cost—is using Canva to create your slide deck. Your creativity is almost unlimited with this software—pictures, graphics, templates, colors, resizing, and more. Once the slides are created, you can download them as a PDF. Then present the slides (in the PDF) using the full screen option in Adobe Acrobat. I’ve done this a lot lately. Love it. 

Here’s a sample Canva slide:

Canva

Handouts

If you need to provide detailed information, give your participants handouts (examples of what you are discussing).

I prefer not to provide copies of slides. Why? Your participants will read ahead. You want to keep your powder dry. If they already know what you’re going to say, they’ll stop listening.

Your Presentation Tips

What do you do to make your presentations sizzle?

accountants use ChatGPT
Jul 04

Why Accountants Use ChatGPT (or should be)

By Charles Hall | Technology

Accountants use ChatGPT—or if not, they should be. The old way of Googling for information is not the most efficient way to find answers. In this article, you’ll see why. 

As an accountant, you’ve used search engines such as Google to look for answers. But you may not have used a chatbot such as ChatGPT.

While search engines are helpful, you can turbocharge your searches for information by using ChatGPT and its plugins (more in a moment). It’s somewhat like conversing with the Internet.

Additionally, ChatGPT was trained with web information, so it can draw upon that knowledge to provide answers to you without even "searching" the Internet. The training cut-off was September 2021. So, if ChatGPT uses only the training information, you may not obtain current information (that was placed on the Internet after September 2021).

But you can supplement the training information with with current information by using ChatGPT plugins such as WebPilot. Below I explain how. 

First, I'll start with an explanation of search engines, and then we'll move to how ChatGPT enhances your ability to find accounting answers. 

Search Engine

A search engine is a software system designed to conduct web searches, which means searching the World Wide Web systematically for certain information specified in a textual search query. The search engine provides a list of results, often called search engine results pages (SERPs). 

Examples of search engines include:

  • Google
  • Bing  
  • Yahoo

Crawling the Web

Search engines constantly crawl the web with spiderbots looking for changes, such as a new lease accounting article on my website, CPAHallTalk.com. When a search engine (e.g., Google) finds differences, it updates its index (catalog of all data)--often within hours after the website adds the information.

Accountant's Search Example

Googling involves your reviewing the list of articles that you might visit and your choosing one. 

As an accountant, you’ve keyed in Google search terms such as ASC 842, Leases. The search engine provides you with a list of web articles that might be useful. After that (if you're like me), you click several links looking for the information you want, but the results are lacking. For example, you may want the wording for a lease disclosure, but you can't find one. 

Chatbots Like ChatGPT

ChatGPT uses its training information and plugins to provide answers to you. It feels more like a conversation (than reviewing a list): you give it a prompt and it provides an answer. 

As an example, you might tell ChatGPT: 

Please provide an example of an operating lease disclosure using ASC 842, including future payments, discount rates, lease terms, and weighted average information. Also, tell me how to compute the weighted average details.

ChatGPT can provide the requested information (a sample lease note) and respond to your request for information about computing weighted averages. 

But how does it do so?

ChatGPT-4: Obtaining Sources with Plugins

When you ask ChatGPT for a sample disclosure, it visits web pages using plugins like WebPilot, asking if the requested information is available. If CPAHallTalk.com's article has a sample lease disclosure, it can leverage that information in providing the example you requested. 

If my lease article doesn't explain how to compute weighted average lease information, ChatGPT will search other websites. Once it finds the solution, it includes the computational directions in responding to your request. 

WebPilot can provide sources of the information such as URLs, but you may need to tell ChatGPT that you want sources. (Simply say, "provide sources.") Then you can click the source and read the article. (One downside to ChatGPT is it often gives you answers without sources. I want to see the source so I can assess whether it is reliable.)

As an example, I typed "provide a summary of ASC 842 with sources" into ChatGPT-4, using the WebPilot plugin: the answer was as follows:

ChatGPT's ability to provide current information is dependent on the specific web pages it is directed to visit. It does not have the ability to independently search the internet or stay updated with new information.

ChatGPT-4: Obtaining Sources without Plugins

Additionally, ChatGPT-4 can use its training information to respond and provide sources. As an example, I typed "provide a summary of ASC 842 with sources" into ChatGPT-4 without using a plugin: the answer was as follows:

The combination of plugins and ChatGPT-4 is a powerful way for this software to provide you with the answers and sources you need.
In conclusion, while a search engine like Google is a wonderful tool, ChatGPT can provide a more powerful, intelligent, and efficient way of retrieving and processing information.

As always, you want to verify the information you obtain to ensure its integrity and accuracy. Why? Because errors can occur in the responses you receive from ChatGPT. 

So, ChatGPT is an aide but not a replacement for traditional research and information verification methods. 

ChatGPT Video

To see ChatGPT in use, watch the following basics video. 
Evernote for CPAs
Aug 22

Evernote for CPAs: Developing a Super Power

By Charles Hall | Technology

There is no Evernote just for CPAs; even so, it’s a game-changer for beancounters. I’ve used this tool for about twenty years and it is one of my favorites software packages. In this article I tell you what Evernote is, how you can use it, how to feed information into it, and how to search it using Evernote operators. 

Evernote for CPAs

So, what is Evernote?

What is Evernote?

Think of it as your digital library. 

Evernote is a cloud-based storage system that allows you to capture and file voice recordings, documents (including Word, Excel, PDFs), pictures, and videos. Once information is placed in Evernote, it is searchable in a Google-like fashion. Even hand-written notes are searchable.

What can CPAs do with this app?

Things CPAs Can Do with Evernote

Here are examples of what you can do with Evernote:

  • Create a personal digital library (e.g., use an Evernote notebook to store research information, Journal of Accountancy articles, CPE material, videos of class instruction)
  • Share individual files or notebooks (a compilation of files) with others 
  • Capture meeting conversations with your smartphone and save them to Evernote
  • Use your smartphone to take a picture of meeting notes on a whiteboard (remember manually written words are searchable)
  • Encrypt selected text within an Evernote note (password protected); the encrypted information can’t be viewed without the password
  • Add selected web information to Evernote using an Evernote clipper 
  • Forward any email to your Evernote account using your private Evernote email address 

So, what are the main components of an Evernote storage system?

The Skeletal Framework: Notes, Notebooks, and Tags 

The skeletal framework for Evernote has three elements: Notes, notebooks, and tags.

 

Evernote for CPAs

1. The primary element of Evernote is a note.

Think of a note as a blank piece of paper on which you can type. You can also attach other files to the note (e.g., an Excel spreadsheet or a picture taken with your cell phone or a voice message recorded with your cell phone or a note you’ve jotted down). Once you create your notes, organize them in notebooks. 

2. Notes are placed in notebooks.

Think of a notebook as a three-ring binder.

For example, if I want to create a note about comprehensive income, I can do so. Then I can attach related files (e.g., PDFs) to the note. Next, I might add a note about other comprehensive income and another about reclassifications from other comprehensive income. The separate notes can, for example, be a text file, an Excel file, and a voice message.

All three notes can be added to a notebook titled Comprehensive Income.

Another way to organize your information is to tag each note.

3. You may also tag each note.

I could place the comprehensive income notes in a notebook titled accounting (a more generic category) and tag each note as comprehensive income. Then I can search and find all comprehensive income notes by using the comprehensive income tag. When I type tag:”comprehensive income” in the Evernote search bar, all notes tagged in this manner appear. (See below for information about operators such as tags.)

Use both folders and tags to help you more readily find information.

And how do you put information into Evernote?

Getting Information Into Evernote

First Set Up Your Default Evernote Notebook

Before sending information from one of your devices (e.g., smartphone) to Evernote, specify where it should go. My default landing area is my Often Used notebook. (You will need to create the Often Used notebook—or whatever you’d like to call it—in your Evernote account.)

Since I send information from a variety of devices, I initially send information to the Often Used notebook; later, when I have time, I tag each note (e.g., Fair Value) and then move each to an appropriate notebook (e.g., Accounting).

Tip – If you put asterisks in front of the folder name (e.g., **Often Used), Evernote will present it (the folder) at the top of your folder list. This will make it easier to locate your default folder.

Here’s a screenshot of Evernote from my iPad. 

Evernote

In short, my standard operating procedure: (1) capture on the fly and (2) classify with a block of time (it usually takes me less than five minutes each day to tag and move the new notes).

Seven Ways to Feed Evernote

1. Smart Phones

You can use your smartphone to create and send pictures, text files, and voice messages to Evernote.

To download Evernote for an Android phone, click here.

iPhone users should download the Evernote app.

Here’s a screenshot of my iPhone Evernote app. Notice the note names at the top of each note and the tags (in the oval shapes) at the bottom of each note. 

Evernote

2. Scanners

I use a Fujitsu scanner (model iX500) to scan documents directly to Evernote. (The iX500 costs about $780 from Amazon.)

3. Web Clippers

Evernote provides web clippers for browsers including Safari, Explorer, Google Chrome, and Firefox. If you click this web clipper link, Evernote will automatically recognize your browser; then you can download the clipper software to your browser. While browsing, click the Elephant icon to clip a portion of the web page, the full page, or the full article.

4. Hotkeys

Evernote allows you to use hotkeys to capture information from any program (as long as Evernote is running in the background). To activate screen clipping, use the key combination (e.g., for Windows: Win+PrintScreen). See Preferences to change your hotkeys.

So if you are working on an Excel spreadsheet, for example, and would like to capture the information into Evernote, use the hotkey combination and select the portion of the screen you wish to save. The screenshot will go to your default Evernote location.

You can do the same with an email, a Word document, and anything else that appears on your screen.

5. Email Directly to Evernote Account

One of my favorite ways to feed Evernote is to email a document (e.g., Excel, Word, PDF) directly to Evernote; when you set up your Evernote account, you will be provided a private Evernote email address. Set this address up in your email contact list; then you can send any email or document (attached to an email) to your Evernote default notebook.

6. Drag and Drop

With Evernote open, you can create a new note and then drag a document (e.g., Word or Excel file) onto the open note. The material is added to the note. You can add multiple documents to one note.

7. Import Folder

An even easier way to get files into Evernote is to use an “import folder.” After you specify in Evernote where the “import folder” is located on your computer (i.e., a particular Windows folder), you can drop files into the designated folder, and they will automatically feed into your default Evernote notebook. 

Searching Your Evernote Account

Once you’ve used Evernote for some time, you’ll have several thousand notes, so many it can be difficult to find the information you’ve stored. That’s when operators can help. Use these to locate the notes you are looking for. 

Evernote Operators

You can use Evernote operators in the search box to locate particular information. Some of the more commonly used operators are:

1. And
2. Any
3. Tag
4. Notebook
5. Intitle
6. Created

And – Normally you will not type the word “and” as an operator; it’s implied. So if you type: comprehensive income in the search box, Evernote will locate all notes with the words comprehensive and income. If you want to see all notes with the phrase “comprehensive income,” then type: “comprehensive income”–using quotation marks.

Any – Typing the words “any: compilation review” will provide all notes with either the word “compilation” or the word “review.” If a note has the word “compilation” (and not “review”), then it will appear in your search list. If a note has the word “review” (and not “compilation”), then it will also appear in the list.

Tag – By typing “tag:Bank” into the search box, you’re telling Evernote that you want to see all notes tagged “Bank.” (You can tag each note regardless of which notebook it is in; for example, you might have four different notes in four different notebooks, but each tagged “Bank.”)

Notebook – Let’s say you have a notebook titled: Auditing (along with 70 other notebooks). You can type: “notebook:Auditing” in the search box and Evernote will locate your auditing notebook.

Intitle – Typing intitle:”fair value” will yield all notes with the words “fair value” in the title.

 

Evernote operator

Created – “created:day-1” will provide you with a list of all notes created yesterday and today. You can substitute “day” with “week,” “month,” or “year”. If you want to see all the notes created in the last two weeks, issue a search with “created:week-1.”

Combining Evernote Operators

Searching becomes even more powerful when you combine operators.

For example, typing:

Intitle:derivative swap “cash flow hedge”

will provide you with all notes that have the word “derivative” in the title and the words (1) “swap” and (2) “cash flow hedge” as a phrase.

Another example, typing:

Notebook:Accounting any:swap “cash flow hedge”

will provide you with a list of all notes from your accounting notebook that have either the word “swap” or the words “cash flow hedge” as a phrase.

Finally, typing:

Notebook:Bank tag:Deposits FDIC “Due to Due from”

will provide you with notes from your Bank notebook that have a “Deposits” tag and that contain the words FDIC and “Due to Due from” as a phrase.

Create Your Evernote Account

To create your account, go to the Evernote website and follow the directions. There is a free version if you want to try it out. You can see a comparison of their plans here. I have not received any type of commission for this recommendation. 

See my article An Auditor’s Cell Phone.

Review Financial Statements
Feb 14

Review Financial Statements on Monitors

By Charles Hall | Accounting and Auditing , Technology

Today I give you seven steps to review financial statements on computer screens. I explain how to review financial statements in Word and in PDFs. 

In another post titled How CPAs Review Financial Statements, I provide information about creating and reviewing financial statements, but it doesn’t provide information about doing so on computer screens. This article does.

Review Financial Statements on Computer Screens

Financial Statement Review in Word

  1. First, open and visually scan the entire financial statement (spend two to three seconds per page) just to get a feel for the whole product. How do the parts fit together? Are the financial statements subject to the Yellow Book? Do they contain supplementary information? Are the statements comparative?
  2. Second, use a large computer screen (22 inches or more) to compare your financial statement pages. If you are reviewing in Word, reduce the financial statement page size by holding the control key down and scrolling back with your mouse. As you do so, you will see multiple statements on the screen, for instance: balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement.  Now that you can see multiple statements, you can tick and tie your numbers. I use step 2. to compare the financial statement numbers. For example, I compare the net income number on the income statement to the same number on the cash flow statement. Then I use step 3. to compare the financial statements to the notes and the supplementary information.
  3. Next, use two to three computer screens to compare your financial statements with the notes and supplementary information. Open the financial statement on each screen–for instance, the balance sheet on screen 1, the notes on screen 2, and the supplementary information on screen 3. In Word, click View, New Window and another instance of the document will open. Then you can move the new instance to a second screen. Alternatively, you can use the side-by-side feature in Word to place two open documents on one screen. 
  4. After completing your review of the notes, return to and take a second look at the balance sheet to see if the disclosures are complete. (Since you just reviewed the notes, it’s easier to compare them to the balance sheet. If, for example, you look at the balance sheet and see inventory but no disclosure for the same, you’ll more easily see the error.)
  5. Use the find feature (in Word, click the Home tab, click Find, then key in the number–or word–you are looking for) to locate words or numbers. If you want to compare the long-term debt number on the balance sheet to the notes and to supplemental information, type that number into your search dialog box and you’re immediately taken to the same number in the notes. Click next, and you will see the next instance (in the supplementary information). You can do the same with words. (Note: If you embed Excel tables in the Word document, the find feature will not locate numbers in the embedded tables. Consider PDF review option below.)
  6. When needed, take breaks. Never spend more than 1.5 hours reviewing statements without taking a short break. You get more done by relaxing periodically.
  7. Finally, if you are reviewing financial statements in Word, consider turning on Track Changes and key in suggested revisions. Word reflects your modifications in a distinct color. That way, others can see your suggested changes. They can also see who made the suggested corrections. Thereafter, they can accept or reject the proposed changes.

Financial Statement Review with PDF Documents

You may find it easier to review financial statements after converting them to a PDF (rather than in Word). This makes all numbers and words fully searchable (no embedded Excel spreadsheet limitation issue). 

You can use the split screen feature (click Windows, Split in Adobe Acrobat) to see the same financial statements on one screen. I usually do this on my center screen. This allows me to scroll and compare numbers in the financial statements. For instance, I compare total assets with total liabilities and equity. Or I compare equity on the balance sheet with my statement of changes in equity ending balances. 

I also open a second instance of the PDF on my right-hand screen, mainly to compare my notes with the financial statements (on my center screen). Then I use control-f to locate numbers or words. For instance, if I see $456,856 for total plant, property, and equipment (on my center screen), I click on the right-hand screen, then control-f, then key in the number to find it in the notes. 

I make review comments in the PDF using the comments feature in Adobe Acrobat. Then persons can respond with the reply feature in the comments field. That way, they can provide a response, whether they agree or not—and what they did if a correction was made. 

Your Suggestions

Those are my ideas. What are yours?

iPad apps for CPAs
Nov 02

iPad Apps for CPAs: Productivity

By Charles Hall | Technology

Here is a list of accountant’s iPad apps for CPAs. You’ll find each one helpful in your daily work. 

iPad apps for CPAs

iPad Apps for CPAs

Here are accountant’s iPad apps:

Checkpoint – A library of accounting and auditing publications by Thomson Reuters. You must pay for the books, but Checkpoint provides powerful search capabilities.

Notability – The best app I’ve found for taking notes. You can also record audio as you take notes and then quickly return to a specific part of the conversation by touching a written word with your iPad Pencil. I use this almost daily.

OmniFocusA high-end to-do list. It provides contextual listings, including a hotlist (to help me remember the most important things). You can add, for instance, a to-do item for a particular client or a trip to the hardware store. This app takes some time to understand, but very powerful. Consider taking David Sparks online OmniFocus class. I find it useful.

Box – A secure file storage system in the cloud. Very powerful. I started using Box about six months ago. There’s a learning curve, but it’s worth it. It’s pricey. I use this storage system for business files.

Dropbox – Cheaper than Box. A cloud-based storage system in the cloud. Dropbox is easy to use. I tend to use Dropbox for personal data. Dropbox seems to integrate more easily with other apps than Box does. I store large video or audio files here (rather than Evernote). This app feels like a large electronic sandbox.

Evernote – Storage app. I create “notes” inside Evernote and store whatever I desire. Evernote is my electronic library. I have saved thousands of articles and research. Apply several tags to each note, so you can quickly find the information you need.

Keynote – A slide presentation app. I use Keynote more than Powerpoint. The Keynote background slides are the best. I find it easier to create slide decks with my iPad than with my desktop.

WeatherWeather app. I start my day by checking the weather, and, when I’m going out of town, I check my destination’s weather before I leave.

Outlook – Email app. I tried Gmail for a while but returned to Outlook. It’s just easier. And it integrates with Office 365.

Dictionary – App used to define words and look for synonyms. Since I am a writer, I use this often. 

Scanbot – I take pictures of multiple pages, and the scan automatically loads to a specified Box folder.

Holy Bible – You Version Bible app. I start each day with this app. You Version is free and provides several different translations.

Explain Everything – Want your clients to see what you are drawing while you are online with them? Pull up a PDF and write on it with your iPad Pencil. Instantly your client sees what you are doing. Record the presentation (including sound) and store it. Then share the conversation with anyone. Crazy. 

AudibleAudible book app. I listen to books while I’m on the road (or when I am exercising). 

iThoughts – Want to brainstorm visually? iThoughts is your app. Create color-coded maps of your ideas. 

Pocket – An easy-to-use use app to capture internet articles as you see them. Don’t have time to read an article? Save the piece with Pocket with one click. The app shares the captured articles across platforms.

Documents – Write on PDFs or annotate them in other ways (like adding a red box to highlight an area). I don’t take paper copies of agendas or additional information to meetings. They are all here in Documents. It’s a great file manager that connects to file storage systems such as Dropbox. Documents works with all types of files, including Excel, Adobe Acrobat, Word, video files, images. 

Apple Pencil – Consider using an Apple Pencil with your apps. Cost is $129. I use one daily to write on electronic documents. (If you’ve tried other styluses and they’ve not worked, try this one.)

Your Thoughts about iPad Apps for CPAs?

What accountant’s iPad apps do you like?

1 2 3 4
>