If you attend AFP’s annual conference every year, you’ve probably noticed that the financial planning and analysis (FP&A) track has grown considerably. And that makes sense; FP&A is one of the most critical and fastest growing fields in the finance realm. The FP&A track at AFP 2018 aims to ensure that all FP&A professionals who attend the event will come away fulfilled and ready to tackle any new challenges that come their way.
This year’s FP&A Luncheon features a speech by Doug Stevenson, CSP, CEO of Story Theater International, creator of The Story Theater Method, and a master storyteller, trainer and coach. Stevenson will provide tips on how FP&A professionals can convey complex information, particularly to people outside of the finance function.
“The challenge, if you’re a financial person and it’s all about the numbers, is that numbers themselves are very hard to process,” Stevenson explained in an interview with the AFP Conversations podcast. “They’re not engaging, so in a corporate, in an association, in an organization, when you go in to make a presentation, the people sitting in that room are preoccupied. They’re busy. And they might’ve had three or four presentations before you walked into the room, and everybody else did numbers.”
So rather than just rattling off numbers and showing a ton of charts, Stevenson advises finance professionals to tell a short, 90-second story. “I work with corporations all the time where people are going in and everybody’s got their five or ten minutes,” he said. “And the poor board of directors or whoever it is are sitting there watching 23 people come in, and they’re going brain dead. So they want something that stimulates a different brain energy. And stories create the visuals and they create emotional.”
FP&A EDUCATIONAL SESSIONS
This year’s FP&A track boasts a multitude of cutting edge educational sessions on topics that are essential for FP&A professionals, such as using big data analytics, innovations in finance technology, building impactful dashboards, and managing working capital. Of course, forecasting is perhaps the most important topic for FP&A professionals, and so AFP 2018 has sessions on forecasting during rapid growth and avoiding the biggest forecasting mistakes.
“In FP&A, one of the common themes is how you can do accurate forecasting, how you’re able to manage profitable growth through accurate forecasting,” said Emmanuel Caprais, vice president, strategic and financial planning and analysis for ITT, and a member of the AFP 2018 Planning Task Force.
This year’s track also covers a lot of soft skills and big picture topics, such as how FP&A can become a better business partner and how the function can integrate with treasury. “I think when we look at the tracks that we want to develop for AFP 2018, it’s about how FP&A is able to provide better leadership, reinforce the leadership, provide better content in order to improve decision making abilities within the company,” Caprais said.
He added that the key to getting FP&A right is matching its ability to manage data and analyze it—the hard skills—with the soft skills. And often the most important soft skill—and this comes back to Stevenson’s storytelling idea—is communication. “Our ability to be able to communicate, our ability to provide a compelling message and have more efficient decision-making, in the end, is going to result in better financial results overall for the company,” he said.