Actors for an Hour

Mar 1, 2015
Anatomy of FraudNet’s Marketing Presentation to the AICPA

When most of us think of presentations to professional organizations, we think of a PowerPoint with panelists reviewing what’s contained on the slides. However, four FraudNet attorneys recently joined with one of the network’s strategic partners to develop and implement a novel format to more fully engage their audience and leave a more lasting impression. It all started with audience selection. “The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has 15,000 member CPAs from across North America,” explained Matt Lindsay, FraudNet’s executive director and a partner in Rose LLP, Calgary. “The possibility of expanding our contacts within an organization with such a large and impressive footprint made AICPA’s Fall 2014 Conference the perfect FraudNet venue. However, we couldn’t expect every CPA to be familiar with fraud and asset recovery work, and the potential unfamiliarity of our ‘niche’ topic made it challenging to try to customize an effective presentation.” One obvious first step was to engage an accountant to play the role of the client contact who is instructed to engage counsel.James Pomeroy, director of Caribbean operations for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and longtime FraudNet strategic partner, graciously came on board to help. The topic itself, “Getting to Hidden Assets in North America and Foreign Jurisdictions,” was both obvious and familiar to three additional FraudNet attorneys who agreed to join Lindsay for the presentation: Joe Wielebinski, former FraudNet executive director and Munsch Hardt Texas shareholder; Colette Wilkins, partner, Walkers, Cayman Islands; and Bernd Klose, founding shareholder, KK Forensic, Germany. “Since most frauds and asset recoveries cross borders, Bernd and Colette added international depth and credibility to the presentation,” Lindsay explained. “In the beginning, the presentation was going to be like the one Matt, Chris Redmond and I did a few years ago for a group of bankers: i.e., the typical panel of experts talking to the audience from a PowerPoint,” Wielebinski noted. “However, because the stakes were high—because we wanted to impress the AICPA, but the audience was potentially unfamiliar with our topic—we had concerns with how our presentation would be received.” He explained: “For someone who doesn’t do asset recovery on a daily basis, we were concerned about communicating what FraudNet does, how we do it and what value we add while keeping the audience engaged.” Pomeroy agreed. “We decided we needed to find a way to make our presentation more immersive and as enjoyable as possible for the audience. We needed not just to de-mystify the complex, coordinated dance of asset recovery, but also to make that dance both engrossing and entertaining,” he pointed out. Wielebinski explained: “In the interim, James and I (and several other FraudNet members) were already working on a pitch for a unique presentation to an upcoming meeting of the International Association of Restructuring, Insolvency & Bankruptcy Professionals (INSOL). We thought, why not use that format for the AICPA presentation?” But it took much more time and effort to makewhat was essentially a three-act play come off as totally natural and unrehearsed,” he recalled. Play-acting with a general script—but without precisely scripted words—the presenters had to work hard to fine-tune their dramatization. “One thing we decided, for clarity, was that each attorney should have a general script and a highly specific role to play that focused on each specific jurisdiction (Canada for Lindsay, Germany for Klose, and the Caymans for Wilkins),” Pomeroy recalled. “To help the audience follow the interactions of the FraudNet ‘actors,’ as well as the complex ‘play within the play’ of asset tracing and recovery, the presenters also isolated asset trails by jurisdiction. “As the client contact, during each scene, I used graphics to lay out and simplify the complex asset trail and what we were uncovering through our efforts,” he explained. “Overall, based on subsequent audience comments and their written evaluations, we think our presentation was very well received,” Lindsay concluded. “Several accountants came up to us after the presentation, thanked us and expressed appreciation for the unique style we had adopted.” Wielebinski noted: “Someone from the Texas Securities Board actually came up and asked if I was interested in being a receiver for them. Not surprisingly,” he added, “some audience members wanted more focus on the specific tools we use, which was impossible to do in 1.5 hours. Others mentioned that they did not regularly run into such complicated and far-ranging frauds. However, when you consider the make-up of the AICPA, it was always going to be a challenge to satisfy everyone in the audience.” Nevertheless, Lindsay pointed out, “We conveyed a lot of information and demonstrated the dynamics involved in a very realistic way. As a group, our presentation team worked very well together. And even though it took a lot of effort, we now have a great template that’s ready to be presented in other venues, tailored for each specific audience.”