Leadership Communication


People who help higher-ed leaders communicate huddle to prepare for fall semester and beyond.

A virtual event
August 21


Higher education leaders are learning from one another and leaning on one another.

Their communicators should, too.

On the eve of what will certainly be one of the most challenging years of your higher-ed communication career, ground yourself in a communication philosophy, gather the new skills you need and make the collegial connections that will sustain you throughout the fall semester and throughout the year.

Insightful sessions. Incisive conversations. Intimate networking chats.

Let’s not stumble into this year alone. Let’s walk into it together.


(All Times ET)


Opening Remarks, by David Murray, executive director of the Professional Speechwriters Association.

1:15-2:00 • Keynote: From message fatigue to a new philosophical framework: How higher ed communicators can turn over a new leaf

  • “Messaged out,” is the term you hear over and over from the folks who help higher-ed leaders communicate—on Covid, on systemic racism, LGBTQ+ issues, free speech, funding and a dozen other issues roiling college campuses (and the country they exist in). After agonizing over countless statements over many years, leadership communicators find students and other stakeholders tuning out leaders dismissing their communications as “just more words.” 
  • Clearly, we need some kind of reset. And if there was ever a time to make a new beginning, going into this utterly uncharted school year would be it.
  • “We need to have deeper conversations in which we are empowered to be honest about our challenges and opportunities,” says University of Maryland, Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski, who will explain what those conversations are, how university presidents can have them—and how their communication professionals can help.
  • In conversation with University of Pennsylvania Senior Advisor to the President Mike Field—and with conference participants themselves—Hrabowski will share the new philosophy described in his book, The Empowered University: Shared Leadership, Culture Change, and Academic Success.
  • You’ll leave this session feeling empowered yourself, by a new philosophical framework that will help you move forward strategically, creatively and courageously into this pivotal next year of your higher-ed communication career.

2:00-3:00 • Crucial Conversations on Pressing Issues

Choose among five moderated Zoom-style breakout conversations, on the topic you need to learn about most:

  • Covid Communications: Which Leader Should Say What, How Often and Via Which Medium, led and moderated by Jim Reische, Williams College
  • Post-George Floyd Campus Communications, led and moderated by Michael Franklin, Howard University
  • Reimagining Commencement and Other Academic Traditions, led and moderated by Aaron Hoover, University of Florida
  • Old Symbols, New Substance: Communicating Thoughtfully about Campus Iconography, Team Names and Other Controversial Traditions, led and moderated by Lawrence Kluttz, Duke University
  • What About Me? Self-care with an Unsustainable Workload—and What to do if Furlough Comes, led and moderated by leadership communications recruiter Angee Linsey, author of the book, Dare to Be Deliberate—Level Up Your Communications Career

3:00-4:00 • Leading Virtually, Leading Well: A Guide for Higher-Ed Leadership Communicators, and the Leaders They Serve

  • As one top university speechwriter put it, all of the presentation pitfalls are magnified onscreen. “Didn’t practice enough? Check. Reading not speaking? Check. Poor eye contact? Check. Humor less effective with no audience? Check.” Even several months into communicating virtually, higher-ed leaders are frustrated by their own ability to be as compelling onscreen as in person. No one on the planet can help as fast or as profoundly as Tim Pollard, CEO of leadership communications firm Oratium. In this interactive session, you’ll put your own problems to Pollard, after you master these three critical areas:
  • Platform: The compulsory do’s and devastating don’ts of getting your virtual technology platform wrong. Basic, obvious, but almost everyone’s getting it wrong.
  • Architecture: How to structure messaging that is crisp, powerful, compelling and persuasive, in an onscreen setting. (Hint: “Making the message shorter is maybe 2% of the real answer,” Pollard says.)
  • Persona: Keys to helping your leader get her or his native charisma, empathy, confidence, humor, love—humanity—across on the screen. (Hint: “Better eye contact and body language is literally zero % of the answer here,” Pollard says. “It’s way deeper and more interesting.”)

This is the single crucial skill set every leader needs now—and you’ll come away from this session with a bristling quiver-full of with new techniques, ready to employ yourself, and share with your grateful principal.

4:00-4:45 • Networking with Your Truest Peers

At virtual “tables,” you’ll find your people and talk through your issues.

  • Ivy League-plus institutions, leader and moderator TBD.
  • Public universities, led and moderated by Amanda Todd, University of Wisconsin and Karen Wing, Penn State
  • Private colleges, led by Jim Reische, Williams College

5:00-6:00 • All-Conference Happy Hour

After conference chair David Murray makes closing remarks and leads a freewheeling conversation about fears, hopes and dreams for the coming year. He’ll have a drink in his hand, so probably you should, too.


Freeman A. Hrabowski, III

Freeman A. Hrabowski, III

Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, has served as President of UMBC (The University of Maryland, Baltimore County) since 1992. Named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME (2012) and one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report (2008), Hrabowski is author of the 2019 book, The Empowered University: Shared Leadership, Culture Change, and Academic Success. A child-leader in the Civil Rights Movement, Hrabowski was prominently featured in Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary, Four Little Girls, on the racially motivated bombing in 1963 of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

Tim Pollard

Tim Pollard

Tim Pollard is the founder and CEO of Oratium, the author of The Compelling Communicator: Mastering the Art and Science of Exceptional Presentation Design, and Mastering the Moment: Perfecting the Skills and Processes of Exceptional Presentation Deliveryand a regular columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, and other publications. Each year Tim and his team consult on the design and delivery of hundreds of critical messages in fields as varied as for-profit sales, non-profit donor messaging, and project proposals for corporate or government leaders.

FAQ—How Does a Virtual Conference Work, Exactly?

What is a virtual conference?

The Professional Speechwriters Association seeks to make this remote-learning conference as interactive and convivial as its beloved in-person events, which seek to convey professional knowledge participants need, and a feeling of belonging, too.

How do the networking sessions work, exactly?

Pretty much the way networking goes at the in-person conference. You walk into a virtual “room,” you see who’s sitting at virtual “tables,” you ascertain what the people at the tables are talking about, and you decide where to “sit.”

Can several people from my company login to the virtual conference at the same time?

No. This event is restricted to only one login, so only one computer can be connected to the webcast at any time. You can have multiple people in a room viewing the virtual conference, but not multiple people watching from their individual computers.

What if I miss a part of the conference?

Links to all sessions are available a day or two after the session, and viewable anytime between the conference and the end of the calendar year, 2020.


Cancellations Policy
No refunds on cancellations less than 30 days before the event. Within 30 days, your payment will be credited toward a future Professional Speechwriters Association event.

$495 to register for Leadership Communication CRISIS.EDU on August 21, 2020.

Phone registrations please call 312-585-6383.

Credentials to access the event will be sent the week of August 17.