Leadership Communication Days: Not what went down, just what I wrote down

People tell the truth at Leadership Communication Days—some of it awkward, some of it valuable and all of it between us. (The group dinner this year was actually held in the onetime vault of a bank that had been converted into a restaurant. What was said in the vault ….)

But during this year’s meetings, I jotted down some utterances and insights that I reckoned people wouldn’t mind my sharing, just to give a flavor of the meeting.

Here’s what I wrote down:

“What a country!” exclaimed Maura Kennedy, the American Hospital Association’s executive writer. The “country” she was referring to was the executive communication business, which actually values experience, and as the quotable Kennedy put it, “Where a woman over 60 is recruited!”

“I asked the executives—from now on it’s going to be forgiveness, not permission, okay?” So said Erie Insurance executive communication chief Kathy Felong, in discussing the first known attempt to seek permission to ask forgiveness instead of permission.

Weber Shandwick’s executive platform pro Carol Ballock served some humble pie to executives who think conference organizers need them more than they need conference organizers. To wit: There are only two “gets” for conference organizers. “Everybody want gates and everybody wants Buffett,” Ballock said. Everybody else had better have something damn interesting to say, specifically to a conference-organizer’s crowd.

“We’re not as important as we think we are,” said Maura Kennedy, in one of what became trademark sardonic summations.

On the other hand: Someone made a little speech about the influence of executive communication people in general. Executive communicators, he said, are constantly working to broaden narrow corporate communications into wider social conversations. Less isolated in esoteric industries and more engaged with lay audiences. Less centered on the material things they make, and more focused on the human beings they make them for.

That’s a good direction in which to be creeping and limping, lurching and sneaking.

Who made that speech?

Why, I made that speech. —DM

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