The central question every decision maker should ask when an invitation comes in is, “How will this forum help us get our message out?”
Here’s the criteria I use. Maybe you’ll find it useful, too. If you would like to strengthen this criteria or if you use a different method altogether, please leave a comment or drop me an email, and I’ll post so all can learn from it.
1. Audience Profile
• Does the audience fit our strategic profile, i.e. management level, size, etc.
• Will message penetration be high, medium, or low?
2. Organization Making the Request
• Is there a strategic fit?
• Are we members of the organization?
• Who are the sponsors of the event?
3. Business Development/Reputation Management
• Does the forum offer a compelling business development opportunity?
• Will the forum help enhance our corporate reputation?
• Are there stakeholders in the area who we can meet with to help achieve the above?
• Are there any universities close by that might offer a student audience?
4. Placement and Format
• Will the message be muted, diminished or amplified by our placement in the Program?
• What’s the format? Keynote address, Luncheon address, panel discussion, what?
• If a panel, is it a panel of peers?
• If a panel, how many are participating, i.e. can we get our message out?
• Who are the other speakers on the Program?
• Are any competitors placed in a better speaking slot than our executive?
• Is the speaking opportunity in a region where we want to establish or strengthen our company’s presence?
• What’s the media outreach?
• Is there a media sponsor of the event?
• If so, what control will the media sponsor have on overall media coverage?
• Can we hold our own press conferences or do we have to coordinate with the forum?
• Will the speaking opportunity lend itself to repackaging as an op-ed, feature piece, or a spur for media interviews, posting on YouTube or Facebook, etc.?
If “yes” to all of the above, it’s a no-brainer. Accept the invitation. We will rearrange the executive’s calendar if we have to. If “no” to one or more, we call the inviting organization and we’re upfront about our concerns. My experience is that we can do some things that might make the request a better fit, like negotiate a better speaker placement in the program, shuffle panel members, offer another executive if the one requested has a calendar conflict, make handouts available to help with message penetration, etc. If still a “no” to one of more after the call, we reconsider the rationale before committing corporate resources.
Whether we accept or decline, we keep a log as to the reasons why. It comes in handy.
Ron McCall is president of Executive Communications, a specialty firm with expertise in message development, speaker placement and Thought Leadership development. He blogs about evaluating speaker opportunities at All About Forums.