The trouble isn’t with safe harbor clauses …

... the trouble is with speeches so salesy as to require them. So argues one veteran CEO scribe.

Re. “Fear and loathing in executive communications.” Fletcher Dean, Director, Office of the Chairman & CEO and Executive Communiations: I don’t buy the position that the reason corporate chiefs can’t get good forums is because of safe harbor clauses. The reason they can’t get good forums is because they’re delivering speeches that contain safe harbor clauses to begin with. Any speech to TED, WSJ Eco:nomics Forum, Boston CEO Club or any other top forum that has to have a safe harbor clause will fail. It’s that simple. In my experience, conference organizers DO want CEOs because they’re often the brightest, sexiest type of speakers and help drive attendance. But there’s a huge caveat. They only want them if the speaker—whether it’s a CEO, a professor or a line-manager at the local pizza shop—can give something useful back to the audience. It’s a lesson a lot of CEOs have trouble understanding. They’ve grown up in a world where everything revolves around them and their organization. So every time they go out, they often feel they have to sell, sell, sell. That’s marketing and it has no place in the public forum arena. What conference organizers are looking for are thought leaders, those CEOs who see the big picture of the world and can share that with the audience. Bottom line? If your speech requires a safe harbor clause and your audience isn’t investors or analysts, it’s an excellent sign that there’s going to be a mismatch between what your speaker wants to say and the audience needs to hear.

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