As part of the marketing for the inaugural Leadership Communication Days meeting, held last week at Pfizer headquarters in New York, I did a post on my personal blog, Writing Boots. I said most communication conferences are tall-tale-telling contests where the first liar doesn’t stand a chance.
I said I had a different kind of meeting in mind.
“What if you got just a few serious communicators together,” I asked. “And then one at a time, everyone just shared the work they’d done that they were proudest of, and let the others ask questions. Then after that, everyone went around and shared their biggest problems, and let others make suggestions. And everybody ate and drank in between, and got to know each other real well.”
As the moderator, I can happily say my marketing promise was also the precise reality for the seven participants, all top communication advisors to executives at institutions ranging from Fortune 100 companies, a big state health system, a federal government office and a huge national membership organization.
Among the gnarly topics that participants discussed with great candor (and in some cases vivid color): How to help organizational leaders become nationally recognized thought leaders, how to streamline a byzantine approval process, how to adapt exec comms to changing corporate strategies, how to get execs involved in social media, how to make exec comms make maximum impact on the organization—even if you’re a one-person shop.
Participants shared their deepest professional insecurities, and their brassiest plans. Whatever hair had not been let down over coffee and lunch during the day, was let down at drinks and dinner at night. And throughout, everyone honored the unique preciousness of the occasion by speaking only when they had something germane to say. Which was often.
I won’t go into any detail about what was actually shared, as the rampant honesty that characterized these talks relied on the idea that what was shared stays among us. Suffice it to say, however, that we heard more reality in these two days than you’re likely to hear in a lifetime of big-scale communication conferences.
“Wouldn’t it be fun to go to a conference like that?” I asked in my promo for Leadership Communication Days. “Wouldn’t it be exciting to go to a conference like that?”
Now I can confidently respond to my rhetorical questions. The answer to both is, is yes.
Needless to say, we’re looking forward to holding the event next fall. If you’d like to make sure you get on the mailing list, e-mail me at email@example.com and I’ll make sure you get the initial announcement, and first crack at signing up.
David Murray is editor of Vital Speeches of the Day.