Monday, February 15, 2010

Performance Metrics

When I was a boy, my Dad used to ask me, "What have you done today to justify your existence?" I always hated that question. My answers seemed so insignificant. Looking back, it was a good question to ask a youngster, because it prepared me for working life where that question gets asked a lot.

But it can still be scary if you don't have the right answer.

A reader has asked if I knew of anyone who has a set of performance metrics she could use. By "performance metrics" she means, "how can you tell when your Executive Communications team is being successful?"

In my Dad's vernacular, how is your Executive Communications function justifying its existence, and if so, to what degree? What metrics are you using to gauge success?

If you want to weigh in, send your answers to me at or leave a comment below. I'll post what I receive so everyone can benefit.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Dallas Friday Group

The Dallas Friday Group was established in 1978 by a group of CEOs and corporate government affairs people who wanted to know what government was doing that might impact their businesses. Originally, membership was limited to CEOs, presidents, political affairs officers, and the heads of political action committees. But today the Dallas Friday Group has expanded to include a broad cross-section of more than 400 members. The Executive Director is Carolyn Dunnigan, 214.948.8908.

Criteria for Speaker Selection

The DFG looks for speakers who will bring something that its members can find useful in their business and something they can apply to their daily lives. Name recognition certainly helps, but not every speaker is a Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator from Texas, pictured above, or a John Hofmeister, President of Shell Oil Company, pictured below. Topics are important, too. And you have to make your talk relevant to your audience. As Carolyn said to me in a recent conversation, "Even if you have a global company, if you can localize the topic so people here in Dallas can see how they fit in the big picture, then you've got a good talk."

Format and Attendance

The format is a Luncheon Address at the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Dallas. Average attendance is 140. The DFG hosts 10 to 12 events a year.


Fridays that come before a major holiday never work well, particularly late in the year, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the DFG pretty much takes December off. The week of spring break is never good, so check the Dallas Independent School System calendar against your speaker's availability. July and August are vacation months, but if your topic is in the news and relevant, you can still have a room full.


If the topic or the speaker is newsworthy, the media is invited. Most speakers prefer to have their own media departments handle publicity, and that’s fine with Carolyn.

Your Proposal

Carolyn wants to talk with you on the phone first, so give her a call at 214.948.8908. The next step is she will want to see media clips, news coverage, and reports on your company and a speaker bio and a summary of the talk. No need to send video unless it's really short, like two or three minutes.

Eli Lilly at The Dallas Friday Group

John Lechleiter, Chairman, President, and CEO of Eli Lilly, is scheduled to speak at the Dallas Friday Group this coming fall to address the "Human Face of Medicine," a side of the healthcare debate that's not often talked about.

Peggy Emard of Lilly's Executive Communications staff shared with me, "Why the Dallas Friday Group for this message?"

Emard: After we [the EC staff] had a discussion with Dr. Lechleiter about what his goals were, I compiled and prioritized a list of potential venues, and The Dallas Friday Group was near the top of that list. It's a great venue for top executives and it's an audience that includes people who want to share our message with folks who make healthcare decisions. They are committed to providing the right mix of audience, speaker appeal, and media opportunities, with an emphasis on Q&A and that's very helpful in getting a conversation started.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Criteria for Evaluating Speaking Opportunities

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

o Does the audience fit our strategic profile, i.e. management level, size, etc.
o Will message penetration be high, medium, or low?

2. Organization Making the Request

o Is there a strategic fit?
o Are we members of the organization?
o Who are the sponsors of the event?

3. Business Development/Reputation Management

o Does the forum offer a compelling business development opportunity?
o Will the forum help enhance our corporate reputation?
o Are there stakeholders in the area who we can meet with to help achieve the above?
o Are there any universities close by that might offer a student audience?

4. Placement and Format

o Will the message be muted, diminished or amplified by our placement in the Program?
o What's the format? Keynote address, Luncheon address, panel discussion, what?
o If a panel, is it a panel of peers?
o If a panel, how many are participating, i.e. can we get our message out?
o Who are the other speakers on the Program?
o Are any competitors placed in a better speaking slot than our executive?

5. Geography

o Is the speaking opportunity in a region where we want to establish or strengthen our company's presence?

6. Media

o What's the media outreach?
o Is there a media sponsor of the event?
o If so, what control will the media sponsor have on overall media coverage?
o Can we hold our own press conferences or do we have to coordinate with the forum?

7. Repackaging

o 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.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Denver Forum

One of the best ways to evaluate a speaking forum is to talk with people who have been there before, so I talked with three recent speakers or the CorpComm people who handled the event for them to get their honest feedback about The Denver Forum.

I first talked with Marty Meehan, former Congressman from Massachusetts, now Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. The date of his speech was October 9, 2009.

From your perspective, Marty, how did it go at The Denver Forum?

"Couldn't have been better from my point of view. I was exceptionally pleased."

How many did you have in your audience?

"I had about 70 at the Luncheon. George (Mitrovich, founder and president) had invited some students as well. The Q&A was quite lively and insightful. One of the finest events I've participated in in a long time."

Did any media attend?

"No media, but a lot can be said about not having the media attend events like this. I find that if you really want to know what's on peoples' minds and if you really want to discuss the issue at hand, sometimes it's best not to have the media present. Without the media there, people seem to open up more and ask harder questions and that's what I wanted."

If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently?

"Not much, really. If I get a chance to go back, I might reach out to the Denver media, but that would depend on the purpose of the talk. Again, a lot can be said about having an open conversation without having a third party in the room. I can't think of anything I would do differently, really. It was a wonderful opportunity for networking, the event was well managed, and the Oxford Hotel where my event was held was exceptional, so from my personal perspective, I can't think of anything that I would have changed."

Snell & Wilmer attorney, Ron Rossi, directs a question at a recent luncheon

I also talked with John Christiansen, Manager, External Communications for Houston-based Anadarko Petroleum. John handled arrangements for his CEO's speech in Denver on November 4, 2009.

John, Jim Hackett, your CEO, spoke at The Denver Forum back in November. How did it go?

"I think it went really well, actually. We had a good crowd, about 70 people, and the Q&A was really good. I didn't actually attend, but that was the feedback I got.

Why The Denver Forum?

"We have a good message about natural gas and the role it will play in this country's energy future and Denver and Colorado are very energy and environmentally conscience and The Denver Forum made a nice fit. And, of course, Denver is the State Capitol and we had a chance to show off our new natural gas car."

Did you post Jim's speech on your website?

We did as an audio. We didn't video the speech.

Why didn't you get some video?

We didn't need to, really.

Could you have had you wanted to?

I'm sure we could have. Andre Carter actually attended the speech, I didn't. Give him a call if you want to know about how the room is set up. (I did, and Andre said the room is good for video if you use a small camera. Nothing the size of a TV camera with a tripod would work because it would be too intrusive, but a small camera would do just fine.)

If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently?

I would probably attend myself.

To get a third perspective, I talked with Ashton Clarke, Development Associate at the PBS affiliate in Denver. Doug Price, President & CEO of Rocky Mountain PBS, delivered a speech at The Denver Forum on December 10, 2009.

Ashton, you attended Doug's speech. How did it go?

I think it went just fine. We were at the Oxford Hotel and we had a pretty good crowd.

How many people were there?

We had about 45. Small, but really high quality. The Q&A was exceptional. They are a very intelligent group of people, from the depth of the questions Doug was asked.

Can you give me an idea of the average age and gender of the audience?

It looked to be an even mix of men and women. I'd guess the average age was about 50. Mostly business and civic leaders. I remember the District Attorney was there.

If Doug gets a chance to go back, would you do anything differently?

Well, things ran a little long. We ran about an hour and 45 minutes and people were ready to get back to work and we had to cut the Q&A short as a result. So if I would do anything differently, it would be to work on the time management aspects.

To wrap it up, I talked with George Mitrovich, Founder and President of The Denver Forum.

George, tell me about The Denver Forum.

The Denver Forum was established on March 1, 1985. Our first speaker was Alan Simpson, Senator from Wyoming. We do an average of 20 events a year. All Luncheons. All at the Oxford Hotel. You can go to our website and see who our former speakers were.

How do you select your speakers?

Anybody who has something interesting to say and who can say it in an interesting way is welcome at The Denver Forum. We don't do boredom intentionally, so it's important to pay attention to those two fundamentals.

What kind of materials would you like to see from prospective speakers? Some video, past speeches?

Those are helpful, but not required. Just send a short paragraph of what you want to say, a short bio, and that's about it. But again, the topic must be interesting. And I was able to see Jim Hackett on YouTube for instance, so sending video isn't really necessary.

How can people get in touch with you?

303-832-9030 or go to our website. All my contact information is on there.

Credits: All photographs courtesy of Joshua Langlais. You can find out more about Joshua at