Three in Ten Industry-leading CEOs Speak at Five-star Conferences, According to New Weber Shandwick Study 

NEW YORK, January 24, 2011 – Nearly three out of 10 industry-leading CEOs spoke at one or more top- tier business events in 2010, according to a new analysis by global public relations firm Weber Shandwick. For each of the 55 industries identified in the World’s Most Admired Companies survey, Weber Shandwick examined where each CEO spoke in 2010. Among those who took to the podium, the World Economic Forum at Davos was the leading executive speaking platform for industry-leading CEOs.

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Weber Shandwick’s fifth annual “Five-Star Conference” study assesses executive visibility of global CEOs and other C-level executives from the ranks of the world’s most reputable companies. Every year Weber Shandwick analyzes a different aspect of the executive conference business to gather new insights on this fast-growing executive communications area. This year, Weber Shandwick examined the speaking engagements of global industry-leading CEOs as well as the most powerful women in business in the U.S.



Economic Growth Prime Topic for Industry-Leading CEOs
As noted, nearly three in 10 spoke at one or more Five-Star conferences this past year, leaving seven in 10 (71 percent) industry-leading CEOs not speaking at these premier venues. Reasons for non-participation possibly range from last year’s beleaguered global economy, competing priorities on CEO agendas, difficulty analyzing return on investment, and the exclusivity in receiving an invitation to speak at one of these high-profile events.


Among this select group of speakers, the World Economic Forum, followed by the Clinton Global Initiative, led the list of Five-Star conferences in 2010. Other forums rounded out the top-tier including Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit and The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council (the latter two are tied in third place). A diverse group of other conferences – from local to academic – were also preferred forums for industry-leading CEOs last year.

Key findings include:


  • Nearly three out of 10 (29 percent) industry-leading CEOs spoke at one or more business events in 2010.
  • Industry-leading CEOs spoke at nearly two top-tier events, on average.
  • Business-to-consumer (B2C) industry-leading CEOs were somewhat more likely to speak at top-tier business forums than business-to business (B2B) industry-leading CEOs.
  • The global economy and outlook was the leading topic for industry-leading CEOs who participated in these events. Other themes included education, gender equality and company- or issue-specific opportunities.
The executive conference landscape is rebounding as the economy steadily begins to recover. CEOs know that one good way to build competitive differentiation and relevance outside of traditional media is to speak at premier business events where they can deliver compelling corporate messages and repurpose the content through video and social media.

Paul Jensen

Chair of Weber Shandwick’s North American corporate practice

Most Powerful Women Out in Force on Speaking Circuit
Because of an ongoing interest in prominent female business leaders today, Weber Shandwick examined where the women on Fortune’s esteemed 50 Most Powerful Women list spoke in 2010. Greater demand for female leaders was recently underscored when it was learned that the World Economic Forum has requested that 20 percent of this year’s strategic partnership delegates be female.


The Most Powerful Women’s list serves as a good surrogate for assessing executive conference opportunities for highly influential business women. For this separate analysis, we did not limit the speaking engagements to top-tier events.


This elite group of powerful business women was extremely active on the speaking circuit in 2010. A large eight out of 10 (82 percent) spoke at one or more events in 2010. In addition, the average number of events that each woman spoke at in 2010 was 3.2 events, with 11 women having spoken at five or more events.


“Because there are fewer female than male executives at the top of the largest companies in the U.S. and globally, the demand on senior women to speak at high-profile conferences is great and growing. As our new analysis showed, the vast majority of these women leaders are taking their communications and storytelling roles seriously,” said Micho Spring, chair of Weber Shandwick’s Global Corporate practice. “The good news is that our research showed that there are not only many women’s conferences for female leaders, but many other non-gender specific platforms as well.”


The leading speaking forums in 2010 for the most powerful women executives included the World Economic Forum, FortuneBrainstorm: Tech, the Women’s Conference (hosted by former California First Lady Maria Shriver and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger), Daily Beast’s Women in the World, and not surprisingly, Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit (although not everyone who makes the list is a speaker). However, there was also a wide range of other types of conferences where top women in business spoke such as Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) Annual Conference, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) Board of Boards, Milken Institute Global Conference, and The Wall Street Journal CEO Council.


The types of conferences where the most powerful women executives spoke can be categorized as follows:

Most Powerful Women Chief Executives in Great Demand
There were 16 chief executives officers among the 50 most powerful women ranked in business. Despite the small sample size, Weber Shandwick analyzed their speaking engagements over the past year. The analysis found that this small – but very elite group – were highly likely to speak at conferences in 2010, with nearly all – 14 or 88 percent – speaking at one or more events. The World Economic Forum and Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit were the leading podiums for these female CEOs.



About the Research
The fifth wave of the Five-Star Conference Study was conducted in December 2010 by Weber Shandwick using the following criteria:


Industry-Specific Leading CEOs


  • Weber Shandwick identified the number one-ranked companies among 55 industries in Fortune’s 2010 World’s Most Admired Companies list. For each company, the CEO was selected for further study.
  • A total of 22 conferences comprise what Weber Shandwick refers to as Five-Star conferences –19 top-tier business conferences and three top-tier business school conferences. These conferences were chosen based on client feedback and event media coverage.
  • Agendas for each Five-Star event were reviewed to determine which, if any, CEOs from the most admired industry-specific companies in our analysis spoke. The majority of agendas were available but in the few cases where agendas were not available, Weber Shandwick directly contacted the organization and/or conducted an online search to determine CEO participation.



Most Powerful Women Executives


  • Weber Shandwick began with the list of the 2010 Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business. This is a U.S.-based list. For each woman on the list, Weber Shandwick examined speaking engagements during 2010. Weber Shandwick audited company websites for conference participation, searched online, checked top-tier conference agendas and reviewed YouTube. Company meetings and shareholder presentations were excluded.



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