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The 2020 Convening Leaders conference featuring Condoleezza Rice takes place in San Francisco January 5-8.

PCMA Keynoter Imposes Contractual Gag Order

Don’t expect to hear much about the Convening Leaders conference’s final main-stage presentation unless you’re in San Francisco this week.

This Wednesday, January 8, the main-stage speaker closing the Professional Convention Management Association’s annual Convening Leaders Conference in San Francisco will feature Condoleezza Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. One unique element of Rice’s midday presentation at Moscone Center will be a blackout on any coverage of her presentation.

On January 2, PCMA sent an email to the media outlets registered for the conference stating: “Due to the existing contractual agreement between PCMA and the speaker's bureau for U.S. Secretary of State (2005-2009) Condoleezza Rice, the recording, publishing and sharing of any content presented specifically during her January 8 main-stage session is STRICTLY PROHIBITED by members of the media. This includes all audio, photo, video and written content…We ask you to provide your electronic signature to confirm your acceptance of the non-reporting clause for this session to gain entry. Failure to agree will result in you being prohibited from attending."

Screen Shot 2020-01-03 at 3.56.24 PM.pngWhat’s more, Lorene Yue, communications director for PCMA, told MeetingsNet that “our agreement [with Rice] prevents [PCMA] from recording or covering her keynote.” Then again, “that is one of the many advantages for those attending Convening Leaders this year.”

Any meeting host who seeks to hire a business or government leader as a presenter who can boost in-person attendance could run into this type of contractual situation. While it might be possible for planners to water down a blanket nondisclosure clause in some way through negotiation (giving the speaker the right to see and edit any coverage before it is made public, for instance), each meeting group must weigh the pros and cons. Specifically, the drawing power of a high-profile, well-connected speaker versus the inability to communicate to employees, customers, or association members the audience-specific insight delivered by that influential person.

A media blackout is a big ask from a speaker; groups pay a price in their future marketing communications. But even if the speaker’s media demands are non-negotiable, is there something of value your organization can get in return—perhaps a longer meet-and-greet with VIP or sponsors, or a Q&A session? Negotiating a keynoter’s price down is unlikely, but trading value for value can be a winning strategy.

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