CEO participation at top global forums increased 96 percent from 2007 among the top 50 world's most admired companies, according to a new analysis by global public relations firm Weber Shandwick. Underscoring this rising trend in executive visibility, other C-level executives (CMOs, CFOs, CIOs and CTOs) from these leading organizations increased their participation by 40 percent from 2007.


The increase in the 2009 CEO speaking circuit roster was boosted, for the most part, by CEOs from the financial sector and those with highly competitive rivals who have already embraced these influential venues.


"Despite this past year's tough economy, executive scrutiny and limited budgets, top level conferences continue to attract executives from the most respected organizations in the world.  Businesses are clearly hungry for channels to network with customers and disseminate content," said Jennifer Risi, executive vice president of Weber Shandwick's global strategic media group and creator of a service that identifies and secures executive speaking engagements to shape corporate agendas. "Without a doubt, speaking engagements are becoming an increasingly critical tool within the PR arsenal, helping CEOs and their senior executive bench address their strategic vision, stand apart from the competition, and build thought leadership."


Among the findings revealed in this year's Five-Star Conference analysis, the top events for CEOs include (in rank order): Clinton Global Initiative, Chief Executives' Club of Boston, the Wall Street Journal CEO Council, and the World Economic Forum. Strikingly, the World Economic Forum lost its top-ranked status in 2009 to the Clinton Global Initiative as well as to other U.S. based conferences.  WEF's decline in ranking can be attributed to the severe economic conditions at the beginning of 2009 when the Forum was held and the urgent need for U.S. CEOs to remain at headquarters to manage their businesses.


When reviewing the agendas of the highest ranking conferences revealed in our research, the topics focused on the "reinvention economy" and how the public and private sectors are working together to rebuild the global economy.  These top forums not only provide a platform for collaboration but highlight emerging issues, global risks and the companies that are driving the forthcoming economic reset.


Risi adds: "Our results highlight how many of the world's most admired companies chose speaking platforms as part of their communications strategy in these unprecedented times to demonstrate leadership strength and competitive differentiation.  These CEOs did not shy away from the spotlight but instead participated in conferences that required their skills in economic problem-solving, commitment to corporate responsibility and development in innovative business practices."