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Q & A With the Mastermind Behind 2015 NACD Global Board Leaders’ Summit

Friday, September 4th, 2015

The 2015 NACD Global Board Leaders’ Summit is less than a month away. Earlier this week, I had an opportunity to sit down with my colleague Erin Essenmacher, the mastermind behind our annual conference, to get the inside scoop on this year’s big event as the final touches are being added.

Q: The 2015 Global Board Leaders’ Summit is coming up in just over three weeks. In one sentence, can you describe what this event is and why directors should attend?

A: The Global Board Leaders’ Summit—NACD’s annual conference—is the largest, most comprehensive director forum in the world, bringing together 1,200 of the world’s top directors, innovators, thought leaders, and governance experts for peer exchanges and thoughtful discussions on the most significant issues impacting the boardroom today.

Q: What are some of those issues, and how will they be incorporated into this year’s format?

A: When it comes to shaping the curriculum and choosing the focuses for our events, we consult our members directly to understand what challenges they are facing on their boards and what keeps them up at night. This year, some of the top-of-mind issues for most directors we speak with are M&A, shareholder activism, cyber governance, competitive disruption, and enterprise risk. In response, we’ve created customized learning tracks at Summit, where directors can tailor their conference experience around these issues and many more.

Q: What can attendees expect at this year’s Summit? What’s new or different, and which popular elements are you carrying over from last year’s event?

A: Innovation and leadership are key themes of the 2015 Summit, and they have influenced how we’ve reinvented our signature programming, which incorporates many new features:

  • A new state-of-the-art venue in downtown DC
  • A pre-conference Diversity Symposium on “next” practices that align board composition to globalization, disruptive technology, innovation, and other twenty-first-century challenges
  • Innovation Nation—a space where attendees can view demos, ask questions, and get hands-on with the trends and technologies that are transforming every industry
  • Small Takes on Big Ideas—short talks from groundbreaking CEOs and other leaders about the technologies and innovations that are changing the way we will live, work, compete, and do business.
  • Topic-specific learning tracks geared to key committee, company type, and industry
  • More opportunities for networking and peer exchange in small group roundtables focused by topic, committee, and industry
  • More Board Committee Forums and expanded power-breakfast offerings
  • Access to a complete digital record of session content on the NACD website after the Summit

Q: What topics will this year’s event emphasize, and how will speakers explore those topics?

A: In addition to programming on cybersecurity and corporate risk—two hot-button issues—we’re doing a deep dive into boardroom diversity, with a half-day Diversity Symposium kicking off this year’s Summit. We’re also applying a boardroom lens to aspects of technology, globalization, big data, shareholder activism, leading through disruption, value creation, CEO succession planning, mergers & acquisitions, disclosure and liability, compensation, and much more.

To get a better sense of just how much ground we’ll cover at Summit, I encourage interested parties to check out the descriptions of our 75+ sessions in the complete Summit agenda.

Q: What are the most compelling reasons for directors to attend?

A: To learn. To network. To be inspired. To get concrete takeaways that they can use in their boardrooms to leverage strategic advantage and manage enterprise risks. And above all to advance exemplary board leadership.

Prepare to gain new connections, insights, and information. Prepare to be inspired.

2015 NACD Global Board Leaders’ Summit | Beyond Borders. Leadership Evolved.
September 26–29, Washington, DC
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New Technology and the Director Experience

Monday, August 24th, 2015

Over the past decade, I’ve found that few factors have influenced the evolution of the board’s role more than new technology. From drones to 3-D printing to the latest cybersecurity tools, the transformative force of technological innovation is reshaping the competitive landscape and redefining best practices for corporate boards.

As I often discuss with our members, this shift presents both opportunity and risk, leaving many of us wondering how to best forecast—or “futurecast”—potential disruptors and achieve desired outcomes.

A great place to learn more about state-of-the-art technologies and how they’ll affect you is the 2015 Global Board Leaders’ Summit from September 26–29 in Washington, DC, where directors, innovators, and leading governance experts will gather under one roof to discuss this shifting corporate terrain and how to effectively navigate it.

For the first time ever, NACD’s largest annual gathering will feature “Innovation Nation”—a hands-on, interactive exhibit displaying the most buzz worthy cutting-edge technologies. Think drones, 3-D printing, Google Goggles, and more.

In addition to “Innovation Nation,” our summit agenda is packed with change-the-world-and-business-as-we-know-it sessions. Here’s just a sampling:

The big ideas and technologies of tomorrow are already changing the way we live and do business, but how we work together to transform those ideas and advances into high-value assets that will create a successful, sustainable future is what’s important.

And that’s our goal at this year’s annual summit.  I hope you can join us.

Diversity in the Boardroom: The Importance of Change

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

For years, boards have discussed diversity but little action has been taken. Demographic shifts and the continuing focus on global competitiveness point to change on the horizon.  While it won’t happen tomorrow, all signs point to increasing diversity within the next few decades — when the current millennials are in their 50s, the boardroom will be much more racially diverse.

I recently addressed two highly engaged groups in Washington, D.C., and the attendees reflected very similar attributes and a common aspiration — a desire to gain their first board seat. My advice for gaining that first board seat was clear. It’s all about who — and what — you know.

The first group I met with was from Ascend, and the second group was from Women in the Boardroom. While the composition and mission of the latter is evident, the former may be new to you. Ascend is an association consisting of nearly 50,000 Pan-Asian leaders who are passionate about ascending the highest ranks of business. I spoke during Ascend’s recent global conference of more than 2,500 people.

NACD believes diversity is a global business imperative. I mentioned during my talks that NACD has been a champion of diversity in the boardroom for more than 37 years, dedicating content, events and actions to the issue. Further, we don’t define boardroom diversity as being simply about color or gender. It’s about diversity of thought, perspectives and experience – from a cognitive perspective.  Ideally, the skills, experiences and perspectives of a company’s directors should reflect those required to proactively oversee the company’s strategy.

For more information about NACD’s positon on diversity in the boardroom, please read our Blue Ribbon Commission Report here.