Have you ever wondered what really goes on at the “annual meeting” of the World Economic Forum, in which a couple thousand of the world’s most important people get together for several days each January in Davos, Switzerland?
So have I.
And this year, we’re finally going to find out.
About nine months ago, I received a polite email from a man named Adrian Monck, who is the head of media and communications for the World Economic Forum, the organisation that owns and operates the Davos conference (along with many other WEF conferences held each year around the world).
Mr. Monck’s email said the WEF was thinking of expanding the stable of media folks that it invites to Davos to include some more “new media” types–and did I want to get together to discuss that.
I said I’d be happy to get together to discuss that.
So a few weeks later, Mr. Monck and I had a pleasant chat over coffee in the crappy new-media conference room at Business Insider World Headquarters, the purpose of which chat, I understood, was to assess whether Business Insider and I were worthy of an invitation.
(This assessment, I assumed–correctly, I think–was an evaluation of what kind of fellow I was and whether I was likely to provide a childish, snarky flavour of new-media coverage that might embarrass or irritate the WEF and the other attendees–or just digital-savvy, conversational new-media coverage that would please the WEF and attendees and make the WEF happy that it had invited me. I naturally suggested that I would provide the latter.)(And that is actually the kind of coverage I am going to provide. Why? First, because I actually think this is a pretty cool conference. Second, because I am actually excited to go. Third, because I am actually grateful to the WEF for inviting me. Fourth, because, no, I don’t actually want to get banned from the premises forever for being an ungrateful enfant terrible. And, fifth, because pretty much anyone tromping around the snow and slush in a ski town discussing Big Thoughts can be made to look like a bozo, including me, and that joke would get old pretty quickly. So if you want to stop reading now on the theory that I have already been “bought,” fine.)
What I AM going to do, I hereby decree, is to tell the truth about Davos–to convey what attending the WEF “annual meeting” with 2,000+ global notables and their spouses is actually like.
And that starts with what it’s like to get invited.
But before I finish the story about how I got invited, I want to digress and tell you a story about someone who didn’t get invited–who actually ASKED to be invited this year, and GOT TURNED DOWN–even though he went to Davos pretty much every year in the 1990s and even though 2,000+ people go and even though he is now a huge entrepreneur and philanthropist and on the boards of international business schools and non-profits and runs a global company that he started that now employs more than 500 people and generates more than $500 million in revenue.THAT would-be Davos attendee, who first got Davos, he says, when he was in the men’s room at the Davos “Congress Centre” and realised that, peeing to his right was Elie Wiesel, and peeing to his left was George Soros, and that peeing to Soros’s left was Vladimir Putin, and peeing to Wiesel’s right was Bill Clinton, and so on, was REJECTED this year by the Davos invitation committee because he wasn’t considered important enough to attend Davos, even though he was willing to pay the FULL DAVOS ATTENDANCE FEE OF $50,000.
(I think that’s what the attendance fee is. I’m not paying it, thankfully. And neither is Business Insider. And that’s a good thing, because if we had to pay it, we wouldn’t be going.).
Anyway, nine months ago, Mr. Adrian Monck of the WEF and I got along well in our meeting together. And, when he left, Mr. Monck said he couldn’t make any promises, but he would see what he could do.
And that was the last I heard about Davos for another six months.
Then, in September, I got an email from another member of the WEF communications team, Matthias Luefkens (an “associate director”), who said that he and Mr. Monck were going to be in New York in a few weeks and might I be able to spare a few minutes to get together.
I said that I might.
And Matthias Luefkens and a third WEF communications colleague, Kai Bucher (“associate director”), met over coffee in the same crappy new-media conference room at Business Insider World Headquarters, with no Mr. Monck this time (I had been delegated).
And the purpose of this second meeting, I assumed–correctly, I think–was to ascertain whether, if the WEF was kind enough to invite me to Davos, I would actually go, because there would be nothing more insulting to the World Economic Forum than inviting some snarky new-media type to the annual meeting and offering him not just press credentials but full access to all the conference events including the ones in which mere press would be barred at the door (word), and then having that snarky new-media type say “no.”So I assured Matthias and Kai that, if I were lucky enough to be invited to Davos, I would be thrilled to go, and then Matthias smiled a huge relieved smile and said that he would be hand-sending me my invitation to Davos by email the moment he got off the plane back in Switzerland (or wherever it is that the WEF folks get off planes when they aren’t running the conference in Davos).
And he did!
And now I’m going.
And Davos starts next week, so we’re soon going to find out what all the fuss is about.
And you’ll get to read the TRUTH about it, as it happens, minute by minute, here, in a series we’re calling THE TRUTH ABOUT DAVOS.
So tune in next week!