THE TRUTH ABOUT DAVOS: What Happens When You Don't Get Invited To Any Parties

The Hotel BelvedereThe Hotel Belvedere

I’ve told you about all the stuff that goes on outside of the “official” Davos events–the breakfasts, the lunches, the cocktails, the dinners, the nightcaps, the skiing, the snow-shoeing, the ice-driving–all put on by corporations and countries who would like to get to know you better and give you some experiences to remember them by. And I’ve told you how my email box got so full of invitations to these things in the weeks leading up to the conference that I couldn’t even open all of them, let alone RSVP or attend.

Two nights ago, for example, I accepted three conflicting invitations–a private fondue party at a CEO’s chalet, cocktails to introduce a hot new Internet company called Spotify, and a “nightcap” bash thrown by a huge German media company.  I made it to the first two, which both ran long, and I collapsed before the last one, on account of having been working for 18 straight hours and having gotten only three hours of sleep the night before. 

But last night, in what I fear is an undeniable confirmation of my relative status here (See: THE TRUTH ABOUT DAVOS: It’s Just Like High School!), I somehow managed to get invited to no parties. If I had been more organised, this would have been no big deal, because the WEF puts on half-a-dozen consolation events each night for the folks who don’t get invited to anything, but you have to sign up for those, and I hadn’t.

I realised all this late in the afternoon, at the Congress centre, when I was waiting for Bill Clinton to speak.  I reviewed my calendar for the evening and found it… empty. 

And despite the fact that an early night would do me good, there was something sad about that.

When Clinton finished, I discovered that China’s Dalian province was sponsoring a buffet dinner at the Congress Centre, which at least meant that I wouldn’t have to find a place to eat. I scooped up some salmon and sat in the Global Village lounge until the building had almost completely emptied.  It was 8:15 by then, so I decided that I could call it a day without being totally pathetic.

I got my coat and headed up to the Promenade for the walk back to my hotel.

Of course, unlike the Congress Centre, the streets were jammed.

And I hadn’t gone a block before I ran into the plugged-in Peter Lattman from the New York Times, who had a cell-phone plastered to his ear. I asked him what was going on.

“JP Morgan party,” Peter said, pausing his call, nodding in the direction I was headed. “It’s a couple blocks down at the museum.  The Time/Fortune party is here,” he added, pointing toward a building a block closer on the other side of the street. “And then there’s the McKinsey party later at the Belvedere, which Sorkin says is great.”

Andrew Ross SorkinAndrew Ross Sorkin interviews DST’s Yuri Milner

Photo: Business Insider

“Sorkin,” of course, was Andrew Ross Sorkin, the author of Too Big To Fail and the future of the New York Times. Sorkin is quite possibly the first one invited to every party in Davos. He’s a god around here.

While I was talking to Peter, my Yahoo colleague Dan Gross strode up.

“Where’ve you been?” I said.

“Japan Night,” Dan said, patting his stomach. “Sushi.”  And now, he added, he was headed to a bash thrown by Intellisis, or some other huge global corporation.

Japan Night!  I remembered reading somewhere that Japan Night was an open party, which meant that anyone could attend. And that anyone was about to include me.

Infused with possibilities, I also decided to stop by the JP Morgan party on my way. I knew some people at JP Morgan, and maybe, I thought, their invitation had gotten lost in my inbox.Inside the museum, I gave the hostess my name. She scanned the list and came up empty.  So I nodded toward a very senior JP Morgan executive I am friendly with, who happened to be standing nearby. “I think [first name of very senior JP Morgan executive] would be OK with it,” I said.

“Well, OK!” the hostess said.  And I was in.

The very senior JP Morgan executive graciously welcomed me, and I chatted with him for a few minutes. But the JP Morgan party was winding down, and everyone was leaving for other ones, so I was soon back on the street.

A few more blocks down the Promenade, at Japan Night, I made three quick trips through the sushi line. The CEO of a huge enterprise software company was doing the same thing–get sushi, walk to the back of the line, eat sushi while waiting in line, repeat–so we chatted about the future of Microsoft and Google and Larry Page-as-CEO over negiri.  Microsoft, I learned later, was also having a huge party that night, but I didn’t hear about until the next morning.

By then, it was 9:30, and that was respectable, so I didn’t feel like I was missing everything. Back in my hotel lobby, I Skyped home and tackled my inbox and then prepared to head up to bed.

But then I got an email from Peter Lattman with details on the McKinsey party. And I got a Tweet from Randi Zuckerberg, Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, who said she was heading down to the Piano Bar a the Europe hotel to sing [and the woman can SING!].  And then Nouriel Roubini walked by and said he was heading to the McKinsey party, too, and why wasn’t I coming.  And then it suddenly seemed like everyone was going to the McKinsey party and it would be  pathetic to miss it, even if I hadn’t been invited.  So I didn’t.

I walked all the way back down the Promenade to the Hotel Belvedere, which was where the McKinsey party was being held. And that’s where things really started to get interesting. It’s also where I pulled out my iPhone, so we have some visuals to go along with the rest of this story.

(Apologies in advance for the crappiness of the photos–the iPhone struggles in low light…)

At the Belvedere, after I cleared security, I hit the back of this line. The line was so long that it filled a hallway constructed specially for this conference, which was actually a giant Deloitte ad.

The line, it turned out, was for the coat check, and when I finally emerged from the Deloitte hall, I had time to read Deloitte's inspirational words on the wall. (No need to read)

The coat check team was working in overdrive, but they couldn't keep up with demand. That's because it turned out that McKinsey wasn't the only company having a party at the Belvedere. Dow Jones was having one, too. Those are blue-sweatered Dow Jones folks welcoming people to the Dow Jones party in the background.

The PWC party was rocking, but I didn't know anyone at PWC. So I retraced my steps to the atrium and followed another stream of people down another hall. This hall, a banner proclaimed, was the PWC Thought Cafe.

Way down the hall was a door to a private room. I put my face to the window, but didn't recognise anyone. It also didn't seem like the McKinsey party.

So I retraced my steps back to the atrium again and took another hall. This led to the Zurich Help Point lounge.

Back in the atrium again, I realised it was sponsored by Infosys

I tried another hall and found myself in the CNBC - FT party.

Then I went back to the atrium for the final time and noticed a screen showing all the parties that were taking place in the Belvedere at that moment--except for the McKinsey party

So I set off down the only hall that remained unexplored. Right away, things began to look promising. There was the huge SBERBANK ad, for example.

And a jewelry case.

And a Rolex display.

And lots of people in suits! (Which was DEFINITELY McKinsey...)

I passed a few Windows Phone 7 ads

Nope! It was the University Of Oxford's Nightcap Reception

Which led directly to a liquor ad

And I'm afraid my iPhone died there. But believe it or not, we weren't quite at the end of the story...

The McKinsey party was so jammed it was nearly impossible to move, presumably because it had been crashed by so many people like me. I chatted with several people I knew, but never set eyes on Sorkin or Lattman or Roubini.

After fighting my way to the bar, I decided to thank McKinsey for its hospitality by making some space for folks who had actually been invited. And after finding my way back through the Belvedere maze, I un-checked my coat, and headed back down the promenade.

By that point--11:30 or so--I really was ready for bed, but the famous Piano Bar was on the way home, so I decided to make one last stop to say hello to Randi Zuckerberg.

At the Hotel Europe, I checked my coat and headed upstairs. And there I found no Randi Zuckerberg--because the Piano Bar was no longer the Piano Bar, at least not for this evening.

And given that you have probably gathered by now what the evenings at Davos are all about, you can probably guess what had happened to the Piano Bar.

It had been transformed into a private party hosted by Agility.

See Also: Here's Why Corporations Happily Pay $600,000 To Come To Davos And Why They'll Pay Even More Next Year

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