As the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum kicks into gear this week, it’s worth asking, why, exactly, is everybody who is anybody going to a Swiss ski village.
One thing is for sure, WEF does not set its sights low.
Its motto: “Committed to improving the state of the world.”
The Annual meeting’s agenda laden with serious social, geopolitical, economic, environmental and scientific topics.
Attendees are expected to address, and WEF stresses, make real progress in tackling, issues such as systemic risk and fairness in finance, geopolitics and social systems, climate change and resource constraints, rapid technological change and the continued emergence of the ‘global south.’
For the full list of issues WEF is asking participants to address, read Henry’s complete post on the topic and you’ll see it’s nothing if not comprehensive.
But why would a CEO of a bank or Fortune 100 company or head of state want to go?
Because Davos is, at its core, the world’s most prestigious and exclusive business conference.
These are the four reasons to go to Davos:
1) To see clients. With so many important and influential people in on place, high value meetings can be packed in with incredibly efficiency. And because attendees are truly global, this means a a few hours of meetings can cut out a week’s worth of travel later in the year.
2) To generate positive PR. You cannot underestimate the positive value to your brand of seriously addressing important topics with deep thought in front of such a high profile audience.
3) To be included as part of the club. If there is such a thing as the new global elite, the overclass, the 1% or whatever you want to call it, it is at Davos and attending credentializes you as a member. Someone recently tweeted “how do you know someone is at Davos this week? Because they’ll tell you.” As funny and true as that is, it’s only half the story. It’s good to be able to tell people who aren’t at Davos that you are, but it’s even better to be seen by those who are at Davos as having been there too.
4) To exchange information, intelligence and gossip. When this many people gather in one place, the most valuable conversations don’t happen from a podium or on a plenary panel. Just like any congress or parliament in the world, the best insights and data points are exchanged in private and often by happenstance in a hallway or at a party. And it is from these conversations that consensus emerges and the context for future debates is shaped.
To paraphrase what one multiple time attendee told me, “Davos is basically a global Rotary club. You go because everyone else goes. If no else went, there’d be no point.”
His comment had its share of scorn, because the complex and exhausting logistics of preparing for and attending Davos can take their toll.
But he said it more begrudgingly than anything else.
Because he knew that everyone else would be going and he would be too.