I’ve just returned from the World Economic Conference (“WEF”) in Davos, Switzerland, where the world’s leaders gather to discuss important issues, and to draw attention to, and devise solutions for, the world’s most pressing problems. For five days, from early morning to very late in the night, people gather in formal and informal sessions to address key questions or to share leading-edge developments in almost every conceivable area, ranging from economics to politics to technology to neuroscience to cancer research to education …just to name a few.
The invitations are quite exclusive, so for those of you who are wondering “so how did you get invited?” I’ll tell you: I wasn’t. My husband, Magid Abraham, CEO of Comscore, was invited as a result of Comscore being selected as a Technology Pioneer by the WEF in 2007. However, spouses were also invited, so I had the good fortune to attend with him. Because most sessions were open to spouses, we were able to divide and conquer (I am a member of the management team at Comscore). Collectively, we came away with a wealth of new business contacts, knowledge and ideas.
This year, of course, the economy was front and center and sparked a lot of spirited debate. Global warming and world poverty were discussed in a session jointly led by Bono and Al Gore. Another major theme was social entrepreneurship – companies innovating ways to give back to the community as a basic part of their business model. Bill Gates delivered a keynote talk on that topic.
Because Davos represents such a unique opportunity to learn about so many things -- literally around the clock – extended sleep is simply not an option for most people. Two to four hours is the norm. At any given time, there are five to seven sessions running, and the biggest challenge is deciding which ones to attend.
The spirit of Davos is terrific: informal, friendly, and with the expectation that everyone there wants to meet everyone else.
Time after time, I met prominent people in everyday situations. At one point, the person next to me on a bus was the Prime Minister of a small Asian country. Another person I sat down next to, and ended up having coffee with, was the President of a developing country in Africa, and the person in front of me that handed me a plate in the buffet line was the CEO of a Fortune 100 company. One night, Magid and I were invited to a small, private dinner by Gloria Arroyo, President of the Philippines.
Basically, the norm is you introduce yourself and you chat. In a few cases, egos prevent the conversation from progressing much more. However, in most cases there is a genuine curiosity about the other party – giving birth to business relationships and friendships with very interesting individuals.
Next: My “Davos Moments”