Now that the dust (snow?) has settled following this year’s World Economic Forum, I wanted to shed some light on what I’ve learned about the annual Alpine gathering. I’ve had had the opportunity to attend the Forum three times; the past two years working with my colleague Lalu Dasgupta on communications for Brand South Africa.
“To fail to plan is to plan to fail…”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about WEF, it is to go with the flow. I’ve learned this the hard way, causing myself undue amounts of stress and panic trying to control a carousel of changing diaries, changing venues, changing agendas. Yes, of course one needs a plan, a schedule, a programme. But plan for that plan to fail, and you’ll be a step ahead of the game. One of the most beautiful things about WEF (besides the stunning views) is the serendipitous encounters and impromptu meetings that happen on the Promenade, in the corridors of the Congress Centre and over a nightcap in the bars. You can’t plan for these, but if you plan to be flexible, you’re guaranteed to have a more productive WEF than if you insist on keeping to a schedule.
Getting on the list
Remember that bit about planning? Ignore it. Just kidding – but if you’re looking to hire a venue for an event you best move quickly! Again, I speak from experience. The best chance you’ll have at securing a venue is to book it in for the next year while you’re in Davos. The venues tend to have a “grandfather clause” with all their bookings, so book early…or at least get on the waiting list. South Africa moved from the bar at the Belvedere to the wonderful Kirchner Museum this year, and when we were scouting for new space I was informed that one space had been used by the same company for more than 10 years, and there were wait lists six-deep for some of the other spaces. I’ve now been to most of the venues in Davos – either on reconnaissance missions or for events – so if you have any questions or need suggestions, drop me a line at email@example.com
It can’t all be doom and gloom…have a beaver tail
For such a sleepy little town, Davos offers a wealth of branding opportunities. While WEF is serious event hosted in a particularly gloomy context, there’s still a flock of companies and countries looking to showcase their wares, build their brand and attract investment. My favourites include the branded buses (like these from South Africa!), the Canadian Beaver Tails pop-up pastry shop and Mexico’s fiesta night. For years, the South African delegation has shown their pride by wearing scarves in the national colours, and these have become such a hot commodity with WEF guests that more than 300 were handed out this year!
Increasingly, it’s the countries that are leading the way at WEF, from emerging markets to G8 nations – and the ones that do it best are the ones that approach their branding with a little creativity and tongue-in-cheek humour.
I’m already looking forward to WEF 2013, with hopes that we’ll be gathering in a more upbeat climate. If we’re not – and that’s likely to be the case – I’ll still be there wrapped in my South African scarf, ready for more serendipitous encounters and the chance to learn, debate and discuss the continuing global transformation.