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Diving into Davos

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22nd Dec 2012

Every year in late January the eyes of the business world shift toward the Swiss Alps, where leading political figures, corporate leaders, social entrepreneurs and change makers gather to chart the year ahead at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.
The Forum offers the word's crown jewel of conferences, with crucial decision-making and tete-a-tetes taking place in conference hallways between everyone from finance ministers to advocates for the world's poor. Since attendance is strictly by invitation and the resort town of Davos goes into a high security lockdown, its rare for the rest of the world to see up close what Davos has to offer.
But as the conference grows, an army of top tier executives revolve around the outskirts of the meeting, holding their own bilaterals while their bosses do the heavy lifting indoors. In that regard, how does it work?
Arrivals and Stays
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Almost everyone on their way to Davos passes through Zurich airport, where the terminals train welcomes you with the sound of cowbells and mooing cows in an efficient Swiss manner. From the main counter, train tickets via Chur are easily procured, but if you're a delegate, we highly recommend taking the WEF bus, which picks up outside the terminal and offers a chance to meet others on the 2.5 hour ride into the mountains. Tickets are purchased at the WEF welcome desk in airport arrivals.
Apartments and hotels are booked up a full year in advance, so hopefully your organisation will have made arrangements long ago. For reference, the most likely source of last minute accommodation is in Klosters, a 30 minute drive away, or for the day tripper, even in Zurich itself, which has been known to happen. Hub Culture maintains an apartment network in Davos, in case you need something last minute.
Most of the action outside of the main conference takes place at the Belvedere Hotel, where a guest list of wider tier executives can apply for security clearances to attend the many events taking place on the premises. Brands including McKinsey & Co, NASDAQ, Google, Zurich Financial, PWC and others are typically active here, offering an array of meeting spaces for their executives and clients.
Other key points of influence include the new Hilton Garden Inn , which has just opened across from the Congress Center and is sure to be ground zero for power players this year. The newly renovated Hotel Schweizerhof is also a major center of action, and the beautiful new lobby is a great place to perch for a quick negotiation.
Places to Hang
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When it comes to networking, all of Davos is valuable during the time of the Forum. Some of the key locations include evening gatherings at the Piano Bar, located inside the Hotel Europa and featuring packed crowds shaking paws and trading business cards. Kafeeklatsch offers an incredible array of organic food and delicious snacks, and is centrally located. This year it is expected that Google will expand their presence their to include a full week of activities, which means you'll likely need an invite to experience their delights.
Another spot is Cafe Schneider, which offers wifi access and a range of traditional Swiss comfort foods with plenty of space to spread out in a larger group. For dinner, our pick is the impeccable Bistro Gentiana, offering warming fondues and intimate settings to close your deal. The staff are lovely and always very accommodating. Not that anyone has time for dinner, as most everything during the week of the Forum is a mix of official functions serving passed canapes, or formal invitations to dinners hosted by financial institutions, funds and the like.
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It is poor form to come to Davos and spend your time skiing, so few people actually have the time to try hitting the slopes. However, in recent years the snow has been amazing, it would be a shame to let the opportunity slip past. Try to stay until the Saturday of the conference, where you get some runs in during the afternoon or on Sunday. Its worth the extra time, and always an amazing experience to ski in these hills.
If you're still with clients, may we suggest a novel approach: snow shoeing. Its very fun, and a great way to have lots of talk time to bond. You appreciate the mountains in a very different way when walking up them, as opposed to whizzing down.
A key part of the Davos experience revolves around the Hub Culture Davos Pavilion, presented in coordination with GE, SAP, Citibank, CNN, Cognizant, Blackberry, frog!, and other partners.
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The Davos Pavilion offers a great pit-stop for meetings and networking, and features a range of evening activities, social media output, and more.
It seems every year the value of Davos grows as a meeting point to chart the year ahead, and a place to gather ideas, deals and contacts to set the agenda for the coming year. Its reach outward through the media grows ever larger, truly leading the conversation at the highest levels.
As the impact of the World Economic Forum continues to grow, it offers increasing returns for both companies that participate and the growing list of influencers that populate its edges.
See you up the Alp!