It’s hard to describe the anticipation of coming to Davos for the first time. With a month of preparation trying to understand the dynamics of those who will be attending, events to participate in, who I wanted to meet with and working out the logistics, when January 18 arrived, I was already exhausted. Traveling from Washington D.C. to Davos is an adventure in and of itself. After flying through Amsterdam to get to Zürich, there is another two-hour drive through the most beautiful mountains I have seen outside of the Colorado Rockies. As you start to approach Davos, it is clear something big is going on. There are several security checkpoints along the final few miles of a two-lane road leading to a little village at the base of a magnificent ski resort.
The town is as you might expect a ski village to be. There is a main street that, for 51 weeks of the year, is bustling with shops and restaurants. However, during Davos the corporate influence literally takes over the retail operations. Most of the stores have rented out their entire space to companies like Facebook, Salesforce, Microsoft, all of the major investment banks and just about every other Fortune 100 company you can imagine. Hospitality events and parties are nonstop along this road.
As you enter the main conference center, it is clear that the building has evolved over time. It is quite a maze of hallways, stairwells, different rooms and large meeting areas. The security is at epic proportions with checkpoints, armed guards, cameras and clearly undercover officers constantly evaluating the situation. With attendees like Vice President Joe Biden, CEOs from all of the major companies, heads of state and other influential people, they don’t mess around with keeping us safe.
Today started with a 7 AM JLL-hosted breakfast that had a very nice turnout of companies and clients from all different sectors. The official Davos event kickoff was at 9 AM, and ever since it has been meetings, presentations, seminars, and an occasional snack to keep the energy up. The conference center shuts down at around 7:30 PM, but that’s just the beginning. Then the evening events start with dinners, hospitality suites, special events and networking. It’s now 9:15 PM as I write this blog, and I am about to enter an event sponsored by the Ministry and Cultural Tourism Department from the Republic of Turkey. It looks like they have gone all out – clearly a promotional event to attract business to their country. Assuming this ends around 12:00 AM tonight, my goal will be to get to sleep by 12:30 and be ready to start it all over again at 6 AM tomorrow.
I must admit, the entire experience is a bit humbling on your first day. The level of talent, brain power and representation from global companies, academic types, scientists and NGO’s is almost surreal. Originally anticipating a traditional business development conference, I have already learned that Davos is far beyond that. There is very little talk about direct business, and much more about global issues, global business and ideas at a macro level that will help to make the world a better place both for humanity and in terms of economic prosperity for all.
I look forward to sharing my experience with all of you through this blog over the next few days.