Confessions of a Davos Virgin

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Welcome to Davos, the annual networking event of the year. Armed with business cards, snow boots and thermal underwear, I was ready to take on four days at -10 Celsius.

This is a place reserved for the powerful, the famous and the influential. The attendees are here, mainly because they can afford the thousands of pounds that it costs to attend. Even WEF’s “strategic partners” are being asked for £388,000 (and that’s going up by 20% next year).

It’s a slightly daunting experience, as I’m attending for the first time. But I don’t expect any preferential treatment. That’s only for the CEOs and heads of state with their chauffeurs and small army of assistants.

I suppose as a PR attending the World Economic Forum – I should feel privileged to be the Sherpa to my client’s CEO. Some were there to solve the world’s greatest problems. Me? I was there to find my way into a crowded space where everyone wants to be heard.The truth is, somewhere within the 16 hour working days, being at Davos makes it easier to pitch your client. If you find the right topic and the right person to listen, you can secure high quality coverage.

Once you overcome the feelings of inadequacy – where someone a decade younger than you will be the MD of their own international company on the agenda of the world’s leaders – you realise that actually being at Davos is far more meaningful. Attending is a privilege.

Neeraj Kanwar Reuters Apollo Tyres World Economic Forum

Neeraj Kanwar, Managing Director and Vice Chairman of Apollo Tyres Ltd, is interviewed by Reuters at The World Economic Forum

It’s a perfect opportunity to rub shoulders with the global media and create new contacts with the likes of Reuters, The Economist and journalists from across the world. All of this over some delicious Kobe beef, and a bottle of Sake at Japan’s showcase event. It’s an opportunity that would be hard to find back in the UK. It is the world’s best networking opportunity.

In truth, the real action at Davos happens away from the panels and conferences. Forget the big events. Focus on smaller, intimate meetings where the breakfasts and brunches trump the cocktails and canapés. When you are invited to the parties, enjoy your few moments of conversation because you’ve got 30 seconds before the person you’re talking to – who is constantly looking over your shoulder – runs off to someone else more important to talk to. But walking alongside Richard Branson will certainly make you feel special. For three seconds. But hey, it didn’t matter that we didn’t actually have a conversation. Does it? I got to say hi to one of the world’s greatest business legends.

“Doing Davos” was an eye-opening experience. It’s certainly not the fancy cocktail party in the mountains that some people say it is. The real opportunities come from building a network of high-quality, meaningful relationships. A situation that is incomparable outside of the WEF. Yes, you will never actually get to meet a world leader, or have a dinner with Richard Branson. As a Davos Virgin, you’re not invited. Everyone has someone else cooler or more important to eat with than you.

So as I quietly walk in for my final meal in Klosters, I whisper; a table for one please.

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