Seven ways to have conversations that matter in Davos
Last week I was at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos along with 3,000 leaders of government business, government, religion, and civil society. Nestled between the snow-capped mountains, these leaders reflected and predicted the world’s future. With a program as vertiginous as the Alps, how do you have a meaningful conversation? After working on seven Annual Meetings in Davos, here are seven tips for a conversation that will truly matter:
- Clarify your call: Spend time articulating what and how you want people (particularly in Davos) to remember you. Develop a memorable message –one that sticks! – by crafting (1) your core topic(s), (2) facts that support your claims, and (3) stories that bring your messages to life. Sound bites will help you get your call across to key influencers and the media; but remember, clever words never replace clear thinking and creative insight. If you make connections that others haven’t made, they will remember you.
- Prioritize events you will attend: Through TopLink (WEF’s content and collaboration space) you can plan when and where to hear the latest thinking. And always bring a notebook to brainstorm during the talk. This will be your free time to reflect in a very busy schedule. Target events that help build your network or challenge your thinking, or both.
- Speak at or moderate events: As a panelist or moderator in a formal program you have a unique opportunity to reveal your insight with credible authorities, which positions you not only at Davos but beyond. Several Davos events are now live-streamed.
- Set up 20-minute bilateral meetings: Focus on those you want to influence. Exploit TopLink’s participant list; you can search for individuals by country or industry. Or, you can simply take the time to go through the list in detail, and hopefully stumble upon people you did not know would be there. First, share one-page concept notes or briefing documents (along with your biography) before your meetings. This will crystallize what you want to discuss. Second, prepare carefully. Then after Davos, follow up quickly to move forward on what you discussed and agreed.
- Don’t only attend, host: Host a round table discussion with 40 people, or a dinner with up to 100 people. There are advantages to hosting alone; likewise, there are benefits with co-hosting partners from both the public and private sectors, provided you are focusing on the same theme and call to action. Personally invite those who you wish to have at the table. Short inspiring introductory keynotes followed by either a round table discussion with open questions and answers, or conversations around round tables will give more people the opportunity to speak. There are few places at Davos for spontaneous conversations, so this is widely appreciated. Your opening or concluding remarks as a host will set call for action, making you not only a thought leader, but also a thoughtful leader.
- Speak with the media: This year we coordinated close to 40 interviews with top-tier media in Davos. Send a media advisory to the press in November letting them know that you will be in Davos. Follow up with more detailed themes that you can comment on in December and issue a press release the day before Davos. Schedule your interviews in advance and ensure broadcast interviews the night before or the day of the Annual Meeting. (The coffee bar in the Congress Center next to the Sanada room is my favorite.) This will set the agenda, rather than be driven by it. Speak with the media – not just to them! – by introducing yourself to the press when you see them or by dropping by the media village. Important: do not do exclusive interviews, because you do not know who you might be excluding.
- Start to prepare early: If it is your first time at WEF in Davos, get in touch with us and we can help you navigate the mountain village and Forum. If you have attended before, (1) recap on what worked and didn’t work last year, (2) what do you want to achieve this year, and (3) who do you want to influence next year. Make your plan today for who you want to influence, where, what global events you want to attend and speak at in 2017.
Ingrid Helsingen Warner
Senior Advisor, International Communications, based in Oslo
Ingrid is currently on maternity leave. At Leidar she supports internationally-minded leaders and companies with their positioning and thought leadership activities.