Riding the Wave at Davos

Attending an event like the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland can feel like a return to the school yard blended with innovative makers fair. There are so many interesting conversations happening, you don’t know which one to be a part of. You sense that there are groups and established communities, relationships that have preceded your entrance, and you don’t know the best way to be sensitive to these and yet to still forge inroads. The crowded annual event can quickly become overwhelming, and more often than not, attendees allow themselves to be battered about by competing social currents like jelly fish in the ocean.

Like in the ocean, a dividing line is quickly drawn between those who make the currents and those who are swept by them. The deception of Davos is that being battered about between events, breakfasts, cocktails, panels, and exclusive after-parties feels enriching and rewarding in itself, and most attendees leave fulfilled and looking forward to next year. But Davos represents a greater opportunity than this, one that many participants never fully realize.

The Real Value of Davos

When a corporate executive or leadership team attends Davos, they have roughly 96 hours of access to leaders in the public, private, and cause sectors that are otherwise spread across the globe. A series of meetings can be held in a morning that would otherwise take a month of travel. New relationships can grow lasting partnerships while also presenting an opportunity to enter multiple conversations affecting your business interests.

At Handshake, we are often asked by our clients how they can garner media attention at Davos. Many attendees believe that getting an interview or being quoted in an article shows the value of attending. While media attention is seductive, Davos offers something of greater significance – a forum that short circuits traditional media and allows you to reach a particularly valuable and influential audience directly.

You don’t have to make waves at Davos in order to initiate and engage in meaningful conversations with potential partners and allies from across sectors and around the globe. There is a happy medium between making waves and being battered about by them – ride them and let them take you farther.

Go Wide, Go Deep

It is a daunting proposition to engage in the right conversations, drive those that are most meaningful, know who are the leaders on issues most important to you, and find the waves with the greatest potential. At Handshake, we have developed a uniquely strategic approach for our clients to make the most out of those 96 hours.

After defining what success looks like for our clients and what issues and interests are of highest priority, we go wide. Going wide entails mapping all of the conversations, issues, and communities at Davos in real time, as they develop. In years past this might have required a hundred listeners flooding the forum, we can now do this with a single analyst using our media analytics platform. As more events and conversations move online, our analysts can track a conversation as it develops across the universe of traditional and social media, identify the key drivers of it, and even gauge its total reach. This allows us to map the key events, participants, and conversations that our clients should prioritize.

While this is an invaluable tool, we realize that not every conversation, in fact often not the most meaningful conversations, are public and on social media. It is often these conversations that are the most important and impactful for our clients, and it is for these key moments that we go deep.

Going deep involves closely working with our clients in the months before Davos to identify and build partnerships of value. These partnerships become launching pads at Davos for deeper conversations with key drivers, and often form a bedrock to both drill down into and build from. This approach complements our wider mapping and allows the flexibility to attract new partners as well as jump into other conversations or communities as opportunities emerge.

In years past, Handshake worked closely with clients and partners in creating the Goal 17 Partnership Space at Davos. The Goal 17 venue quickly became a platform where attendees could drill deep into the highest priority issues alongside other key influencers, while still allowing us to keep a wider view of the other conversations going on around us. Building on that success we will feature programming in a number of different formats and venues in 2018. After all, this school yard is hectic and having friends can help you cope. By building out this infrastructure for our clients to go wide and still go deep, we allow them to focus on riding the wave, rather than being sucked under. And they still have plenty of time to take in the beautiful Davos landscape.