Page last updated at 20:40 GMT, Monday, 26 January 2009

A beginners' guide to Davos

By Tim Weber
Business editor, BBC News website

So you have received the much sought-after invitation to attend the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos. But what should you look out for?

Davos participant Jaggi Vasudev in the snow
Be prepared for cold weather

For starters, pack the right kind of clothes. Davos is high up in the Swiss mountains, above 1,500 metres.

In January that means it is cold and bitterly cold at night time. Temperatures can drop to minus 20 Celsius and less. You need some serious winter gear, and good boots to trudge through the snow and ice.

Some people swap their mountain boots for fancy shoes at the entrance, but most people don't bother with carrying the extra luggage.

Your wardrobe should strike the right balance between keeping warm and what's loosely termed "business casual". Ties are out. Wear a suit if you must, but you won't look out of place wearing casual trousers and a jacket or sweater.

There's one exception: If you are the founder of a sophisticated tech firm. Especially if the company starts with the letter G and is big in the web search sector. If that's the case, you can wear anything from trainers to an old jumper.

Agenda setting

The biggest problem for a newcomer is to avoid being overwhelmed.

Participants in Davos Congress Centre
Your best Davos moments can be found in the corridors

More than 200 official sessions have been crammed into five days, and then there is the lure of dozens of private parties and networking events every day.

Stock up on sleep ahead of Davos, and work out which sessions you really want to go to.

Then reserve a place at your key sessions early. Some events are full within 15 minutes after booking starts.

Make sure you attend a few of the more off-beat sessions, for example on "Neuroeconomic discoveries", "The power of music in healing mind and body", "What is good design?", and "Political art: what now?".

Davos is special because it offers you the serendipity of broadening your horizon in unexpected directions.

Striding with a purpose

Some people come to Davos and don't attend a single session. Instead they have back-to-back meetings with up to 70 business partners or politicians because only here can they find them all in one place.

But that's the exception, and applies exclusively to the highest-powered business leaders.

Don't be intimidated when everybody seems to be striding through the conference centre full of purpose.

"They look as if they do know what they are doing, but they don't," says Lord Digby Jones.

In the controlled chaos that is Davos, especially within the labyrinthine Congress Centre, there is no shame in letting yourself drift like flotsam to soak up the atmosphere.


If you do that you are most likely to have your best "Davos moments".

WEF participants swapping business cards
The business card, your most important tool in Davos

Strike up a conversation with people you've never met before. Nearly everybody in the Congress Centre is either interesting or potentially highly useful.

There are no public relations managers and no personal assistants. Just you and about 2,000 of the most powerful people in the world.

It is here that social entrepreneurs, young executives and technology pioneers make the contacts that can change their lives and the fate of their companies.

Whether you call it networking or schmoozing, the rules are simple: Talk, listen, learn; be open to surprises and be prepared to surprise others.

Which leads us to the most important item on your pack list: Don't forget your business cards, and I mean plenty of them.

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