Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Davos: 'Changing the game' over cocktails

By Richard Quest, CNN
January 22, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Richard Quest heads to Davos, where everyone, it seems, has an event they want him to attend
  • Among the guests are the world's biggest political, economic and corporate players
  • Governments meet corporations; corporations meet clients and the press meet everyone

Editor's note: Richard Quest is CNN's international business correspondent and presenter of Quest Means Business; the definitive word on how we earn and spend our money. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) -- For the past few weeks my email box has been slowly, inexorably, filling up with Davos invites. A seminar here, a reception there, a late nightcap thrown in. Everyone, it seems, has an event -- and they want you to attend.

There are the governments bringing along their hot-shot ministers, with whom you can schmooze over canapes; the consulting groups holding parties to reveal their latest surveys; the NGOs seeking attention and coverage for their causes; the companies screaming "we're here, come and meet our CEO!"

Richard Quest
Richard Quest

Like opportunistic birds pecking juicy flies from the head of a wallowing hippo, they are feeding on the WEF's ability to attract the world's biggest political, economic and corporate players. Governments meet corporations; corporations meet clients; the press meets everyone. All have a story to tell and an agenda to sell.

Allow me to give you a taste of some of this year's events: one company has invited me to a "thought provoking breakfast discussion on the future of human capital" (dress code: Business casual; funny - I was going to wear my ski gear); another is offering a session on "re-defining success in a digital age." Doesn't salary count anymore?

Then of course there is the need to have a USP. One consulting group has tied its Davos invite to a photography exhibition: "Game changing -- now is the time!" Everyone wants to be seen to be game changing.

Feeding the famous at Davos
Richard Quest's Davos do's and dont's

There are some obvious winners. The Sochi Nightcap, sponsored by Coke and the Russians, will celebrate the two week countdown to the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Since it's late -- from 10 'til midnight - and also sponsored by Russian business, I predict with confidence that this will be both full and very lively.

Then of course there are the hardy perennials, such as PWC with its Global CEO Survey launch, featuring cocktails.

There are some events that you just don't miss (if, that is, you are lucky enough to be invited). The informal closed breakfast session with Shimon Peres is always a fascinating chance to hear the 91-year-old president of Israel speak with prescience on world issues. It alone is worth the trip to Davos.

Everyone from Martin Sorrell's WPP to the government of South Africa wants a bit of your time during the Davos week. And all of this is on top of the 88 pages of official panels, seminars and discussions.

Crucially, invitations are always described as "individual and non-transferable" as if there are hordes of interlopers waiting to freeload. To guarantee your place it is not enough to simply be a Davos attendee, you need to be invited to each specific event too.

Davos is probably the world's most elite society, but it dresses itself up as a non-elite event. Don't be fooled. You must wear a specially coloured badge, which shrieks your status to others. There are events to which you may be granted admission or be barred from joining. Even the hotel that you are allocated speaks volumes (please WEF, some will beg, don't put me in Klosters this year... pretty please!).

But there is one meeting place for everyone at Davos, where status goes out of the window, and who you are matters less than if you can pay for the ridiculously priced drinks: the Piano Bar. Late, very late at night, they pack them in with bone crushing disregard for comfort. Everyone from interns and volunteers, to CEOs and government leaders - the lot. Drunken singing and high jinks ensue.

This is a truly Swiss experience because the Piano Bar is neutral territory. It doesn't matter how you got to Davos, or why you are there; once you're in the Piano Bar all that matters is that you drink, sing and make merry.

Then the early hour arrives, and the chance for a couple of hours' sleep, before it's time to attend that morning breakfast discussion, redefining something or other. You will only wish you could remember what.

Read more:

All you need to know to be a Davos delegate

Davos 2014: Complete coverage

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
January 27, 2014 -- Updated 1714 GMT (0114 HKT)
The World Economic Forum in Davos was a missed opportunity to start real dialogue and must change if it is to stay relevant, argues Richard Quest
January 27, 2014 -- Updated 1700 GMT (0100 HKT)
Nina dos Santos was in Davos interviewing world leaders by day, mingling at the parties of millionaires by night. So what are they really like?
January 28, 2014 -- Updated 0902 GMT (1702 HKT)
The World Economic Forum usually attracts protesters but this year's were very quiet. So why were they there?
January 25, 2014 -- Updated 1419 GMT (2219 HKT)
IMF chief Christine Lagarde says governments should beware of the global deflation genie coming out of its bottle.
January 24, 2014 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
A relentless quest for share price boosts can result in disastrous long-term results, writes Andre Spicer.
January 24, 2014 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
Actress Goldie Hawn says CEOs are discovering how to cope with stress and make better decisions .
January 24, 2014 -- Updated 2207 GMT (0607 HKT)
Richard Quest speaks to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon about the progress being made in establishing Syrian peace.
January 25, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
selfie Richard Quest
Selfie is the word du jour and CNN's Richard Quest set himself a selfie challenge, but which VIPs agreed to pose?
January 24, 2014 -- Updated 0931 GMT (1731 HKT)
Israel's President points a finger at Iran over the carnage in Syria, due to support for Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
January 24, 2014 -- Updated 0755 GMT (1555 HKT)
World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim calls for a concerted global effort to help Syria's refugees, saying the response so far has been inadequate.
January 24, 2014 -- Updated 2206 GMT (0606 HKT)
Richard Quest speaks to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu about why cyber security is so important to the Israeli economy.
Think you're paid what you're worth? Explore how your wage compares to the average in your country, then see where you sit globally.
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick about the lack of a crisis at Davos 2014.
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 2213 GMT (0613 HKT)
Richard Quest speaks to the OECD's Angel Gurria on how inequality and lack of economic growth are tied together.
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 1910 GMT (0310 HKT)
It's town of cuckoo clocks, $20 pasta and very slippery pavements -- tread carefully, warns first-timer Chris Pepper.
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 1920 GMT (0320 HKT)
Nina dos Santos speaks to former U.S. Treasury Sec. Larry Summers who says public sector investment should be encouraged.
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 0949 GMT (1749 HKT)
Almost 40 years and trillions worth of GDP after Mao, an entire generation still has little idea of what kind of nation to strive for, writes Damien Ma.
January 22, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
CNN anchors Richard Quest and Nina dos Santos disagree as to whether this meeting of power players can make a difference to global inequality.
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 0517 GMT (1317 HKT)
The crisis in Syria was front and center for the movers and shakers as Davos formally got underway.
January 22, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Richard Quest heads to Davos, where everyone, it seems, has an event they want him to attend. Read his view of the parties.
January 24, 2014 -- Updated 2204 GMT (0604 HKT)
Richard Quest speaks to European Commission Pres. Jose Manuel Barroso about what can be done about the Ukrainian protests.
January 22, 2014 -- Updated 0818 GMT (1618 HKT)
Egypt has entrusted its democracy to the army, the police, a disempowered political class, writes Aalam Wassef.
Answer 4 questions to tell us if your mood is up or down, and see how others are responding.
January 22, 2014 -- Updated 2301 GMT (0701 HKT)
Speaking at the WEF in Davos, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe said that by 2020 women occupy 30% of leadership positions.
January 22, 2014 -- Updated 1546 GMT (2346 HKT)
Norway's Crown Prince Haakon says it is dangerous not to let youth help reshape the world, as they have the resources to act.
January 22, 2014 -- Updated 1503 GMT (2303 HKT)
Three years after the Arab Spring, its issues are back on the agenda and Syrian peace talks have begun. A Tunisian writer says little has changed.
January 24, 2014 -- Updated 1915 GMT (0315 HKT)
Ostentation-adverse Pope Francis has some serious cards to lay on the table in the game of global economic reform, writes John Allen.
January 21, 2014 -- Updated 1758 GMT (0158 HKT)
The World Economic Forum is not just a global gabfest. History is often made there, as Nina Dos Santos reports.
January 20, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
We need to invest in human capital to combat a predatory capitalist system, argues Anne-Marie Slaughter.
January 21, 2014 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
today's emerging markets can be divided into the tortoises and hares, CNN's John Defterios writes. But which will win 2014?
January 21, 2014 -- Updated 1030 GMT (1830 HKT)
CNN's Isa Soares talks to chef Alexandre Kroll about the challenges of cooking for the world's financial leaders in Davos.
January 21, 2014 -- Updated 1159 GMT (1959 HKT)
Why would a young person with a job, or in education, or training, want to riot and loot, when they have a stake in the future?
January 24, 2014 -- Updated 1929 GMT (0329 HKT)
The small Swiss town of Davos readies for its annual onslaught of world leaders and power players.
January 20, 2014 -- Updated 1552 GMT (2352 HKT)
CNN's Richard Quest says growing income inequality will be high on the agenda at the World Economic Forum.
January 17, 2014 -- Updated 1115 GMT (1915 HKT)
CNN's Richard Quest ponders whether he's climbing a Swiss mountain to learn the meaning of "heterarchy."
January 19, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
What will business leaders, heads of government, entrepreneurs and celebrities discuss in Davos?
January 20, 2014 -- Updated 1726 GMT (0126 HKT)
Davos is invitation-only, but even if you made the cut, could you afford the entry fee? And once there, what do you need to do to fit in?
ADVERTISEMENT