Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Davos: 'Changing the game' over cocktails

By Richard Quest, CNN
updated 11:41 AM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
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
updated 12:14 PM EST, Mon January 27, 2014
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
updated 12:00 PM EST, Mon January 27, 2014
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?
updated 4:02 AM EST, Tue January 28, 2014
The World Economic Forum usually attracts protesters but this year's were very quiet. So why were they there?
updated 9:19 AM EST, Sat January 25, 2014
IMF chief Christine Lagarde says governments should beware of the global deflation genie coming out of its bottle.
updated 6:36 AM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
A relentless quest for share price boosts can result in disastrous long-term results, writes Andre Spicer.
updated 12:53 PM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
Actress Goldie Hawn says CEOs are discovering how to cope with stress and make better decisions .
updated 5:07 PM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
Richard Quest speaks to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon about the progress being made in establishing Syrian peace.
updated 11:58 AM EST, Sat January 25, 2014
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?
updated 4:31 AM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
Israel's President points a finger at Iran over the carnage in Syria, due to support for Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
updated 2:55 AM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
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.
updated 5:06 PM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
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.
updated 5:25 PM EST, Thu January 23, 2014
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick about the lack of a crisis at Davos 2014.
updated 5:13 PM EST, Thu January 23, 2014
Richard Quest speaks to the OECD's Angel Gurria on how inequality and lack of economic growth are tied together.
updated 2:10 PM EST, Thu January 23, 2014
It's town of cuckoo clocks, $20 pasta and very slippery pavements -- tread carefully, warns first-timer Chris Pepper.
updated 2:20 PM EST, Thu January 23, 2014
Nina dos Santos speaks to former U.S. Treasury Sec. Larry Summers who says public sector investment should be encouraged.
updated 4:49 AM EST, Thu January 23, 2014
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.
updated 10:18 AM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
CNN anchors Richard Quest and Nina dos Santos disagree as to whether this meeting of power players can make a difference to global inequality.
updated 12:17 AM EST, Thu January 23, 2014
The crisis in Syria was front and center for the movers and shakers as Davos formally got underway.
updated 11:41 AM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
Richard Quest heads to Davos, where everyone, it seems, has an event they want him to attend. Read his view of the parties.
updated 5:04 PM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
Richard Quest speaks to European Commission Pres. Jose Manuel Barroso about what can be done about the Ukrainian protests.
updated 3:18 AM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
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.
updated 6:01 PM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
Speaking at the WEF in Davos, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe said that by 2020 women occupy 30% of leadership positions.
updated 10:46 AM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
Norway's Crown Prince Haakon says it is dangerous not to let youth help reshape the world, as they have the resources to act.
updated 10:03 AM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
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.
updated 2:15 PM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
Ostentation-adverse Pope Francis has some serious cards to lay on the table in the game of global economic reform, writes John Allen.
updated 12:58 PM EST, Tue January 21, 2014
The World Economic Forum is not just a global gabfest. History is often made there, as Nina Dos Santos reports.
updated 7:51 AM EST, Mon January 20, 2014
We need to invest in human capital to combat a predatory capitalist system, argues Anne-Marie Slaughter.
updated 8:04 AM EST, Tue January 21, 2014
today's emerging markets can be divided into the tortoises and hares, CNN's John Defterios writes. But which will win 2014?
updated 5:30 AM EST, Tue January 21, 2014
CNN's Isa Soares talks to chef Alexandre Kroll about the challenges of cooking for the world's financial leaders in Davos.
updated 6:59 AM EST, Tue January 21, 2014
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?
updated 2:29 PM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
The small Swiss town of Davos readies for its annual onslaught of world leaders and power players.
updated 10:52 AM EST, Mon January 20, 2014
CNN's Richard Quest says growing income inequality will be high on the agenda at the World Economic Forum.
updated 6:15 AM EST, Fri January 17, 2014
CNN's Richard Quest ponders whether he's climbing a Swiss mountain to learn the meaning of "heterarchy."
updated 7:14 AM EST, Sun January 19, 2014
What will business leaders, heads of government, entrepreneurs and celebrities discuss in Davos?
updated 12:26 PM EST, Mon January 20, 2014
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