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Planning for Princes, Prime Ministers, and Protests

The meeting planners responsible for Davos encounter all the same problems you do, just with more royalty and lower temperatures.

The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, widely known as Davos after the town where the conference is held, is wrapping up in Switzerland. Last year the WEF planning team deployed 4,000 Swiss soldiers, more than 1,000 police officers, and instituted a no-fly zone around the Davos Congress Centre and about 20 protestors were still able to break through the security cordon. This year, the conference has not had too much disruption from protestors, although a 16-year-old Swedish activist is sleeping in a tent outside the conference center in subzero temperatures to highlight climate change. Here are some of the challenges the WEF event planning team face every year:

Accommodating sessions that vary from Britain’s Prince William interviewing the 92-year-old naturalist David Attenborough to small technology workshops unveiling innovations, such as CuteCircuit’s sound-sensitive shirt that will allow deaf people to “feel” music.

Sharing the Davos meetings and presentations with the world. Although some of the world leaders attending the conference are holding private meetings, most of the events and presentations are freely available on the WEF YouTube Channel, including a livestream. That’s a lot of video from a four-day conference.

$10,000 hotel rooms. Yes, things get a little pricey around Davos during the conference. Here are some other surprising stats, including 5,000 armed soldiers and 55 kilometers (about 34 miles) of fencing, deployed to protect the conference.

No-shows. More world leaders canceled their appearances at Davos this year than in any other, including U.S. President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May, French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron, and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Here are some of the world leaders who did make it to Davos this week, as well as, of course, Bono. The U2 singer and founder of the advocacy group One is a regular attendee.

Carbon offsets. The WEF has undertaken to offset the conference’s carbon footprint and a lot of attendees travel to Davos in private jets.  From an environmental standpoint, this is the worst way to travel (the teenager from Sweden, Greta Thunberg, took a 32-hour train ride). Here is the sustainability policy WEF planners follow. 

The meetings staff at the WEF also plan two other annual meetings each year, as well as a variety of smaller, regional meetings. Not bad for a nonprofit!




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