The Clinton Global Initiative is a great conference. In terms of size and caliber of people attending, it beat Davos on the first day. President Clinton himself is a star and a pleasure to listen to. Klaus Schwab, who plays his role at Davos, is just in a much lower league. Moreover the Clinton Global Initiative is focused on deliverables, on committments and many are being received. This does not happen at Davos. There is however an area in which Davos is still way ahead of the Clinton Global Initiative and that is in format and content. It is in these areas that the CGI needs great improvement. The following is a list with my recommendations:
The Clinton Global Initiative is a medium size conference with around 1000 people. Davos has around 3000 people. The Aspen Brainstorm, 300 people. Probably the CGI has found the perfect conference size.
Still they are not managing human capital well at this event. At this conference there´s a remarkable gathering of people many of whom have something to say. But they are not getting a chance. In this respect Davos is more efficient. In my view it is better to have more sessions, more choices for participants and more voices overall. Here there are around 10 sessions per day for 800 people. At Davos there are 60 sessions a day for 3000 people so at Davos they have 4 times the number of people but 6 times the number of sessions. Sessions here are too large and don´t give an opportunity to the very smart people who attend to contribute and interact as much. Also having more sessions is an opportunity for people who attend the conference over the internet, through bloggers or through the press to go directly to the topics of interest to them. These places are like Congress many times where speeches are made for the whole country and not necessarily for other members of Congress. Ideally though you don´t want long and uninterrupted speeches, you want instead small sessions where speakers to shift from propaganda mode to a more honest Q&A session.
There´s another problem in the CGI format and that is that people are supposed to stay on the same tables throughout the day. I didn´t I change. You come to conferences like this to interact briefly with people who seem interesting to you so you can deepen the relationship outside of the conference. CGI´s system connects you too much with people at your table and little with anyone else. So I switched tables so I could go to three tables in one day.Tracks are fine and plenaries are fine but there should be more sessions, smaller sessions and shorter sessions. Lastly there´s a problem with the format as questions can only be asked anonymously and through moderators. A conference in which nobody can raise their hands and ask a question is just undemocratic.
Allow people to raise their hands:
This is the first conference I ever attended in which nobody can ask a question. It is simply not allowed. Nobody says so but there´s no time left for Q&A, speakers talk until their time is up.
Have more speakers:
I have never been to a conference in which I saw so many interesting people in the audience without an opportunity to speak. Davos is great at giving around a third of the attendees some kind of role. Here less than 10% of the attendees actually get to say something. There was no need to invite more people to this conference. People just needed a chance to speak.
Have shorter sessions:
The sessions at CGI are the longest I have ever been to. In the end even the speakers are bored. Granted I do suffer from some AADD (adult attention deficit disorder), still one hour sessions is better than 3 hour long marathons.
Have smaller sessions:
250 people in a room? It just does not work. It is ok to have some plenaries with people like Tony Blair, but other than those smaller more intimate sessions are essential. It´s a downer to come from so far away to watch people on a screen.
Give participants more of a chance to interact with each other:
This conference is about committments about putting people to work to solve the problems of the world. If it is why not facilitate that people meet and start working? The conference is lacking in hall area or meeting space outside of the session. Conferences should promote fortuitous encounters. This experience is lacking here.
Choose another Venue:
The Sheraton hotel is now populated by a blend of bargain shoppers from around the world and global leaders. I know it sounds elitist to complain about tour operators occupying half of the hotel but I do think that this hotel lacks the presence, the appeal to host a global conference.
The Talk Show Decor of the Conference is not appropriate:
Now this maybe a difference between Americans and Europeans but the overall decor, the logo, the signs, the look of the conference itself seems to me that of a local TV network. It pains me to see an older global leader like Shimon Peres enter the scene to a music that seems to come from a wrestling show. This conference needs an image makeover. I know President Clinton has chosen amazing colaborators like Ralph Applebaum, the designer of the Holocaust Museum to work with him. As a result he ended up with the Clinton Library which is by far the most beautiful Presidential Libraries and simply one of the most beautiful museums in the world. Now how could the same team that did that library choose the look and feel that this conference has escapes me. It is not difficult to have a better image. We did it at our conference, a look at the web of this conference says it all.
The Conference does not have a presence on the Internet:
It is remarkable that a conference that gathers the amazing roster of global leaders does not have a significant web presence. The web site of the conference is static, it does not allow people to attend through the net, to contribute through the net, to interact through the net. Google for example is one of the main sponsors of this conference. Google or others should have given a hand to make this conference more web friendly.
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