Heard in Davos 2010: Dispatches from the Conference

Elbow Room at a Premium

The working day draws to a close at the World Economic Forum. That is, if you believe most of the work is done at the Congress Center and in the sessions and not in the bars and hotels at night.

Source: World Economic Forum

Wine starts to be served and incidental bumping picks up and everyone is looking for someone in a sea of weary professionals.

It didn’t seem as crazy as previous years. There weren’t the usual, sudden media scrambles for delegates. The bathroom seemed to be causing the biggest bottleneck.

I was in the process of e-mailing a colleague on my BlackBerry that it was fairly tame when I was suddenly prodded sharply in the back by security. I moved instinctively and former President Bill Clinton breezed past. He was in a hurry, looking like he didn’t want to stop for anyone—until he did to shake hands. That’s still the power of The New York Times, I guess.

Looking to the main lobby, it was close to being packed in anticipation of French President Nicolas Sarkozy giving the opening address.

There was the usual amount of searching looks. Some by the media on deadline, but most by participants trying to find each other.

Here’s a tip: if you want to arrange to meet someone at WEF, avoid saying “I’ll be at the Plenary Bar and I’ll be wearing a dark suit.”

And it’s not just standing out for meeting someone, it attracts a certain following. Although it’s hard to argue with Tibetan monk robes, my award for the best idea goes to a man with a canary yellow sports jacket. People were just following him at a polite distance. For those in the Congress Center all day it was probably just an instinct due to deprivation of natural light.

Once people do meet it’s the usual pleasantries followed by the usual Davos pleasantries. Raymond Chandler wrote about meeting someone years after being on the same cruise together.

“You look well. Say, wasn’t that a great trip on the whatever it was?”

I submit this exchange between a Morgan Stanley exec and an executive of Deutsche Borse:

“Hey, another year of uncertainty.”

“Every intermediary is under pressure.”

“Another year of paranoia, I really think.”

And then cue the big laugh. Nobody really seems too gloom and doom in spirit, but that may be the Swiss wine.

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