Heard in Davos 2010: Dispatches from the Conference

The Bat Cave and the Humble VIPs

On the second day of Davos there atmosphere relaxes some. There’s a kind of adjustment that takes place and the VIP mentality wears off a bit as attendees meet each other to discuss the morning news.

Source: World Economic Forum

They are more at ease lingering in the public areas instead of seeking places of solace and roped-off areas.

As always there are exceptions. European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet holed up in a bilateral meeting room and they raced across the lobby with his public relations person and his bodyguard to an elevator.

For the last three years the only time I’ve seen Trichet when he’s not in a session is making for that elevator. I have no idea where it goes. (Asked WEF staff and got a shrug). I used to think it went down to the nuclear bunker, but learned this year that you have to take the stairs for that. So maybe it’s a kind of policymaker Bat Cave where you can add liquidity or hike rates at a machine with big, flashing lights.

But you can get a sense of the attendees as more regular folks when you listen to the post-mortem of a session.

One top executive moderating a panel Thursday morning bemoaned that panel members would answer questions and that he didn’t know how hard to push them. He was also unhappy at big-name cancellations. It was a rough self-assessment.

But the twist is that most session speakers aren’t more than 10 feet from a PR person to cheer them up.

“Wasn’t he/she great? The best in the session, right? Just outstanding!” they urgently tell the press.

A PR person also lets them avoid being the bad guy. Renault Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn greeted a journalist warmly, like an old friend. But as soon as the interview request came, Ghosn turned to his PR man and said: “The boss is over there!”