MT Masterclass: High-level networking

What is it? Successful professionals rarely let their guard drop in public.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

An ordinary person might look on a top-level conference or networking event as a perk or welcome distraction, light relief from the heap of work that awaits them back at the office. But top networkers are not so casual. They zoom in on interesting or useful people, and waste no time in expanding their list of contacts. 'What's in it for me?', they ask themselves, and 'How can I be valuable to other people?'. They embellish their virtual Rolodexes and polish up the brand called Me.

Where did it come from? Blame Klaus Schwab. In 1971, having borrowed $11,000 from a German industrialist, he launched his first high-level chinwag at Davos, in the Swiss Alps. Ever since, the world's biggest movers and shakers have headed to this little town in January to swap business cards, ideas, buzzwords and mantras. Some deals have probably been done as well. Davos is the template for all premier-league networking events, and it remains the original and best - if you like that sort of thing.

Where is it going? You might think that, with the pressure on travel budgets, worries about global terrorism, and the ever-improving quality of high-definition video-conferencing technology, the appeal of these mega-events might have waned a little. But you would be wrong. Human beings still need to meet 'f2f' - face-to-face. They like to get together and gossip. They also like to have their egos stroked by the knowledge that they've been invited to an exclusive gathering. This is the way the business world goes round. But it can also lead to groupthink and thus sow the seeds of future crises.

Fad quotient (out of 10): Eight, and inching up.

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