World Business Forum launched in 2004 and convenes annually at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Its vision is to be the premiere leadership development and networking forum for global management execs.
The program features marquis speakers in a two-day line-up—luminaries from politics, academia, business, media influencers, the arts—along with a series of private events and receptions. Among this year’s speakers: former President Bill Clinton; London Business School Professor and business strategist Gary Hamel; Kraft Foods CEO Irene Rosenfeld; New York Times columnist and author Paul Krugman, and filmmaker George Lucas.
Rated #1 Best New Forum and #2 Best Global Forum on Burson-Marsteller’s last Most Valued Podiums survey in 2008, WBF quickly built a blue-ribbon reputation among HR professionals responsible for their company’s leadership development as well as chief marketing officers who allocate sponsorship dollars to effectively position their companies.
WBF’s aggressive global advertising and direct mail campaign helps draw the substantial audience it enjoys. The 2008 show drew 5,000 participates from nearly 50 countries. By title, 28% were C-level executives; 26% were VP level. By industry, services, manufacturing, and finance dominated the categories by 28%, 19%, and 16% respectively. Given the current economic climate, WBF expects an audience of 3,000 for the 2009 6th Annual Forum with a demographic that mirrors prior year’s profiles. By any measure, it is still a substantial convening.
An important audience characteristic to note is that unlike many other CEO and C-Suite conferences, WBF is not by invitation only. In short, there is never a guarantee of exactly who will be in the room. WBF’s point of view is that its high cost of entry ($3,500 for a VIP Pass) is self-selecting and that its demographics speak for themselves.
Speakers and Presentations.
WBF’s robust list of speakers has evolved from predominately “speaker circuit” speakers (e.g., hired guns) to a more balanced mix that includes CEOs and business executives looking to build their own company or leadership brands at a top-tier event. WBF programming does a good job of combining evergreen topics with emerging issues. This year, the International Insights discussion (including speakers from Spain, Brazil, and Taiwan) replaces a similar session format devoted to Emerging Multi-Nationals on last year’s program. Presentations are a mix of “at the podium” and “moderated discussion” sessions. The tone is consistently inspirational.
WBF is open to the press. WBF staff works easily with speaker representatives in coordinating on-site media interviews on request.
Carol Ballock is managing director of the Executive Visibility Practice at Burson-Marsteller, New York. She is also architect of the industry’s first and only proprietary survey to rank the Most Valued Podiums (“MVPs”) by CEOs and C-suite executives.