World Business Forum Observations: Clinton, Schultz, Gladwell and Zander soar, Burberry's Ahrendts fumbles

This is the third year I have been invited to attend the World Business Forum in New York City--an event of 4,000+ business executives from over 55 countries around the world. The two-day event is strangely not well known, but includes some amazing speakers. This year I had the pleasure of being motivated, inspired and transformed by President Clinton, Jack Welch, Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Benjamin Zander, and Howard Schultz among many others.

The event has a decidedly global, business-school, and corporate-sponsored feel. However, the speakers are given enough stage time to dive-deep into meaningful, relevant, and entertaining conversations. Each year, I look forward to these two thought-provoking two days. It is a chance to step off the hamster wheel and examine issues of leadership, trends, and business management practices from some of the greatest leaders--and speakers in the field.

Being a great speaker is critical in this forum. When you share the schedule with Bill Clinton, Howard Schultz, Malcolm Gladwell, and (at the top of the heap) Benjamin Zander, you need to be at the top of your game.

Giving a great speach is far different than giving a great presentation--as anyone who has had to do both knows. Great speakers know how to capture their audience early, and have an intimate conversation--regardless of venue. They know that leaving their audience wanting more, and motivated and inspired is all that matters. Pacing of words, and creating a sense of drama is important.

In later posts I will share with you what I learned from Clinton, Gladwell and Zander--they know how to capture an audience and spin a compelling story. The only real disappointment for me this year was the CEO of Burberry--Angela Ahrendts, a talented executive who (symbolically) tripped, fell-down, and just laid on the stage with a disastrously bad presentation that felt like it was written by a junior communications manager who only know how to write in corporate-speak, and delivered (actually read from her iPad) as if she had never seen the words on the page.

That dissappointment aside, the 2011 World Business Forum did not let me down--it raised me up.

I'll try to pass along a bit of World Business Forum wit and wisdom in the next few posts.

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