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World Business Forum Chicago 2006

June 9, 2006
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Event: World Business Forum Chicago 2006, June 6-7, 2006 at Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois

About the WBF: The World Business Forum combines high-level speakers with opportunities for networking with top executives, thinkers, and business decision makers from all sectors of industry. Over 77 percent of attendees are senior executives defined as CEOs, presidents, business owners and general managers. Workforce Management is one of the media sponsors of the forum.

Conference Info: For more information about the World Business Forum go to www.hsm-us.com.

Day 2: Wednesday June 7, 2006

Second-day Speaker Lineup: Author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell (speaking on marketing & innovation), Travelocity CEO Michelle Peluso (women in leadership), management guru, author, and business consultant Kenichi Ohmae (Asia), Neusoft Group founder Dr. Jiren Liu (Asia), former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (crisis management), and former U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton (that's how he bills himself at these events) speaking on peace and global prosperity.

Best Speaker, Day 2: Malcolm Gladwell. A regular on the business speaker circuit, I've heard Gladwell speak three times in the past year and he had a different speech each time. This is highly unusual for a business speaker (for instance, Marcus Buckingham gave essentially the same talk in Chicago that I heard him give in April at the Human Resource Planning Society conference). This time, Gladwell's talk focused on lessons from his first book (The Tipping Point) rather than his most recent book (Blink). Not only did he sneak up on the audience (many were unsure of what to expect from Gladwell and found themselves pleasantly surprised), but he was also the only speaker at the conference that stayed long after his speech and interacted with attendees.

Most Disappointing Speaker, Day 2: Travelocity's Michelle Peluso. I felt bad for Peluso because she was the only woman on the program and this seemed to be the first time she had ever given a speech to a crowd of this size (around 1,500 business executives). She spoke from the podium (unlike other speakers who walked around the stage as they spoke); had no PowerPoint, slides, or other props, and generally gave a flat and dull speech. I couldn't help but think: if WBF wants to get more women on the program, why not someone like Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, or Madeline Albright? Or better yet, why not all three? Getting better women speakers is something the organizers of the WBF clearly need to work on.

Most Thought Provoking Speaker: Whether you agree with him politically or not, Bill Clinton is a very-thoughtful man with some very interesting things to say. His talk centered on the interdependence between people, nations, and economies in our 21st Century World. And, he made a case for all Americans working and focusing on the shared opportunities, responsibilities, and values that exist among us and among all people of the world. It's hard to imagine anyone leaving after listening to Bill Clinton and not having a slightly different view of what we need to do to make the world of the future a better place for our children and grandchildren.


--John Hollon


Day 1: Tuesday June 6, 2006

Big Name Speakers: If you want to hear big name speakers talking on a wide array of business and global topics, then a World Business Forum event is for you. Generally held in places like Chicago or New York, the WBF lines up the biggest names in business and politics and gets them to speak on the key issues of the day. It is a tried-and-true formula, but dependent completely on the quality of the speakers.

First day Speaker Lineup: Author and business consultant Marcus Buckingham (speaking on personal development), PricewaterhouseCoopers Chairman Dennis Nally (corporate values and behavior), former Secretary of State Colin Powell (global security), Adobe Systems CEO Bruce Chizen (growth & innovation) and Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter (strategy).

Best Speaker, Day 1: Business professor Michael Porter. Famous for developing the five-forces model of competition, Porter is probably the leading expert in the U.S., if not the world, on business strategy. He talks to a business audience the way he teaches in his classroom at Harvard and his presentation was not only lively and informative, but also tremendously entertaining and thought provoking. Porter throws out a challenge–Does your company have a business strategy? –and then spends 90 minutes demonstrating how many companies don't.

Most Disappointing Speaker, Day 1: Colin Powell. It's not that Gen. Powell didn't have some interesting things to say, but that he spent a lot of time talking about his retirement and other such mundane matters. I heard a number of attendees talking after his talk, and most everyone expected a lot more. As one executive put it, "He's had such an interesting life. I wish he would have spent more time sharing some of the key experiences from his career and less talking about what he's done since he left the State Department."

One Man's Observation: This is my third WBF conference, and if there is one thing I've gleaned from them it is that the best speaker is generally not one of the biggest names on the program. More times than not, the most enlightening and engaging speaker is someone you feel you need to sit through to get to the big-name speaker that was the draw that got you to the event in the first place. You may show up to hear Bill Clinton or Colin Powell, but it is going to be Michael Porter or Malcom Gladwell that really engages you and offers some insight you can take back to the office.

--John Hollon

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