From our Obsession
The people and companies embracing new paradigms.
The Milken Institute Global Conference is now underway in Los Angeles. Speakers this year include… deep breath… IMF chair Christine Lagarde, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio, presidential daughter Ivanka Trump, CBS host Gayle King, former basketball player and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson, U2 guitarist The Edge, Hollywood bigwig Jeffrey Katzenberg, Sesame Street’s Elmo, and former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett.
Twenty years ago, barely 1,000 people attended the annual gathering. Today, the conference draws some 4,000 attendees from more than 60 countries. It’s one of several high-profile global confabs featuring A-list speakers, more private events than any one person can attend, and color-coded badges that follow an unfathomable hierarchy of VIP access.
Unless you’re in possession of a ticket to Milken, the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York, the Bilderberg Meeting, or their ilk, how do you actually know if the professional gathering you’re at is, in fact, a Very Important Global Conference™? How can you tell the difference between events that are professionally necessary and those that confer the sort of status that allows you to say, “Ugh, could we do the following week? I’m at [insert name of conference] next week and you know how that goes.”
To help you determine just how important your gathering is, Quartz has compiled this handy quiz. Look around you, check off all the items you see, and then add up the points.
✅ Inscrutable, multi-layered badge credentials (+2)
✅ Inscrutable, multi-layered badge credentials publicly enforced at every session, lunch, dinner, bathroom, etc. (+5)
❌ Coffee in paper cups during breaks (-1)
✅ Coffee in real cups during breaks (+1)
✅ Airport-style security (+1)
✅ Military base-style security (+2)
✅ Snipers visible on nearby rooftops (+3)
✅ Formerly disgraced public figure rehabilitating image with new career as philanthropist and/or entrepreneur (+3)
✅ Scheduled wellness sessions (yoga, meditation, reiki, puppy petting) (+1)
✅ Panel discussions described as “fireside chats” (+1)
✅ Actual fire at fireside chat (+2)
✅ More than 1,000 Google results for “Illuminati + [name of conference]” (+1)
✅ Event has become a self-referential meme (“That’s so Davos”) (+1)
✅ Attendees call one-on-one meetings “bilats” (+1)
❌ Attendees call one-on-one meetings “meetings” (-1)
✅ Former head of state (+1 each)
✅ Current head of state (+2 each)
✅ Current head of G7 state (+3 each)
✅ Panel discussion on blockchain (+1)
❌ More than two panel discussions on blockchain (-5)
✅ Session titles namecheck the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (+1 each)
✅ Bono (+1)
✅ Will.I.Am (+1)
✅ Bono and Will.I.Am (+5)
✅ Invitation-only sessions listed prominently on public agenda (+1 each)
✅ Parallel events around official venue that at least doubles conference size (+1)
✅ Location so exclusive—remote resort, private island—that it makes parallel events impossible (+5)
✅ Private after-parties (+1)
✅ Private after-parties on yachts (+2)
✅ Private after-parties featuring Grammy winners for entertainment (+5)
❌ Private after-parties with RSVP via Eventbrite (-5)
✅ On-site helipad (+5)
✅ On-site childcare (-5)
✅ Wine at happy hour (+1)
✅ Prosecco at happy hour (+2)
✅ Champagne at happy hour (+3)
❌ No happy hour (-5)
40 points or more: Congratulations! You are at a Very Important Global Conference™. Spend the day at the coffee bar and yoga room if you want to; the important thing is that when you’re back in the office and you drop a few names and talk about how busy you were, coworkers won’t bat an eyelid.
20-39 points: This conference may be important—but it is not yet Very Important. Keep an eye on the speaker list to see if they land higher-profile members of U2 next year.
Fewer than 20 points: Sorry, but sounds like a trade show or one of those gatherings where people actually get work done. Try harder next time.