"Wait, My Snow Boots Are at Coat Check": The REAL Survival Guide to Davos

At the 1984 Winter Olympics, Jayne Torvill proved to the world that a British gal could navigate her way across ice -- and the global stage -- with grace and balance.

I pray that I won't squander her legacy this week.

I've just arrived in blistery Davos, Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum, under 3 feet of snow. On Wednesday, this tranquil mountain hamlet will welcome three thousand movers and shakers from around the world to set a course for 2012. It's an unparalleled opportunity for companies, governments and NGOs to work together and respond to economic, health and environmental challenges that affect us all.

This year, I am particularly excited to hear the ideas from the 200 Young Global Shapers and Young Global Leaders that the Forum has invited to join the discussion. Most of the world is facing a bleak future when it comes to jobs, education, housing and health. The voices of the under 30 and 40 are crucial to charting the course of future prosperity.

With my golden ticket in hand -- and my fellow lady powerhouses in tow -- I have spent the last week brainstorming how to make the most of this opportunity. Working for the global health organization PSI (Twitter: @PSIHealthyLives), a non-profit, my time and resources need to be well spent.

Davos is a circus. CEOs and icy snow banks abound in equal measure. How to be practical, dynamic and create the right impression, while battling the elements at the same time!? Women are at a particular disadvantage -- the question of what winter footwear to sport is often as important as what talking points to bring as you prepare for a meeting at the conference centre.

That's why, this year, I wanted to create the REAL Davos Survival Guide, so-to-speak - to help those new to Davos dedicate their time to ideas, rather than logistics. This is only my 5th time at Davos, so I am by no means an expert spokesperson for the 40-year-old Forum. But as a woman who has survived January in Switzerland and lived to tell the tale, I thought I would share a few helpful DOs and DONTs.

DO have a strategy. A message. A game plan.

DON'T wear ski clothes or fur. This is the World Economic Forum - not a James Bond movie set.

DO share a room. Money saved. Girl bonding.

DO prepare well ahead of time. Pour through written materials, the WEF website, panel schedules and the list of who is attending.

DON'T blatantly sell your company or cause on a panel - listen, learn and make your point clearly and concisely.

DO find a wing man/woman -- someone from a completely different sector than you - to join you as you navigate meetings and panels. It's a wonderful way to forge new connections and view topics from a different perspective.

DO have a nightcap at The Piano Bar -- major networking opportunity.

DO talk to everyone on the shuttle bus or ski lift. It is the best place to network.

DON'T skip the evening events. PWC, Microsoft and Google are among the many hosts of Davos' evening soirées -- where networking and fun go hand-in-hand.

DO plan an all-day outfit. Day wear is night wear - you will have no time to return to the hotel to change before the evening events. Men wear suits; ladies wear dresses or suits. Dress for the weather -- and dress to impress.

DON'T forget snow boots. It's hard to imagine the terror of Swiss ice until you're mid-fall. Carry a plastic bag and a second pair of shoes -- the coatroom will check your snow boots when you arrive.

DO attend as many panels as you can -- even if it's not your area of expertise. You never know when a new idea will strike you.

DON'T ever look over your shoulder to see if there is someone more interesting to talk to at Davos. Apply the rules of dating. Even if the date is calamitous, it always wins to be polite, courteous and engaging.

DO keep any meeting to 10-15 minutes; everyone is busy. Have an elevator speech well prepared.

DO make notes on business cards immediately, detailing follow-up action points. You will return home with 1,278 cards in three different languages. Gird your sanity.

DON'T carry around or pass out Annual Reports. It's wasteful -- nobody will read them. Send them on the follow up.

DO write handwritten notes to follow up.

DO get 8 hours of sleep at least one night.

DO appreciate the incredible opportunity before you at Davos to make a difference - for your organization, for your company, for the world.

DO follow me on Twitter @katerobertspsi for more daily updates from Davos and the world of Global Health.

My last piece of advice is that if you are in a community such as the YGLs or Global Shapers, make friends. They will be with you for life.

Special thanks to my fellow YGL - and most importantly, my friend and mentor - Corinna Lathan (Twitter @clathan), who contributed to this post.

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