Conferences and summits are frequently hit or miss. On occasion they will reveal remarkable stories, but all too often there can be a lot of hurrying up and waiting. Our deputy editor Spencer Anderson was in China recently for the World Investment Forum in Xiamen, and even though he spoke with several government leaders and ministers and was greatly impressed with China’s organisation and investment scene, for every good meeting there were just as many useless ones.

So as I head out to the International Monetary Fund-World Bank annual meetings in Washington, DC, I have to wonder if it will be another rat race. While there is undoubtedly a lot going on, much of it happens behind closed doors. I’m usually able to pry those doors open, but sometimes it takes quite a crowbar. Ironically, at last year's event, a colleague and I nabbed a meeting with a sought-after government minister, only to get locked in the room with him due to a faulty door – practically needing a crowbar to get out and very nearly missing a crucial next appointment. 


Meetings are supposed to be opportunities for us to do exactly that: meet people. They can be great venues for us to exchange ideas and get a better idea of what is going on around the world. But all too often they become meetings about having meetings, or even worse, they become platforms for notorious windbags (I could name names but that wouldn't be nice – and I might need a meeting with one of them one day) to pontificate about topics few are interested in.

Surely there is no magic solution to having the perfect conference, and respect should be given to those who have the thankless task of getting hundreds, and at times thousands, of people from all corners of the earth to meet in one location and be in specified places at specified times. 

But maybe the key is to keep it simple. Keep the meetings small, less formal, and shorter. Is it really necessary to get so many people to come? These days, thanks to technologies like Skype and Google’s video chat, we can 'meet' up with anyone with a decent internet connection. Our world is definitely getting smaller, and maybe before long these mega-conferences will seem an antequated concept, romantically remembered if not missed.

But for the time being they remain an integral part of what we do at fDi. Meeting people doesn’t necessarily require a conference, but to date they have still provided us with some of the best stories and scoops in the business -- it's all a matter of opening the right doors.

Courtney Fingar is the editor of fDi Magazine