I mentioned here some time ago that my company, Wf360, co-hosts with the New York Stock Exchange (now NYSE Euronext) an annual dinner that takes place at the NYSE. It's called the 360 Summit (this was our eighth!) and always starts with drinks on the world-famous trading floor (a thrill to everyone, even those of us who have seen it before) and then moves upstairs for dinner in the famed NYSE "Luncheon Club." Invitees are about 200 senior officers and Board Directors of publicly listed companies and the event is invitation-only, so guests are pretty well guaranteed they'll be sitting at a table with people they'll find interesting, from a variety of industries.
Words From On High
We're told this year's 360 Summit was the best ever. Catherine Kinney, Co-COO of NYSE Euronext who now lives in Paris where she is overseeing this important integration of the two organizations (Euronext is the securities exchange in the heart of Paris serving much of Europe, itself a global operation) shared with the audience of business movers and shakers her perspectives on global financial markets and the NYSE Euronext role in that world.
She is impressive and had lots to talk about. It's clear that with John Thain at the lead, she and John and Noreen Culhane and others on John's global team are accomplishing nothing less than the transformation of the old NYSE, an American company doing business internationally, into a global corporation with operations all over the world. And they are doing it in the most competitive market that the securities business has ever seen. As Cathy explained, Sarbanes Oxley and other regulatory strictures imposed by the U.S. on the securities industry, is seen by some as a deterrent from listing on NYSE Euronext. Nonetheless, it continues to dominate the industry globally and she shared the statistics to prove it. But they're hard at work expanding the business into areas of the world where it is necessary to have at least a presence (as NYSE Euronext is doing in Japan and India already). It's a serious competition not just to thrive but to survive, and the industry is changing--as we speak of it--into a world-wide 24/7/365 phenomenon.
Fueling the Conversation
After Cathy's remarks, I addressed the audience about the evening itself and how we designed it purposely to focus on the conversations that would take place, during dinner, around each of the tables. I suggested that each participant approach the evening as if it were her/his own dinner party, engaging tablemates as one would be solicitous to guests in one's home, drawing them into the exchange taking place at the table...exploring whatever was of interest to the group.
I explained that we had stacked the deck to guarantee a lively dialogue at each table: first, we surrounded everyone with other movers and shakers they were bound to find fascinating, people at the top of their own game and interested to learn from others. (At past 360 Summits, we have had people who so impressed someone else at their table, they were invited to join a public board. And at a 360 Summit two years ago, Bettye Musham initiated a conversation with a tablemate that ended up in her selling a company to him!).
The Arab Fellows
Next we included at many of the tables one of the young Arab Fellows, participants in the Arab American Business Fellowship Program. It's the first of its kind, truly impressive. The brainchild of Tom Miller, a senior exec in the remarkable organization called Business for Diplomatic Action, which is, in turn, led by Keith Reinhard, Chairman Emeritus of DDB Worldwide. The Fellows were accompanied by senior executives of the publicly listed firms sponsoring this marvelous program, designed to give these already accomplished young business leaders from the Middle East an opportunity to learn from--and, yes, converse with--the best of the best of American led business leaders. And they are being given a taste of New York-based companies, as well as companies headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, in America's heartland. Each of the Arabs is an amazing business leader in their own right and they jumped right in to the discussion at their respective tables, smashing stereotypes as they spoke. (One terrific American woman business exec confided to me later that she'd assumed because they were Arabs, "they would all be men" and was thrilled to learn that there were more women in the group than men. "Another stereotype destroyed," said she, "and I didn't even realize I was operating from a sterotypical perspective until I saw the women come in and I knew I'd made an erroneous assumption about the absence of businesswomen in the Middle East.")
Business Bloggers Join the Conversation
Our third innovation this year was to invite 20 business bloggers--each respected and at the top of their game, whether reporting on marketing, media, leadership or other issues of importance to business leaders. Rounded up by superstar blogger Francois Gossieaux, President of Corante, Inc., the widely respected media guru, they found themselves sprinkled throughout the room, each at a different table where we suggested they simply join in the conversation and that "if they find the conversation interesting, they may report on it." There was mutual fascination at each table: some of the executives had little exposure to "real live bloggers" and learned a great deal. And the bloggers have told me they, too, learned a lot.
There's so much more to share with you about this extraordinary evening. In a future post I'll tell you about the 360 Leadership Award which was presented to Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of Areva, the world's largest producer of nuclear power. The award is sponsored by BNP Paribas, the global financial institution, and they have a winner with this (their third year of sponsorship), since everyone is fascinated by the criteria for selection and their involvement in it. More of that in a future blog.
Check it Out...and Join In!
For now, I suggest you take a look at what some of the marvelous bloggers have already written: Tom Steinthal gives a wonderful summary of Cathy Kinney's remarks, among other insightful observations on the evening; Tom Guarellio has done a video blog in which he picks up on our Wf360 theme of the significance of conversation to business leaders in today's world (and he adds an interesting commentary on why he feels women leaders have a possible advantage at developing what I call the "conversational company"; CK Kerley (who, it turns out--small world department--is one of my fellow co-authors of the Age of Conversation) has fascinating insights on the need for business execs to get comfortable with social media; Dorian Benkoil focuses on remarks by a Microsoft exec with whom he got into conversation. I was delighted that Howard Greenstein's wonderfully conversational post includes mention of using our Leading Questions as a great ice-breaker. Don Dodge's post includes fascinating coverage of specific executives at his table in addition to terrific pictures.
Whew! Stay tuned for more pictures...and please, do join in the conversation...