Following our previous exploration on CNBC producing the Delivering Alpha conference, I’d like to extend the theme and explore the Forbes Summit Group. CNBC and Forbes are both media companies, both equally well respected, and though the former’s focus is on television broadcasts and the latter on magazine publications, they both attract a similar audience base of people interested in high level business. Delivering Alpha is CNBC’s flagship event production. Forbes on the other hand, has this entire arm within their company called the Forbes Summit Group, and they produce several branded conferences each year that convene distinct demographics of the Forbes readership.
Perhaps the most famous thing that Forbes is known for is their billionaires lists and rankings. Just as Fortune magazine is known for their rankings of 500 companies, Forbes is known for its rankings of the 400 richest people in the world. Capitalizing on this community, Forbes has been running an annual conference for the past six years called the Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy. The biggest philanthropists, foundation operators, and activists in the world attend the event, thus far having been held every year at the Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library. People ranging from Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, David Rubenstein, and others, gather to discuss the humanitarian issues around the world and the most optimal way to resolve these issues. As my theory goes with every other conference, I believe this is also an excuse for these several hundred people to gather each year to network with each other regarding whatever other business they’re doing.
Forbes also runs a number of other branded conference throughout the year. As one might expect, a number of these are executive conferences, like the Forbes Global CEO Conference, the Forbes CMO Summit, and the Forbes CIO Summit. Forbes also runs an Under 30 Summit, in conjunction with its “30 Under 30” lists that directly competes with the Inc. version of the same list. There is also a Forbes Women’s Summit that discusses women in high management and business. There is a Forbes Healthcare Summit that convenes the heads of all the giant pharmaceutical companies, and the Forbes Playbook IConference that convenes all the top financial advisors.
There are many more still. In all, the Forbes Summit Group produces about a half a dozen events every year, each with a distinct theme that ties in one way or another with the core content of the Forbes brand. Not every conference is an annual recurring conference, but all the conferences have a brand, a name that’s descriptive yet general enough that it gives the gathering potential to become a recurring conference.
A conference is like any other business model, like any other product. It can be produced and operated in a way that it makes money, or it can be done in a way that it serves to complement the core business model of the company that produces it. Existentially, the greatest power that a conference has is its convening power. In the same way published and broadcasted media define are fundamentally in the business of attracting eyeballs, conferences and all other live events are in the business of attracting people to convene at the same place at the same time. Everything after that is a logistic. Whether it’s who to invite, what to talk about, how to make money, or how to design the interactions itself, all those things are logistical considerations that can come only after understanding that the fundamental reason for event professionals to exist in society is that we are good at bringing people together in the same place at the same time.
See you at the next exploration!