Leadership Competencies

Meeting of the Minds: The Milken Institute Global Conference celebrates a milestone

When you get into a room with hundreds of thoughtful, forward-looking and motivated people over four days to discuss the most pressing social, political and economic challenges of the moment, expect to whisper “aha” to yourself many, many times. With its star-studded Global Conference, the Milken Institute has been creating these kinds of moments each spring for the last 15 years.

During this high-powered retreat, some 3,000 attendees representing public companies with a market cap of more than $5 trillion will walk the hallways of the Beverly Hilton, looking to make connections and exchange ideas with CEOs, investors, innovators, Nobel Laureates, scientists, policymakers and scholars. The conference brings together an eclectic mix of thought leaders from around the world, representing every sector of the economy.

The guest list is deserving of a Hollywood red carpet. Names like Al Gore, Arianna Huffington, T. Boon Pickens, Quincy Jones, Andre Agassi, Ted Turner, Frank Gehry and Eric Schmidt have all shared, debated and tried to move their opinions forward by offering innovative solutions to some of the most complex problems the world is facing today whether it’s market stability, economic development, energy security, global health care, education reform or emerging technologies.

This is where medical breakthroughs, investment opportunities and disruptive technologies that have not yet filtered into the spotlight are discussed at length. Here’s a slice of what last year’s topics included: Retirement (In)Security, The Future of Print, The Future of Wall St., Small-Cap High-Yield Outlook, Next-Generation Biofuels, The New Economics of Food, Slowing Climate Change: Plan B, and Recovery in Real Estate.

Last year in a panel on energy security, a packed crowd heard T. Boone Pickens give a captivating 40-minute speech full of memorable and humorous one-liners. Education reform took center stage in another with philanthropist Eli Broad, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten talking about the conflicts within the domestic education system, competition from abroad, and what to do next.

Titans in the publishing industry dissected the future of the printed word and took on questions surrounding copyright infringement, e-book advances and the iPad effect. Even Hall-of-Fame NBA player Bill Walton showed up to talk about the highs and lows of his career and repeat the mantras he learned from his legendary coach John Wooden.

Finance, though, is what takes top billing with dozens of sessions devoted to addressing the latest market trends. State treasurers, pension fund officers, venture capitalists, private equity and hedge fund managers are on stage, in the audience and wandering the hallways. In fact, the first conference was started as a way of bringing together business leaders and policy makers to talk about the Asian financial crisis, which was reaching its pinnacle at the time and raising fears of a worldwide economic meltdown.

Over the years, the conference has grown not only in terms of its guest list but also in the variety of topics up for discussion. When that first gathering got underway, there were about 60 speakers with one or two dozen discussion panels. The event started on a Monday night and was over by Wednesday afternoon. In 2012, more than 500 speakers will participate in more than 100 sessions.

Who’s there?

More than 40 percent of all attendees are chairmen, presidents, CEOs, directors, partners, vice presidents, CIOs or CFOs.

Major philanthropists and representatives from some of the world’s most prominent family offices and foundations are on hand.

Attendees come from across the United States and from 60 nations around the world.

If you are part of the Vistage community you can register for this year’s conference at a discounted rate of 50% off registration by clicking here and entering the discount code VISTAGE-GC12.

Category: Leadership Competencies

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About the Author: Kim Castleberry

Kim Castleberry is a content development strategist and writer based out of Colorado. She recently served as Associate Director of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

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