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Dahlia Farahat, Middle East Conference Chair

By Rachel Harper

LBS’s prestigious Middle East conference 2018 takes place on Friday 2 March at the Four Seasons Hotel, Park Lane, London. We discuss the upcoming event with conference chair Dahlia Farahat, pictured above with club co-president Mohsen Garcia.

For those that don’t know, could you give a brief overview of this year’s Middle East Conference and what it’s about?

The conference is the Middle East Club’s flagship event. It takes place every year, attracts over 200 guests, and is one of the largest forums in Europe for people interested in the Middle East to discuss the latest business developments as well as their outlook on the region.

This year, we’re exploring the actions leaders can take to create more innovative, inclusive, and successful industries to best position the region for a sustainable future. In addition to addresses from our keynote speakers, we’ll be hosting panel discussions on the exciting design innovations that are reshaping our cities, how the focused deployment of capital by PE and VC funds can spur sustainable growth, how increasing women’s economic participation can have a disproportionately positive impact on countries’ growth and development, and lastly, how the leaders of family businesses can develop long-term strategies to continue delivering value for generations to come.

What goes into planning an event like this?

So much more than you’d think! It all starts with assembling a great team, who have been hard at work since term started last fall on setting the theme, booking the venue, reaching out to potential speakers, and marketing the event.

We’re very excited to have expanded the event to a full day this year, and although lengthening the program has given us the opportunity to delve deeper into discussions with our speakers and allow for more time for networking, it has also increased the logistical complexity of planning the event exponentially.

We’re very fortunate though to have the invaluable support of so many people within the London Business School community, as well as that of our sponsors and event partners, all of whom have been essential to delivering a successful conference.

“Roads less travelled” is an intriguing concept – how did you think of it?

While trying to decide on a theme for the conference this summer, I came across the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken, and thought it was an interesting way of thinking about the current challenges facing decision makers in the Middle East today.

We have unprecedented access to information and lessons learned from other countries and so have essentially unlimited options to pursue. What I think many people grapple with is how to choose a path to follow: do they replicate a model that they know has been successful somewhere else, or try something new? I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong answer but I’m sure we’ll hear some interesting responses to these questions on 2 March!

What’s the most challenging thing you’ve had to overcome so far?

I think the biggest challenge has been planning an agenda that addresses the broad range of questions business leaders in the region have today. What I think people sometimes forget about the Middle East is that it encompasses almost twenty countries that vary widely in terms of size, wealth, major industries, level of economic and social development, and a number of other factors. What we tried to do this year was dig deeper and hone in on the issues we felt resonated across the region without generalizing or being reductive in any way.

Which parts of the programme for the day are you personally looking forward to?

I’m very excited that we are able to highlight a number of exceptional women from the region this year. We have so many outstanding female leaders in the Middle East and I’m looking forward to hearing their insights throughout the day.

Thanks Dahlia and all the best for the conference.

Find out more at: http://lbsmiddleeastconference.com/