Getting through the annual MIPIM property fair in Cannes is a challenge for even the most seasoned pro – but for a first-timer it's positively terrifying …
To a MIPIM virgin, the prospect of a week in sun-drenched Cannes seems tantalising. Much footage of conspicuous consumption, largely derived from James Bond movies, passes through the brain. Imagine champagne-fuelled parties on luxurious yachts, fantastic food washed down with, as one contractor put it, "enough industry scandal to last you a lifetime", and you can begin to preview the coming week. But it is not until you actually witness just how drunk the construction industry actually gets at this event that you can really believe it. You've probably heard the stories about the contractor from Huddersfield who wandered drunkenly into the swimming pool – but that kind of mishap is only the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

Nothing can prepare a MIPIM virgin for the intoxicated industry bigwig who starts telling you how he shared a meal with some female colleagues the night before, at which they discovered that they shared the same sexual fantasy: to have a cheese board served to them on top of a naked lady. This industry holiday does strange things to people.

Daytimes at MIPIM are spent either traipsing around the stands in the main conference hall or schmoozing at one of the industry fringe parties. The conference stands are fun, if your idea of fun is spending an hour listening to Mr Berry, a banker from Holland, explaining the merits of the Dutch corporate banking world. The fringe parties, on the other hand are usually held on a moored yacht and involve champagne. The only downside here is the swarm of public relations executives. These people are employed as event organisers, and they are the grand wizards of Cannes small talk. Some of these people had blood dripping from their pearly whites as they sank their teeth into another unsuspecting chief executive's neck and commenced to sucking.

Within a day of landing in the French seaside resort, MIPIM virgins begin to get a nose for the best places to eat, drink and socialise. It doesn't take long to realise that the North West Development Agency dinner, hosted by footballing legend Alan Hansen is probably not going to be as much fun as the pool party hosted by an Italian architectural practice, and that it's probably not wise to go to the Scotland delegation dinner if you fancy a quiet night.

Post-midnight drinking is equally as exciting. The rumour mill quickly informs you that the exclusive Hotel Martinez is the place to hang out, and this year was no exception; in fact, it turned out to be very messy indeed. After extensive encouragement from the crowd, one dog-tired and highly emotional lady, decided it was time to bare all and plunge into the hotel pool. Everybody thought this was harmless high spirits, except for the hotel goons, who moved in to evict her and the friend who'd decided to join her. The duo swam into the centre of the pool and invited the coppers to come in and get them. The coppers, of course, train all year round for just this kind of contingency and simply confiscated their poolside clothes. At which point sanity, sadly, prevailed.

One dog-tired and highly emotional lady decided it was time to bare all and plunge into the hotel pool

Things became messier still later that same evening. Cannes was suffering from a taxi strike, which left an untidy line of flushed, pinstriped, middle-aged men trying to flag down private cars for their 4am ride home. This would seem harmless in itself, but if you remember that Cannes' filles de joie trawl for business from their Mercedes, you can imagine what happened next.

By the end of the action-packed week, everybody began to wind down, probably largely due to cumulative alcohol poisoning. That was all except for the PR executives and their brigade of "events organisers", who decided that it was their turn to get wild after finally being let off duty. They were easy to spot, because they were usually under 30, female, blonde and surrounded by 200 middle-aged men.

By the time it was time to fly back to the UK, MIPIM delegates were spotted at the airport staggering under the weight of the thousands and thousands of business cards they had acquired, mostly from Dutch bankers.