What makes MIPIM such an industry must-do? Elaine Knutt explains why it’s not just the champagne and canapés that keep people coming back

MIPIM. Cannes. The Croisette. In the midst of Britain’s winter gloom, the idea would bring a smile to anyone’s face. And that’s before you factor in the average March temperatures of 55-58F, the steaming bowls of moules marinières…

But seriously. MIPIM is a very serious part of the annual business calendar. Yes, indeed. All those clients with champagne glasses to be topped up, all those funders with millions to invest, all those networking opportunities packed into four days. If you were to arrange meetings with all the potential prospects on home ground, it would take, who knows how long?

Six months is the rule of thumb that everyone quotes. “The problem is, anyone you ask will be trying to justify the expense,” laughs David Bucknall, chairman of Bucknall Austin and a veteran of MIPIM since it started 15 years ago. “And everyone’s got their favourite story about the jobs they picked up at MIPIM.” Bucknall himself can trace “three good-sized projects” back to MIPIM 2004. “They all began with ‘so you’ve got an office in x’-style conversations,” he says.

Meanwhile, architect BDP is quite upfront that MIPIM 2004 bought its ticket to Australia. “The managing director of ING Australia was floating by, and two weeks later we were on the shortlist for a major project in Melbourne,” says chairman Nick Terry. Since winning the Melbourne role, BDP has picked up work on another three ING-funded projects, including one in its own backyard in Stevenage.

With evidence like that, it would take a very cynical spoilsport to deny the value of attending MIPIM. Part of its appeal, as Terry points out, is its size. The 15,000-16,000 participants mean that MIPIM dwarfs the scale of the nearest UK equivalents, such as the 1,000-1,200 delegates at the annual British Council for Offices conferences.

It gives you time to take stock and pick up knowledge to guide the business forward’

David Bucknall, Bucknall Austin

So if you’re looking for a shop window in which to present your development project or unique skills to the rest of the property world, MIPIM is Oxford Street, Faubourg-Ste-Honoré and Fifth Avenue combined. “Through going to MIPIM, our profile has risen considerably. We’re now seen as an important player in the property sector,” says Daire Hearne, business development manager for Arup.

And business psychologists would agree that the sunshine and alcohol really can oil the wheels of business. When you meet someone in Café Roma or Morrison’s Irish Pub, they’re relaxed, you’re relaxed, the normal business defences are down. Without the pressures of delivering the day job, both parties are more receptive to new ideas.

The firms contacted for this article all said they travel to MIPIM with a finite hospitality budget, but also with a co-ordinated strategy to target particular groups and cement relationships with existing clients. Back home, most go through some kind of post-MIPIM evaluation exercise, basing their decision on whether to attend the next MIPIM on the outcome.

Private companies tend to be hazy on the cost-benefit calculations, but public sector organisations have to be as open on MIPIM costs as on any other form of investment.

Through MIPIM, our profile has risen considerably in the property sector’

Daire Hearne, Arup

For instance, this year, the Advantage West Midlands Regional Development Agency (AWM) is investing £90,000 of public funds in an exhibition stand and renting a Cannes apartment in its fourth trip to MIPIM. In addition, private sponsors joining their stand raise £100,000.

“We have to be fairly rigorous on where our money goes,” says Mike Goodall, head of marketing. “But MIPIM does play a part in generating development opportunities on our land and property holdings, and we’re able to demonstrate that quite clearly.” AWM has used MIPIM to launch design competitions that drew strong developer interest, and closed a deal on one site in its portfolio last year.

David Bucknall says that MIPIM’s melting pot also makes it an ideal place to soak up business intelligence and reassess where his firm fits into an ever-changing industry. “It gives you time to take stock and pick up knowledge to guide the business forward.”

And there is evidence that participants do have a thirst for knowledge. “Last year, when we did a presentation on mixed-use development at Wembley with Quintain, the room was full to bursting,” says Barry Munday, chairman of architect PRP. “There isn’t a lot of conference-type activity at MIPIM, so it was an opportunity for people to actually learn something.”

MIPIM does play a part in generating development opportunities’

Mike Goodall, AWM

MIPIM 2005 will confront delegates with clear evidence of an ongoing trend. A decade ago, the buzz centred around the major private developers. Today, the balance of power has shifted in favour of the local authorities and public sector agencies that control access to the brownfield, mixed-use developments that have government priority.

That shift has widened participation. “Previously we thought it wasn’t really our scene, and had more to do with the commercial sector,” says PRP’s Munday. “But now housing, mixed-use and sustainable development are much more to the forefront, and the two worlds are beginning to merge and intermingle a lot more. But this is one of the few places where they can run into each other in an informal setting.”

Munday’s practice offers a classic case study. Through occupying neighbouring positions on the London stand, the quietly successful social housing specialist met the secretive Hong Kong-based Parkview, developer of the Battersea Power Station scheme. The two established a somewhat unlikely business relationship that led to PRP being interviewed for a Parkview scheme, and could result in a future commission.

MIPIM. “It’s a good start to the year,” says BDP’s Terry. “And if you time it right, you can go skiing too.” Seriously.

Diary dates

As usual, MIPIM offers a full programme of events. Many are by invitation only, but you don’t need an invite for any of those listed below.

MIPIM Conference: Asia Day

Start the week with good intentions. The day covers Asia (10.30am), China (3pm) and Japan (5pm). Auditorium Esterel, Level 5, Palais des Festivals.

11.30am: Whisky tasting
Visit the Scotland stand for sampling of Glenmorangie.

3.45pm: Marketing Manchester
“Manchester – Regeneration through Design Excellence” presentation and “beer and bubbles” networking session. With Sir Howard Bernstein, Chief Executive, Manchester City Council, and Richard Simmons, Chief Executive, CABE. Stand B1.00.

4pm: London’s Olympic Bid
Mayor Ken Livingstone speaks up for the capital on the London stand.

10.30: CABE event

Launch of CABE research, “Building Sustainable Communities: Actions for Housing Market Renewal”. Manchester stand B1.00.

11am: UK PFI – the way forward?
Nigel Griffiths, Minister for Construction, is the keynote speaker. Stand 10.20.

4pm: London 2020
Predictions for the capital’s future followed by champagne and cream tea on the London stand terrace, sponsored by Atkins.

5.30pm: Arup cocktail reception
In association with Constructing Excellence and the Minister for Construction. And it’s on board the Sunny Dream at Jetée Albert Edouard.

10am: Corporation of London seminar
The topic is “The London Cluster – Preparing for Growth”. Majestic Hotel.

11.30am: Property Week Scotland Awards
Property Week editor Giles Barrie announces the shortlisted entries to the 2005 awards. Stand 11.29.

4.30pm: Crest Nicholson champagne reception
Make your way to the Regeneration stand.

All day: Aon Alpine Challenge
Compete for champagne and the MIPIM 2005 trophy on the Aon Alpine Challenge Ski Simulator. Stand RSV.01.

10am: Taste of Scotland
By now you’ll be glad of the Irn Bru and shortbread on the Scotland stand, 11.29.

• The Tough Guide gives a full listing of events – for a copy, call Tamesis PR on
020 7908 3200.