Want to win friends and influence people at MIPIM? Victoria Madine reveals the golden rules of successful networking

In the world of property and construction networking events, MIPIM is the glamorous grand dame of them all. More than 16,000 people are expected to descend on Cannes, and everyone who’s anyone in the industry will be there.

If you need to make new contacts or develop existing ones, MIPIM is your big chance. As Clare Murdoch, business development manager at interior fit-out contractor Parkeray, says: “In London, it would take months to arrange to see the number of people you can meet in just one afternoon at MIPIM – it’s a fantastic opportunity.”

But attending the world’s largest gathering of property professionals can be a daunting prospect for first-timers and even MIPIM veterans say it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. So, it pays to follow these six failsafe rules to ensure you network effectively.

Do your research

With so many people swarming around Cannes, it’s imperative to work out before you go who you most want to meet and where you can find them. Barry McKeogh, chief executive of property marketing consultant Pipers, suggests focusing on 10 to 12 people: “The scattergun approach to making contacts is risky – especially if, for example, you want to speak to people working on a particular project. It’s far better to draw up a hit-list of people to target and then regard other useful contacts you happen to meet as a bonus.”

MIPIM’s website (www. mipim.com) has a full list of exhibitors and where you can find their stands. If the individual you’re interested in isn’t an exhibitor, call them to see if he or she will be hosting any events, and make sure you get an invitation.

Be in the right place during the day

If you know the person you want to meet is an exhibitor in the Palais des Festivals, visit their stall at around 10.45am or 4pm when things are quieter and you’ll have longer to chat. According to Peter Murray, chairman of consultant Wordsearch Communications, there will always be lots of bigwigs at the London stand at these times. But don’t leave your visit until Friday, MIPIM’s final day, as that’s when the exhibitors are prone to wandering off to do their own mingling – or are off home.

If you know what your intended target looks like, Café Roma, opposite the Palais’s main entrance, is a good place to catch people as they leave the main exhibition area. Alternatively, Abigail Williams, business development manager at BW Interiors, recommends Café Rouge as a good hangout for the same reason.

Be in the right place at dinner

If you’re keen to impress a client or contact with a good dinner, you’ll have to do some serious planning; the restaurants along the Croisette beach will have been booked months in advance and those in the old town and around the harbour also get extremely busy.

If you can’t get a table in these areas, Cannes is surrounded by beautiful Countryside and charming old villages, so take a taxi to somewhere like Mougins and point out the advantages to your client of getting away from the main crowd for a few hours. Parkeray’s Murdoch says people are often quite relieved to take a breather and have a relaxed dinner.

The scattergun approach to making contacts is risky. It’s far better to draw up a hit-list of people to target

Barry McKeogh, Pipers

Be in the right place at night

After all that focused networking during the day, working the bars along the Croisette is a good way to do some spontaneous mingling – and secure invitations to swanky hilltop parties in the process. It always helps to have a stock of conversation-starters up your sleeve to make it easier to get talking to strangers. This year’s hottest topic: which city should get the Olympics in 2012?

Later on, if you have any energy left, most of MIPIM’s English and American contingency head for the late-night bar at the Martinez. But beware: it gets very crowded, and can be a real bun-fight. A quieter alternative, with more room for manoeuvre, is the Carlton Club at the Carlton Hotel; it’s a private members club founded by Wordsearch Communications, so you need to join before you can get in.

Pace yourself

If you felt so inclined, you could start quaffing champagne at 9.30am each day at MIPIM and not stop until 3am. But if you want to get the most out of the event – and remember it – you need to pace yourself. Too much daytime drinking will wear you out and every MIPIM veteran agrees that you need as much energy as you can muster to see through the fair. Clare Murdoch says she doesn’t drink anything alcoholic until 8pm. “The breakfast meetings would be horrendous if you had a hangover,” she says.

And think about where you are going and who’s likely to see you there. Peter Murray recalls how last year a developer went to a strip bar in town only to bump into his bank manager. “I think it was an awkward moment for both parties involved,” he says.

Be patient

Don’t expect your time in Cannes to produce lots of new business opportunities straightaway: cultivating contacts should be seen as a long-term investment. “A meeting at MIPIM may not pay dividends for a long while – years even,” says Pipers’s Barry McKeogh. “Developing a strong contact takes time.”

Once you get home, follow up the talks you’ve had and maybe arrange a lunch or invite your contact to company events to keep them in the loop. And make sure you remember who was who – write memory prompts on the reverse of the business cards you’ve received if you think you might forget exactly what you talked about with each person.

Remembering these details will win you lots of brownie points and possibly pave the way towards sealing that deal.