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Why MIPIM is only for the organised

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This year’s MIPIM was worth the expense, but only if your appointment book was full, says Christine Murray

For the benefit of those who haven’t been, MIPIM is a trade show that presents a microcosm of the world according to property – its skewed map of exhibition stands places Paris adjacent to London, cheek-by-jowl with the southern Russian region of Krasnodar. The stands themselves feature sanitised marketing brochures and pristine models advertising idyllic, rose-coloured masterplans for the future, all designed to entice international property tycoons to come invest, come buy.

MIPIM 2011 was a smaller event than in the boom years (in 2008, more than 30,000 delegates attended), but it still attracted 4,000 investors and more than 18,000 delegates. Architects are there to chase developers, and developers are there to chase investors, all while quaffing champagne and exchanging business cards, locked in the embrace of an intense week-long tango.

I arrived fearing the stories I’d heard of drinking, yachts and debauchery, and was pleasantly surprised to meet practices big, medium and small, from Aedas to Mossessian & Partners to Ash Sakula, engaged in serious networking with developers from Roger Zogolovitch to Urban Splash’s Tom Bloxham to Almacantar’s Mike Hussey.

The practices that felt MIPIM was worth the expense (€1,550 per delegate, plus accommodation and travel) had fully booked their diaries with meetings they’d set up eight weeks before the fair. Some turned up with innovative accordion cards that showcased their work, or better yet an iPad – perfect for showing off their portfolio while holding up the bar.

The secret to MIPIM, Ian Bogle of BFLS confessed, is to leave an hour in the morning and in the evening free for improvisational networking, and book up every minute in between. He left MIPIM with no contracts, but concrete leads. ‘What does that mean, exactly?’ I asked. ‘I’ve got a developer coming to my office next week to show me a site,’ he said. In the current climate, it doesn’t get much better than that.

On the other hand, architects without appointments said they had a good time and met a lot of people, but weren’t sure the MIPIM experience would translate into business. The message to me was clear: MIPIM is worth it, but only with a strategy, a message and a plan.

As for developers, most said they were optimistic (but realistic) about their prospects of securing investment. London projects in particular were benefiting from the city’s reputation as a safe port in a growing international storm. Indeed, this year the news agenda definitely dampened the MIPIM buzz, especially on the emerging market stands.

The return from Cannes brought news of Japan’s earthquake and devastating tsunami, fresh attempts to quell uprisings in the Middle East with the invasion of Bahrain by Saudi troops, and Muammar Gaddafi’s advance on Benghazi. The dramatic aftershock of these events quickly eclipsed all the fun of the fair.

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