The director of the RIBA London Region, Tamsie Thomson, on the myths and mechanics of MIPIM - the international property fair which starts in Cannes next week (11 March)
Everyone has heard the wild stories about MIPIM. Some stories are true. Some of the more outlandish tales are probably fiction. Like a game of Chinese whispers, stories have been embellished in the passing from person to person.
So what is MIPIM really like? And why should you go?
When I first went, I was warned to expect something akin to the UK party political conferences. Only warmer.
Just like the party conferences, big names in the profession decamp to a seaside resort to talk business, renew old acquaintances and expand their networks.
But that’s where the similarity ended. Even in those pre-recession days, politicians would baulk at being spotted partying on a yacht. At MIPIM that was the place to be seen – and tell people you’d been. Extravagant parties and all that came with them became the defining symbol of MIPIM. It’s a shame that that reputation stuck and has proved hard to shift.
Ironically, when the money was really flowing, the event was much less about work. MIPIM crashed to earth with a bump when the economic bubble burst. And it has become a much better place to do business because of it. These days those at MIPIM are more serious, business-focused and internationally minded.
This is the 25th anniversary of MIPIM. Since the first event, the world has shrunk and it has become easier for smaller practices to work overseas. For RIBA chartered practices in the UK, 20 per cent of income now comes from projects outside the UK. This leaps to 33 per cent for London practices.
Thinking internationally is clearly important but MIPIM is also a great place for making links at home. Nowhere else is the UK property industry ever in such close proximity or senior figures so open and accessible.
This year RIBA London will be supporting 22 chartered practices on our stand in the London Pavilion. We take a lot of time enabling practices to attend.
Half the practices are new. For most, the decision to go coincides with a change of gear for the business. Often, ambitious practices are seeking a change in direction, to start growing again, looking to break into new markets.
For first-time practices we caution against the hard sell. Nothing puts potential clients off quicker. Think longer-term. It’s about making contact, exchanging ideas, getting yourself known. Exchanging contracts? That comes later.
While the business leads are important, there is another reason to attend. Architects routinely put in long hours at the office. There’s a comfort in that: if there’s work to be done, the practice must be doing something right. But it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.
MIPIM gives time away from the grind of day-to-day work to think about the future direction of the practice, to see what others are doing and rethink what the practice wants to achieve.
Making new contacts will pay dividend for years to come.
If you play MIPIM right, you should come back tired of talking and tired of listening, but enthused and excited about the future of your practice. That’s a much better story to tell.
Organised by the RIBA’s London Region, the institute’s MIPIM stand is in the London Pavilion.
Practices appearing on the stand this year include: Barron and Smith Architects, Brady Mallalieu Architects, Cullinan Studio, DarntonEGS, Iain Macdonald Architects, maber architects, Paul Vick architects, Pozzoni, Proctor and Matthews Architects, Shed KM, AndArchitects, AR Architecture, BLDA Architects, Belsize Architects, Cartwright Pickard Architects, David Miller Architects, HÛT, Jane Duncan Architects, Paul McAneary Architects, RARE Architecture, RCKa, and Wintersgill.