To go or not to go? That was the question that faced Birmingham’s property community as they pondered whether to make the annual pilgrimage to Cannes for the global property conference known as MIPIM. Dawn Roberts, director of PR consultancy Headline Communications, decided to bite the bullet and make a return visit this year.

I lost my MIPIM cherry in 2008. I didn’t make it last year – something to do with the recession.

In Autumn 2009, I managed to bag myself a cheap flight to Nice and told myself that I would take a decision on whether to attend the global property fest at the turn of the year. All that was at risk was the price of the airfare.

As January dawned, I canvassed clients and contacts in the property sector: it seemed there was a fair contingent going out there, so I decided to join them.

Few people can tell you what MIPIM stands for (Marche International des Professsionels d’Immobilier, in case you are interested). Many can tell you, however, what it has come to stand for: excess.

Champagne-fuelled parties in celebrity-owned villas tucked in the hills; lunch in Michelin-starred restaurants and baroque apartments with balconies overlooking the harbour; gigs on the beach; cocktails at dusk on gin palaces.

Tick; tick; tick; tick – in 2008 I managed all of those. This year, however, my diary looks a lot different.

In 2010 no-one is – if you’ll forgive the pun – pushing the boat out. Aside from one invitation on to a yacht, which came my way courtesy of the Birmingham Post, my nonetheless packed diary consists of breakfast meetings, catch-ups over coffee, seminars and a couple of lunches/dinners, which I suspect I will be going Dutch on.

So why am I bothering? Well, I won’t pretend that the slew of glamorous invitations that arrived in my inbox weren’t a lure in 2008. But, as with all business expenses, you still have to justify both the cost and the time.

Fifty per cent of Headline’s PR work comes from the property sector. As a business development opportunity, MIPIM can’t be ignored.


What’s more, not all of our clients come from Birmingham and the Midlands (though even existing contacts from the region are somehow more amenable on the Riviera, with a glass of rosé in hand). We also have clients from London, Dublin and the USA. Getting to see them is not always easy. At MIPIM I can reach them in one hit.

Did my first visit result in any work? In all honesty, not immediately. But I can certainly trace one client back to a meeting in Cannes, and I made other contacts there that have lead to new sources of work.

Nor is the cost of going as prohibitive as you think. I’ve been cannier with the flight this time, booking sooner; there were also deals to be done on the accommodation this time round.

All in all, if you don’t buy an exhibition pass, it should come in around £1,500 – pretty much the cost of a table at a corporate dinner event these days.

I’m told that last year’s MIPIM was more focused: fewer ‘hangers-on’. Since I’ve never developed or invested in any commercial property in my life, I guess I fall into that camp. But I suspect I will be in good company: there will be a steady trickle of us hangers-on returning this year.

I’m also relieved to hear that even last year there were still some pockets of indulgence, if you looked hard enough. In 2009 the Russians flew the flag for excess. This year the clever money’s on Poland. Time to look up that pen friend from Krackow from my school days.

Many companies have culled their MIPIM delegations this year, saying that in the current climate they “can’t be seen to be doing it”. That’s such an English attitude.

Well, tosh to it. I’m off to Cannes. If you’re going come and find me: I’ll be with the Poles.

>More: Read Dawn Roberts' MIPIM diary here