It’s crowded, very expensive, is not easy to quantify the value and can be a lot of hassle, so why exactly does anybody bother with Mipim? Ed Jones, head of investment at Lambert Smith Hampton, and Mike Whitby, leader of the city council, explain the importance of the property event in the south of France.
* Mike Whitby, leader of Birmingham City Council:
Think French Riviera. Think Cannes - and most people will think of film festivals, champagne and glitzy receptions.
Think again. OK, so you can’t forget the champagne and the glitzy receptions, but next month it is not the film stars who will take centre stage.
Instead, the spotlight will fall on the stars of the international property world - and Birmingham’s will be up there, glittering alongside the best of them.
From March 11, for a total of four days, some of the world’s most spectacular development projects will be showcased at Mipim, the world-renowned real estate event, before an audience of more than 26,000 visitors - most of them key policy-makers and decision-takers.
Significantly, about 2,000 international investors have already registered their attendance - with larger-than-usual delegations due to arrive from Western Europe, America and Russia.
So it is easy to see why such an event is increasingly important to those who are engaged in the commercial property sector and development projects.
Critics may suggest that Mipim has the potential for one big junket - and as far as players in the corporate hospitality industry are concerned, then Mipim is a huge opportunity for them to display their own talents.
But if any ratepayer thinks that Birmingham’s £450,000 presence is unwarranted, I ask them to reconsider their views.
Most of the cost is contributed by a consortium of almost 20 private sector developers, construction consultants and services providers, who have formed an alliance with Locate in Birmingham, the city council’s inward investment arm, to attend Mipim as Team Birmingham.
An eye-catching 2,152 sq ft exhibition stand, enhanced by touch screen technology and spectacular imagery, will provide the focal point of the city’s presence - and the gateway through which the international real estate community can get to know what is happening in our great city.
In fact, the total investment value of projects already proposed for Birmingham over the next ten years stands at £16.7 billion – with 11 million sq ft of high-quality office space accounting for £11.4 billion of the total.
So if that’s not worth shouting about, I don’t know what is!
Team Birmingham - composed of 50 representatives from the private sector and ten from the local authority - has enjoyed a presence at Mipim for the last nine years and the professionalism it has displayed has gone from strength to strength. But so has that of the "opposition" - and that is why it is so important we continually raise our game.
Practically every major city and region from Europe will be represented at Mipim and a measure of its importance can be gauged from the fact that this year, for the first time, the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, will be there.
Indeed, German investors are well aware of the opportunities that exist in Birmingham and have already injected millions of pounds into acquiring city centre properties.
Mipim not only allows Birmingham to boost its profile as a global city with a local heart, where the quality of life is a key factor in a company’s, or individual’s decision to relocate to a vibrant, growing city, but it enables us to showcase the property developments that will make us one of Europe’s most exciting cities.
Being able to state our case in face-to-face discussions with leading investors and international developers is one thing - convincing them that they should be investing in Birmingham’s continued regeneration is another. But convinced them we have - with spectacular results.
For example, Dublin-based Ballymore, the property development and investment group, has long been a supporter of Mipim and it is no coincidence that its significant investment in the city’s Snow Hill area has run in parallel with Birmingham’s increased presence at the show.
Ballymore’s latest project has attracted US operator Starwood Hotels to construct Birmingham’s first five-star hotel on a site overlooking St Chad’s Cathedral.
Arena Central, the £200 million Miller Developments and Dandara Properties’ mixed-use development which will incorporate The V Building, a 50-storey residential tower, is another example of how a developer’s clear focus at Mipim will ultimately create an awe-inspiring Birmingham landmark.
Clearly, Team Birmingham’s presence at the world’s largest international property show is helping to build one of the key cities of the future.
* Ed Jones, head of investment at Lambert Smith Hampton:
Mipim is the commercial property event for professionals. The Marché International des Professionels d’Immobilier, to give it its full title, gets bigger and bigger, with last year’s official visitor numbers rising by more than ten per cent from the previous year to over 26,000.
It attracts more people - though less publicity - than the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival and the figures are outstanding for an industry event.
Last year, there were more than 6,000 end users and investors, over 8,500 companies attending with more than 2,500 of them exhibiting and a total of 83 countries were represented.
For the visitor, this means more meetings, more corporate events and increased pressure on delegates’ diaries, and from the point of view of someone trying to make it all work, more competition when it comes to marketing LSH and its services.
Last year, a significant Russian delegation, for example, was in evidence, taking the main banner advertising position outside the Conference Centre and reinforcing this with branding across the Ritz Carlton Hotel, all reflecting the increasingly cosmopolitan nature of the event and appetite for more and more nations to bring their wares to the party. Countries that did not even exist politically when Mipim started are now at the party.
There will also be plenty of home interest.
Birmingham City Council, for one, has already committed to taking more space to boost its presence, and there is also going to be representation from a host of other regional bodies all keen to make their mark at the event.
It is a calculated investment, financed by the public purse, on their part that may take some years to pay back, but the fact that they keep coming back is testament to the fact that they - like us - believe that the payback will come over time in terms of overseas investment into the Midlands region.
The secret to success at events such as Mipim is to plan rigorously and to work intelligently to ensure the right type of client interaction and contact.
Spending money on advertising and sponsorship with no clear focus is just a no-no - as it is with any other form of marketing activity.
In addition, with the cost of having a stand in the main exhibition hall escalating - and the price of advertising even higher this year - the relative value, in terms of return on investment, of the traditional ways of promoting your brand is questionable.
Because of the numbers and calibre of people that attend, however, Mipim remains a must-do event and making it work properly can set you up for success in a whole range of different ways.
Last time, a team of 19 fee-earners from LSH went out to Mipim. That in itself represents a considerable investment, removing people from the office and paying all the associated costs of attending.
Did we get quantifiable value? Although the glib response might be: Ask me again in a few years’ time. We believe so.
Across the team that headed out, there is a sense that time, money and effort was well spent, and delivered a number of leads, strengthening relationships which will lead to fee opportunities.
My own investment team in Birmingham certainly got business out of my trip last year, for which fees have already been billed with more to follow.
From that point of view, it’s sensible to view Mipim as a long-term relationship-building event but to be clear about the relationships that you want to develop and why you are doing so.
That way you enter the event with clear objectives and can ensure that you work towards them.
Those most likely to benefit are the areas of the business that have a longer-term perspective. Areas such as investment, development and planning are good examples of this.
Among the work we will carry out will be an investment dinner, an intimate event that can deliver a more focused and targeted networking opportunity, as opposed to the open house stands or cafés that many people use, and one that LSH can use to far greater effect.
The atmosphere of Cannes can also make a significant difference. An al-fresco meeting in a café can be far more relaxed than sitting in an office back home. You get to find out more about how you can help clients realise their medium and long-term ambitions for their businesses.
Planning is the key from a property firm’s perspective.
Mipim is a complex and challenging event - a big opportunity but, equally, a big risk if you don’t plan properly and deliver against your strategy. As many firms find out to their cost, it’s an easy way to spend a big chunk of cash without seeing anything in return.
I am confident that we will continue to see the benefits of what we do in Cannes supporting the development of the business and helping us to be more profitable and more successful.
If your prime motive in wanting to attend Mipim is simply because you want to mingle with other agents then this forum is probably not for you.
Such events exist, of course - including the annual LSH ski challenge which has just taken place - and the value of social contact that eventually leads to business within our industry is huge. It is just that you don’t have to head off to that particular corner of the South of France to do it.
If you have specific properties you want to sell, then equally it almost certainly won’t be worth going. An industrial unit in Aston is better marketed to your known contacts and via pages such as these, for example.
The Mipim timescales are, for want of a better cliché, like the oil tanker that takes a huge length of time to alter course. Climbing aboard now means you will reach your destination eventually.