Next week will see much of the UK property community decant to Cannes on the Cote d'Azur. In total, more than 20,000 delegates will gather around the elegant Croisette, trying (and failing) to look cool, while wheeling and dealing in square feet and acreage.
This annual mass exodus is driven by attendance at MIPIM (Le Marché International des Professionals de l'Immobilier) - the world commercial property fair, a forum matching the ambitions of sites and cities with the desires of developers and investors.
MIPIM is many things, and some easily dismiss it as nothing more than a jamboree in the sun. I disagree. I see it more like any gathering of 20,000 people - big enough to have many different parts. The challenge is where to place your time and effort. Conferences and exhibitions, meetings (planned and ad hoc), breakfasts, lunches and dinners, round-tables and private briefings - time soon flies.It's big, brash and glitzy. It can be intimidating and seem like one of those occasions where everybody seems to know each other, with the exception, of course, you.
The main exhibition is located in the Palais des Festivals, a multi-purpose space that makes the Assembly Rooms look a million dollars. Being France, there are rules, the most surprising of which is that, to hold any event in any venue in Cannes during that week, you must rent at least a booth in the main exhibition. I have no idea which EU bylaw allows this but believe me when I say the burghers of Cannes are serious.
A couple of years ago, they took a national UK property consultancy to court in Paris for daring to hold a networking reception in a restaurant close to the Palais. The company had booked no exhibition space, nor had any delegates booked. I don't need to tell you who won the case. In their summary, the Tribunal de Commerce de Paris described the British company's behaviour as "parasitisime". I'm guessing you don't need Google to translate...
The uniquely Gallic rule leads to a true mega-exhibition, with stands ranging form rented stalls in the (appropriately named) "bunker", to the spacious marquee villages set up on the beach by the Londons and Parises of the world.
Team Derby first dipped our MIPIM toes in 2007 and, in each subsequent year, we have grown in confidence and stature. We now have some terrific companies sponsoring our activity that allows us to bring a talented group of civic and business leaders as ambassadors. Derby has won plaudits for its performance at MIPIM - we bring out a clear message and adopt a tight business focus on what needs to be done in what are essentially two very intensive days.
For cities like Derby, Leicester and Nottingham, MIPIM offers the opportunity to fly the flag on a bigger stage and to get on the radar of bigger players. Under the D2N2 LEP banner, we share a stand with Nottingham and, this year, for the first time, we are holding a joint event, called the Power of Three, supported by East Midlands Airport. Our Derby events include the annual MIPIM Embassy, a Derby Embassy Investor Club hosted by the Financial times and a presentation at the prestigious Innovation Forum, where we are pitching with Barcelona as examples of European innovation cities.
Aside from events, the majority of time is then spent in one-to-one meetings with hard-to-reach investment targets, most of which are prearranged, others surreptitious. For us, success is simple - keep on the investor radar and create enough interest to generate further meetings and eventual visits to Derby, most likely around our Property Summit on June 24. We then find the city much sells itself.