Q&A: How to do MIPIM well

MIPIM is one of global real estate’s major events, attracting 20 thousand-plus developers, architects, politicians, journalists and kith and kin from every corner of the property supply chain.  We gathered together a group of industry veterans to discuss how to make the most of the event which takes places in Cannes, South of France.


The panel

  • Rachel McQueen, chief executive of Marketing Lancashire
  • Neil Tague, journalist
  • Guy Butler, co-founder of Glenbrook Property
  • Katrina Michel, a marketing consultant



Chris Hulme, director, Influential


Q: We know that the largest city regions are capable of delivering great programmes during MIPIM. How do you make it work well given there’s so much quality and competition?


Rachel McQueen: You have to find your own way of doing MIPIM – and you get out of it what you put in. In 2019, we took a Lancashire apartment and we were able to deliver our own small, high quality events. We took Oli Martin, who is the Head Chef of Hipping Hall, he had just been on MasterChef: The Professionals. He cooked the most amazing Lancashire food for what were laid back, intimate events. I think you need to find a way to approach MIPIM, a way that works for the size of your delegation and the partners that you have.

We had quite a small audience at our events, due to the size of [the event space], but a smaller number of people meant we could talk to in a bit more detail, rather than just broadcasting out to a large room of people. That works for Lancashire and we will continue with that approach.

[In general] I think it is about inviting people along to something that they won’t get anywhere else in MIPIM, which is quite difficult. Hence the need to take a Lancashire chef with us – and we took all of our own Lancashire produce, we literally had a bus come down from Hipping Hall to the south of France. That really created an event you wouldn’t get anywhere else. It proved very successful, and we are looking to build on that approach. Marketing Lancashire’s plans are shaping up well for this year. We have got a bigger apartment that gives us more flexibility on the type of events and the number of people we can host. We are taking Oli Martin again, so will bring the same high quality food. People have come to expect that from Lancashire – our food and drink proposition is a key part of our offer.


Q: Guy, as a developer, how do you approach MIPIM?

The natural delegation for Glenbrook to sponsor would be Manchester because that’s where our biggest and best schemes are. We started off sponsoring and supporting Liverpool because that’s where both Ian, my business partner, and I founded our careers and had the strongest relationships. But we realised we were becoming very small fish in a big pond – even more so in Manchester. I did some work supporting the Chester Growth Partnership and have a relationship with Cheshire and Warrington, so we decided to support that delegation.

[In my previous role as Project Director at Liverpool ONE for Grosvenor] MIPIM was all about meeting new people – new relationships and networking. The job was to go around as many people as you can and find some funders, some retailers and go and push Liverpool ONE out to the market. Now, for Glenbrook, I have completely pulled my ambition back. I basically say less is more. Have high quality conversations, network. Don’t go and meet lots of new people as I’ve found this doesn’t work. I am only now building on existing relationships. People I haven’t seen for months or years. I also bump into people who I grew up with in London when I was a graduate, so it’s about reaffirming old relationships.


Q: What’s the optimum format for panel events?

Katrina: Three or four people maximum, because events can’t be very long. The average amount of time a delegate will stand is 15-20 mins and there are never enough seats. There is no point in having a really long event. If you have three or four people who have two or three things to say, it produces a rich amount of content. Beyond that, I think people drift. There is so many more things to distract you at MIPIM. You need to hone your idea and rehearse your panellists. I always have a conference call [in advance] to ask what they’re going to say, how long they are going to say it.

Rachel: I think it’s about getting the right mix of people on a panel and not making them too long. The subject is key, get people there in the audience who are interested in the subject matter and stick to it. Some panel events are guilty of getting people who want to get their personal message across so it becomes a confused [discussion] for the audience.

Wherever you can, capture and repurpose the content because you can only ever have so many people in the room. Being able to push that content out on other platforms is really useful. [For some of our] Lancashire events we make them more conversational rather than a [formal] panel event, so that everybody gets a chance to speak. This means you [get a better sense of] who is in the room, so the networking becomes more useful.

You sometimes get invited to be on panels as a token person – by virtue of the fact that you are a woman. It may not necessarily meet your requirements. So pick and choose the ones that will really be beneficial.

Guy: If you are presenting some stands are better than others. The Liverpool amphitheatre is fantastic, whereas the Manchester pavilion has [the audience in rows on a level], which is harder. The Cheshire and Warrington stand is an intimate affair, very high quality. So we’ve had a whole range of experiences.


Q: What does success look like – how do you approach KPIs/ROI?

Rachel: We set ourselves objectives in terms of number of people you want to meet or build relationships with or have conversations with. We want to generate leads, to some extent, and then track and follow them up. It can be really hard – sometimes these can be the start of conversations that take five or six years to come to a fruition. In Lancashire we don’t have an organisation like MIDAS that can account manage those leads all the way through. To give one example, I met somebody at MIPIM in 2019 and just happened to have a conversation about an investment they were looking to make. That may actually come off. We might be looking at £16 million into one of our Enterprise Zones. That is return on investment. It’s not that we couldn’t have met that person in the UK. They are a UK business and we may have come across them somewhere other than MIPIM, but that conversation was about them looking to push some funding through the door by a certain point and just happened to be exactly what we needed for one of our major schemes and investment opportunities.

For us it is also about how we have been perceived. Have people’s perceptions been changed as a result of our presence? Unless they go away with a better sense of what Lancashire has to offer then I’ve not really done my job.



Q: MIPIM as an event never seems to get old…but interest is exhausted by the final day. What conclusions do you draw from this?

Rachel: There is an element of ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it’. Lancashire only started going two or three years ago. 2019 is the first year we have had any kind of presence – and we will be scaling that up as we move forward. We have been almost the forgotten [region], as we’ve got noisy neighbours in Manchester and Liverpool who have been doing MIPIM very well for a long time. Unless we are there then people won’t understand our investment opportunities.

Katrina [who has previously advised Cheshire & Warrington delegation]: I agree with what Rachel said but a couple of other points; people don’t write a lot about Cheshire and Warrington, for example, willingly. MIPIM creates an opportunity once a year to have a vast amount of coverage of all of the region’s main issues. One of the main KPI’s is how much were we are talked about. We spent a lot of time planning to make sure that we could get the coverage when other people weren’t trying to cut across us. Being early with your stories, having your stories ready, talking to journalists before you go, so that people know. The whole PR thing is quite a big ROI for us. Anything that involves the BBC immediately gives you a large figure.


Q: What guides your decision-making about what to attend?

Rachel: On the last day I will often look around the other stands for a bit of inspiration as to what others have done and [look at] their messaging. I’m a marketer at heart, so I love a good mooch around an exhibition. But my role is to support a delegation. We put the events on, make sure everything is happening and going to plan. I have no time to get to the conference sessions.

Neil: Getting around the stands is great, but it is finding the time to do it. Finding that half an hour is great but it happens every two or three years in my experience. You do pick up a lot of free pens though.

Guy: I go around the stands and have a great laugh at the skyscrapers in Bosnia and things like that. It is interesting to see what people do and you learn a lot from the other stands. But going into the bunker [the exhibition space in the Palais] and attending the conference talks, I can’t even find the room, let alone something that is relevant.

Neil: I went to the MIPIM Awards once and it lasted about 30 seconds.

Rachel: I think it was five years before I realised there were awards.

Q: Are MIPIM and Cannes inextricably linked?

Guy: I have been to MIPIM UK in London, and the quality was actually higher in terms of the conversations I had. But the evening networking was pretty much non-existent. Everything was very disjointed because it was in London. The thing that Cannes does is bring it under a very close geography.

I try to stay around the Manchester stand, the Liverpool stand, the Cheshire stand. I can do five events in a morning. Once it goes out of La Croisette, I [struggle] to find venues.

Katrina: During the day it is a good idea to have things close to La Croisette. You don’t want to be running around in Cannes, it is tiring enough as it is. Evenings can be different, though, getting someone to come to a very lovely dinner, for example. You have got more time and you’re not going anywhere else.

I think there is nothing like Cannes, I am a big fan. If you haven’t been you can’t imagine what it is like. It is a completely different world and it does make you more energetic. When the sun shines it is a great place to do business and it wouldn’t be the same anywhere else. Long may it reign in Cannes.

Guy: Going away from La Croisette for an event can be a problem. Last year someone dragged us to yacht. Getting on to the yacht was so hard that I cancelled the next three things because I wasn’t going to make it back in time, a nightmare.

Katrina: Getting onto a yacht is onerous from a security point of view. I don’t think I’d do it again.


MIPIM Cannes


Q: Is there a place for thought leadership?

Neil: One thing that stands out for me is the way MIPIM has changed since I first went in 2005. Those first few years were all about big launches and models of glass towers that people were going to build. Some places made a bit of a show of themselves by declaring that this was just a matter of time – and they’re still not built. After the crash, there started to be a bit more thought going into it and toning things down and making it less brash. The thought leadership sessions came in. The early years of that were really good. Manchester took a lead in getting other European cities involved and it worked really well for a while. It felt original. Transport often comes up as a focus. In terms of those sessions, it is fair to say we need to think about them more now as they are thick on the ground. One city will pop up with a transport session and the next city will have the same, a bunch of people covering the same ground. You think ‘I’m not going to make it to any of those’ because there is clearly nothing new to say.

There is definitely a time and a place for thought leadership. One thing I have enjoyed about Manchester is the way they have done the timetable and put those sessions early in the morning. It is a nice time. They are not heavily attended, especially by those who have been out until 4 or 5 in the morning. They are on at about 8.30am. You just go down, get through your e-mails, have a bit of breakfast and there’s more of the thought-provoking content – and that sets the tone. It allows the city to get across their themes and messages for the week outside of the big announcements that they hope to make as well.


Q: How important are themes and how do you work with them?  The MIPIM 2020 theme is ‘The Future Is Human’ and the big cities have their own

Rachel: We look at the MIPIM themes and see if there is anything we can take that  fits our own messages. Themes are useful as long as they can reflect what you want to say. The MIPIM theme always tends to be quite broad, so you can interpret them how you want to, which is useful. It does add an element of coherence and you can pick out the things that will have the most cut-through potentially. I’m interested in Neil’s view in terms of whether journalists find themes helpful or whether it is just the size of the story or scale of the development?

Neil: I fully understand why MIPIM and individual cities use themes – it focuses their thoughts and allows them to build a programme. But when it comes to looking at things you might get a news story out of, you’re not thinking about themes. They just set a context.


Q: Is the bar higher or lower in terms of what’s a news story if it’s set in the context of MIPIM?

Neil: I would say the bar might be lower in a general sense of ‘will this get coverage?’ in local business and trade press. This is because they have journalists out there and, if the cities have their communications teams working well, they can get people geared up and add to the press release that has been prepared. People like to go a bit further and ask additional questions. If you can support that, then great. The bar might be higher in the wider sense of the press who are not attending. A certain amount of MIPIM fatigue sets in, so only the biggest stories get in.

Katrina: One soundbite from a major politician can be really, really help. As Mayor of London Boris Johnson came to MIPIM and stood up and said ‘the best value is the English regions.’They felt London was overheating a bit. I literally punched the air and walked out of there and thought it was brilliant.

Q: Is the UK government presence doing enough to say to the world we are ‘open for business’ – or are the UK regions carrying all the weight?

Guy: I would say the majority of people who attend aren’t looking at a macro level in terms of which country to invest in, I would say they have already made that decision. So they go to Manchester, or Liverpool, or whichever the stand is and the decision is already made. I think the UK Pavilion and the London stand are amazing. You meet some great people and plenty of investors. I do spend a lot of time in there. But we have got to come home to do our business, so the Manchester and Liverpool stands, where our business is done.

Rachel: Guy is absolutely right in terms of the decisions being made to invest in the UK. It is whereabouts in the UK you might want to look at or find opportunities you weren’t expecting. I think DIT and Homes England could do more to support different areas of the UK in their messaging through some of that activity. They have challenges, though. They are always quite late in putting their programme of events across, always coming out February time when everybody else’s is sorted. They never know who is going to be there, which ministers are going to turn up. It is interesting how [UK government] has clearly stepped up their presence in the last two or three years.

Katrina: More business could be done if we were able to persuade Reed MIDEM [the conference organiser] to co-locate people a bit better.

Guy: Cheshire and Warrington was opposite the USA. So it was like Wisconsin next to Nantwich!


Q: What is your one tip for attending MIPIM?

Guy: Get your MIPIM delegate pass printed at the airport when you land.

Katrina: Get one of those really stylish pack-a-mac anorak things you can buy that fold up in your bag. When it rains, oh my god does it rain.

Rachel: If you set yourself back-to-back meetings before you get there it is all going to go horribly wrong, pretty much from the first morning. Pick two or three things each day that you really want to get done or go to and allow some flexibility and serendipity. Allow for the opportunity to bump into somebody and say, ‘Let’s go and get a coffee’. As Guy said earlier, it is quality over quantity, make the conversations count and make sure you are not rushing off to the next thing.

Katrina: You see politicians who have got schedules with meeting every half an hour.  They’re doing that to prove they are not idle but it is absolutely pointless. They can’t have any quality conversations with anyone.

Neil: For me, it is about time management and keeping your head clear. I would say stay around La Croisette and Palais during the day, do all your necessary things with the apartments and hidden bunker and Manchester stand. But do get away from that area in the evenings and further back into town. It gives you a little bit of distance from it all. The schedules can be manic, particularly with Tuesday and Wednesday. If I’m allowed a second tip, don’t drink at lunch time. You’ll find yourself out on your feet by Thursday and not wanting to go back.

Rachel: Someone said to me at my first MIPIM, anytime you are offered food, take it. Anytime you are offered a drink, only take every third one. Otherwise you will never get to the end of the day.



Q: What’s your role?

Jon Derry: As an independent consultant, I help the Midlands UK team to organise the partnership programme, the MIPIM programme, and also what we put on in the UK pavilion.

Q: How do you measure ROI?

That is the $64,000 question. I think my answer is that in this day and age you would not find seasoned, hard-bitten politicians, local authority leaders, property professionals going out to somewhere like Cannes for three days to drink wine and do a bit of hobnobbing. They come back year after year for a simple reason – it works. They have local authority leaders and fellow professionals there in the right mind set to share ideas, talk about new initiatives, talk about business development. I won’t name names but one of my Midlands partners has said that three or four days at MIPIM gives them six months’ worth of new business opportunities.  That is why people go.



Q: Has MIPIM changed?

Sam: MIPIM has changed quite significantly over the last few years. I think the conversation is now about the human element of real estate. It doesn’t feel as deal focused, it feels more about what real estate can do for the communities in which it operates.  I remember when I first started going into MIPIM, it was all money, money, money, deals and deals, and very London focused. Since that time it has gone through a big development and scheme launches phase, with huge models of schemes from all over the world. Some countries that I never even knew existed. In more recent years we have seen a big push from regional cities talking about themselves and how they attract investment into them. London is still obviously a big presence but it has some tougher opponents fighting attention.


Q: Is MIPIM a great place to break a story?

MIPIM is still has a place to make big announcements but there is so much going on there that unless you have really thought about how you tell that story in a  variety of ways, then it might not have the impact you wanted. You can’t just say ‘Tah-dah, here’s a scheme’ and expect people to come to your stand. You need to make something more of that. Thankfully, we are in a time now where you have so many tools to talk about what you’re doing. It can be in person, it can be visual, through a model, it can be over Socials, or pen and paper in a magazine. You just have to think about your route to market if you want to get noticed at a huge event like MIPIM.


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