In March, while attending the Mipim international property investment forum in the south of France, I thought back to a scene I had witnessed there in 2007 that had both amused and discomfited me.
On the closing night of the conference, when hordes of people from every corner of the earth were converging in the crowded lobby bar of the Carlton Hotel, one middle-aged European delegate, who had clearly been making the most of the networking opportunities presented to him by the event, was slumped in a chair in the centre of the room, sound asleep (or, it seemed, possibly dead), with his hair in disarray, his tie over his shoulder and his supper all down the front of his shirt. At some point, the weight of his head became a bit too much for his neck, and he toppled over and fell straight onto the floor with a giant thud, which garnered him the attention of everyone in the room but still did not disturb his slumber.
He was lying prone on the floor for a long time. Eventually he roused from his nap, somewhat confused, stood up, to much applause – and grabbed a pint of lager and continued drinking.
I did not see that guy this year.
I did not see a lot of things I saw in the previous few years, in fact. Mipim is still a highly social affair but the tone was markedly different in 2009: there were fewer delegates, smaller budgets and no blow-out beach bashes. Meetings felt more targeted, more likely to result in actual business. In many ways, this more clear-eyed approach is a welcome change.
In hindsight, the hard-partying scene at the hotel was the embodiment of the heady days of the economic boom and also of the excesses of the FDI market too. Former US president George W Bush famously said of the lead-up to the financial crisis that “Wall Street got drunk”. Perhaps it did, but it wasn’t the only one drinking the sauce. With FDI flowing bountifully in the past few years and such a plethora of greenfield projects on tap, many locations became imbued with intoxicating, often implausible visions of becoming the next Silicon Valley or the next big thing in biotech.
Now that the party is over, it is time for a more sober assessment of location competencies and promotion strategies. I’ll certainly drink to that.