I was walking along the Croisette in sunny Cannes, on my way to my fourth meeting of the morning, my thumbs rapidly typing a Tweet.
It was day two of MIPIM, the international property trade show held every March, and already I felt like my phone was part of my hand and might have to be surgically removed at the end of the week.
Tweeting was par for the course, something you slotted in while hurrying to the next event or one to one. It was about mopping up the sights, sounds and hot topics of the show to give a flavour of what was going on and what it was like for those not there.
It was also a way of showing what you were up to and that you were ‘all over the show’.
But it was only a small part of the output.
My work on MIPIM usually started in December, coming up with content ideas and commissioning the features for the supplements that would go out with the ‘MIPIM issue’.
Planning ahead with content
Supplements usually had an eight-week production schedule. However, because of the volume of content going into what was our biggest issue of the year, preparation started earlier so I could drip-feed articles through to the production desk for subbing and layout.
One year I had responsibility for 65+ pages in the MIPIM issue, and this was on top of producing the regular weekly regional features section. Staggering the flow of features was essential for everyone involved.
What it meant was most of the supplements had copy deadlines in January and early February. So the ship sailed very early if you were a PR looking to contribute or get coverage.
The week before the publication date of the MIPIM issue was when I panic-organised my meetings and events. It was usually the first time I got to go through the hundreds of invites.
It was also when I did my prep for any panels I was chairing. One year I chaired five, and that adds its own layer of stress.
Running on adrenalin
By the time I got to MIPIM, I was usually pretty knackered. The week in Cannes was the final push, running on adrenalin and snack bars or handfuls of sweets grabbed from stands.
Those days at the show are intense. Aside from chairing duties, I would cover one or two key events. This meant turning around the write up within an hour or two of the event happening.
In later years, it also meant grabbing some of the panellists for a quick podcast immediately after.
We had a quota of quick five-minute podcast interviews we were expected to record and send back to the office, along with a mini write-up. The news desk also had a quota of off-diary (non-press release) stories they were expected to file.
There was an extra layer of stress getting stuff back to the office, particularly large audio files, as the wifi wasn’t always great. In one hotel I stayed in, the wifi signal in my room was so rubbish, I could only send or receive stuff at 5am.
On top of the content generation and chairing panels, there might be additional video interview duties. And for me, as regional features editor, I wanted to get feature ideas.
The biggest benefit of going to Cannes was having pretty much the entire UK represented in one place. I could, in essence, travel the entire country in the space of three or four days.
So any spare time was booked up with meetings, catching up with what was going on and making new contacts.
My tactic was to get as much value from the time away as possible. It meant 17-hour days and resting only when I was asleep.
I’d get home at the end of the week and sit on the sofa gently rocking back and forth with a grin on my face, not quite believing MIPIM was done for another year.
It would take a good few days to properly recover from the fast and furious pace.
Why am I writing about this? To show what the trade show experience is like from a journalist’s perspective.
Different journalists will have slightly different priorities, but there will inevitably be an element of fast-turnaround content generation. And it will inevitably involve a lot of running around.
What are trade shows like for you?
Want some tips on how to get the most comms value out of your time at a trade show?