LME WEEK 2014 – Survival of the fittest – how to survive LME Week

For one week in October, the party season comes early in London. Every year the London Metal Exchange (LME) holds LME Week. Kicking off on Sunday, October 19 this year and traditionally winding down around Thursday, metal market participants descend en masse from all corners of the globe to attend conferences, briefings and networking breakfasts/lunches/dinners/parties.

For the old sages, eyes roll at the mention of LME Week. The veteran traders have been there, done that and are no longer so thrilled at the prospect of a week-long event while watching their clerks overdo it on the free booze (see point 4).

Still, miss it at your peril. LME Week may not be as extravagant as it once was, with companies such as INTL FCStone, ICAP and Reuters deciding not to hold parties this year, but it still has the pull to attract the movers and shakers of the metal industry. And while LME Week Asia is gaining traction, networking opportunities here have yet to be paralleled by any other event. Besides, it is not just an excuse for a party – serious business takes place around the city, with participants swapping gossip, trying to get ahead of the competition and closing those make-or-break deals.

So, whether it’s your first or your thirtieth LME Week, take a deep breath and jump in. Here are some tips for survival:

1. On a wing and prayer, if you dare
Do not try and wing it. Many have tried and failed. Organise your days, including lunches and meetings beforehand. Know what it is you want to get out of the trip and prepare. If this is your first LME Week, research the key topics and have an opinion – you will be asked.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of Linked-in stalking beforehand – knowing who to look out for in a crowded room can make life a lot simpler. Also, take twice as many business cards as you think you will need; the last thing you want is not to be able to give a potential customer your details.

2. Smile please – network, network, network
As in most things, getting to know the right people can open doors for business. There will be people from all walks of the industry from all corners of the globe – this is your opportunity to meet them. The longer you have been in the industry, the easier it becomes – you will meet familiar faces and be introduced to new ones in the process. Have conversation points and questions prepared to make it easier to strike up talk. These are turbulent times – the Qingdao scandal, new warehousing regulations, export bans, Fed rate rises etc. have all made headlines recently. Brushing up on these beforehand will make life a lot easier.

3. Place your bets – LME Dinner
Held in the Grosvenor House Hotel, it’s reputed to be the biggest black-tie event in Europe. Once you have donned your glad rags and circulated the suites, it’s time to take your seat for the dinner (duck will be served this year, it seems) and settle in for the speeches. Alongside talks from the CEO Gary Jones and HKEx CEO Charles Li, there is a guest speaker. Tradition here is to place a bet with the rest of your table on how long the speech will last. Be careful, though – seasoned diners will try to manipulate the time by heckling and clapping the speaker. Previously, it was better to go long but a lot of money was lost last year when speaker Martin Wheatley from the FCA wrapped up his speech in under six minutes (costing me £20 in the process).

4. Don’t get a reputation
There’s free food, free drink, the music is on, and you’re in the party spirit. Stop. This is still a business event. No one wants to do the walk of shame into the office next morning while frantically trying to reassemble the fragments of the previous night’s events in order. Worse, this industry is renowned for its nicknames – any misdemeanours here and it could result in a life-long sobriquet, one that is not always easily explainable to your other half…

5. Follow through
You are tired. You may be hung-over. You probably do not want to talk about contracts for a very long time. In fact, you probably have metal overdose and crave a nice relaxing holiday. But remember to follow through with the promises made to your contacts both old and new. Go through your business cards, email them a hello and a thank you and – who knows? – that person who propped up the bar with you at 4am could turn out to be your best customer.

Good luck, enjoy and see you on the other side.