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The big experiment: taking the ICE Awards online

In a matter of months, virtual events have become a staple in the industry but virtual award ceremonies remain in their infancy, something Anita Howard and the team at ICE (In-House Corporate Events) are trying to change.

We caught up with Howard to discuss why the annual ICE Week, happening between 6-9 July, including the ICE Awards, is going fully virtual and how the process of delivering it has been a ‘big experiment’.

“A big opportunity has opened up for all of us and I think that’s really exciting if not a bit challenging at the moment because we decided to go virtual around a month ago,” explained Howard.

“Everybody wants to help and be on board with this, so we’ve tried to position this as an experiment. At ICE we usually say ‘let’s try something new, let’s try something different’.

“We’ve got lots of different formats. Some people might even say we’re being too ambitious but unless you’re ambitious, things get boring, don’t they?”

Postponing ICE Week wasn’t an option for the team, they wanted to set an example for what can be done. “We have to be bold and we have to show people that this can continue but in a different way,” Howard added.

“All of the corporates we’ve spoken to in the community, they are being asked by their organisations ‘what else can we do?’ because having events are still so important for the corporates.

“Although it has been awful, all the corporates are desperate to get back to putting on events and the organisers have had to become very creative, which, fortunately, they already are.”

Howard explains that in contrast to some event agencies, in-house corporate planners working in, currently, thriving sectors such as pharmaceuticals, have found themselves busier than ever. “I think the biggest challenge for corporate planners is actually getting enough ideas to implement events effectively.”

With the help of DRPG and Cvent, two of the ICE Awards sponsors, as well as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, the keynote speakers scheduled for ICE Week, will broadcast from their own homes and offices in a studio-like setting. “We decided we were going to do backdrops for everyone with subtle ICE branding on it. With the keynote speakers, we’ve sent out film crews who are going into their houses and offices, so we can properly produce their talks like a TV show.”

Between sessions, attendees will have 15-minute comfort breaks, in which time, adverts from the sponsors will be broadcast. “Much like a commercial break, sponsors will get a lot more from the event this year.”

Howard added that there is one physical element that couldn’t be replicated virtually – the goody bag. Each guest will receive an ‘ICE Pack’ containing giveaways that can be enjoyed throughout the awards ceremony.

Besides fun giveaways, the ICE Awards offer attendees the opportunity to network, something the ICE team didn’t want this year’s virtual guests to have to compromise on.

“There will be a button on the screen to join your table. These are tables of 10 and each will have a sponsor and a corporate as table hosts. During the 15 minutes of time given to ‘finding your table,’ guests will make a cocktail and get to know their table.”

The ICE Awards winners will be asked to prerecord a message to be played on the evening and when all the winners have been announced, guests will have the options to re-join their tables to open the final surprise in their ICE Packs.

“We’ll see how it goes because it’s a bit of an experiment, but exciting.”

To find out more about ICEWeek and how to get involved, visit ICE’s website.