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ICE Is Warming Up in North America

An international “club” specifically for internal corporate planners is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2024 with the debut of a U.S. event.

For Anita Howard, there is a combination of satisfaction and frustration as the community she founded, In-House Corporate Events, approaches its 10th anniversary in a few months.

On one hand, she is pleased to see that the “club,” as she calls it, is now a 1,400-member community of internal organizers and marketers of company meetings, training programs, customer events, public events, and incentives. At the moment, more than one-third of members are with companies in the United Kingdom, a few hundred more are with German firms, and most of the remainder work for companies across Europe and Asia. There are presently a few dozen U.S. members, though Howard has plans in place to ensure that number grows considerably in 2024.

ICE members communicate and commiserate online on a regular basis to help each other navigate their internal working environments. In addition to chat forums and occasional video meet-ups, “we’ve got ‘global heads connect’ sessions, which is a very important group that came about during Covid,” Howard says. “These are the senior people, the global directors of events, who meet every two weeks for half an hour via video and talk about things that are on their radar. It's so helpful to listen and learn about what’s going to affect their events and departments in the near future.”

Also, many ICE members meet in person a few times each year, including for the annual ICE Awards that recognize creative and impactful in-person programs across all corporate-event types.

On the other hand, Howard knows that for all the effort she’s put in to heighten the profile and influence of event planners among corporate executives, there’s still much work to be done. Some proof: A recent survey of about 135 ICE members found that there were 90 different job titles among them. “That’s a pretty big indicator of the state of our job sector,” she says. “From those results, it follows that executive stakeholders do not truly understand all that our members do for their organizations. So, we've got a job-description initiative starting in early 2024, and there will be a lot of interesting and useful perspective coming from that.”

Anita Howard.pngFrom a larger perspective, ICE’s mission is to help planners promote their strategic abilities to the C-suite. During the time when Howard was a planner for a tech firm, “I was struck by how little recognition planners get for the work they do, and they aren’t really able to push back on stakeholders when a planner thinks the strategy for one or more events does not work for reaching the organization’s larger goals. So, we’re trying to build up their confidence and knowledge to be able to provide input and show that what they do is not simply a cost center. We think this will also make the corporate-events field a more enjoyable and satisfying place to work.”

The Growth Plan
To expand the reach of ICE into the U.S., Howard has enlisted Steve Brown, formerly the director of events at Shutterstock, as the community’s stateside ambassador. In November, he hosted get-togethers in Chicago and New York of about 30 planners each to introduce them to ICE, the first foray for the group into North America.

The cost of these events, along with other community-related costs, are picked up by sponsors such as Maritz, DRPG, Cvent, and other event agencies and industry suppliers. As a result, there is no fee for planners’ membership or their attendance at most events—but those agencies and suppliers may not partake in the conversations between planners, allowing for frank discussion of issues and problems around planning, promoting, and measuring corporate events. 

Howard and Brown are building momentum for the group’s big in-person meetings in summer of 2024. First, July 4 will see the fourth ICE Awards Conference and Expo for Germany take place, followed a week later by the 10th annual conference and expo for the U.K. contingent that’s happening in London. Then, July 18 is when the inaugural U.S. edition of the ICE Awards Conference and Expo will happen, most likely in a northeastern city. There will be a half-day of education followed by trade-show hours and then the awards ceremony.

To connect planners with a host of useful event-related ideas—and to provide well-deserved recognition to some—“we have ten different awards categories, ranging from best training event to best motivational event to best sponsorship activation to best agency collaboration,” Howard says. “The nominations page on our website launches in January, and we are making the event very American in its style, because wherever we are we want the experience to be specific for that country.”

However, “all corporate planners have similar problems,” she notes, “so members from all the chapters will be able to learn” from planners’ submissions across the three awards programs.

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