Brit awards

ICE 2018
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Clarion, the people behind ICE, collected the exhibition industry’s top award recently. So what, asks Ken Scott, does it mean to be the most influential company in your sector for the last 25 years?

For anyone who attended ICE this year, we probably witnessed the greatest gaming business exhibition of modern times. There were 34,000 people from some 150 plus countries working their way through all but 8 of the 44 halls of the largest exhibition arena in Europe.

It was some achievement and an obvious pointer to the position held by the organisers Clarion. And let’s face it, it says something when you can takeover virtually all of the ExCeL Centre.

But that wasn’t everyone’s take on the situation when the company came on to the gaming scene originally and bought ATE, the exhibitions division of Bacta. Some thought Clarion would suck the life out of the shows and disappear.

The reverse has happened. Clarion has reinvented the exhibition environment and literally brought the UK gaming landscape to life, keeping it at the heart of global gaming in the industry’s psyche.

True, they had purchased astutely. ICE and the then ATEI were world beaters in their own way. But while Bacta had done a great job taking them to that level, this year’s ICE, and all the Clarion run editions up to last February, are, quite simply, from a different planet.

In every sphere of activity – marketing, organisation, innovation, networking – Clarion have worked hard and skilfully to earn the mantle of the most influential exhibitions and events business in the past 25 years.

And in so doing they have lifted the domestic industry up a notch each time. There is a vibrancy, an anticipation, an excitement in every step you take at ICE. But the show hasn’t overtaken G2E Las Vegas and become the world’s number one event by chance. The exhibitions are almost incomparable, largely because ICE has echoed the flair and creativity of its exhibitors; it inspires its visitors.

That is no longer the case in many trade exhibitions both here in the UK and around the world. So, what does it mean to be the most influential company in your sector?

In this case,it means taking the risk and investing in ideas and new concepts. It means challenging the stale and staid methodolgy of exhibition organising that, frankly, the gaming exhibition industry has got stuck in; and it means delivering an energy where business can be done.

Clarion’s award could be considered a tribute to the gaming industry, after all, it’s the gaming division that has helped fashion Clarion’s new status.

But ironically, it’s real influence should be in driving the creative juices of its fellow exhibition organisers. Whilst Clarion seem to do more and more, most other events just seem to do enough.

And as most businesses know, enough really isn’t enough.

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