Interview with Anita Howard from ICE

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of chatting to Anita Howard from ICE. An early supporter and champion of Chorus Arts and the founder of the international event professionals network, ICE. 

My first question would be, for those that don’t know you, could you introduce yourself and explain a bit about what you do and ICE?

My name is Anita Howard. I'm one of the cofounders of ICE which we set up 10 years ago. I've had a background in loads of stuff. I've been exhibition side to agency side, running a tech company and then going on to run ICE.  

ICE is a community for in-house corporate planners and there's around 1500 engaged corporations. And the reason why we all love the ICE community is because it's about sharing knowledge and understanding between each other to help us all stand out and make better events and also to make the event industry a really cool place to work in. You know, like it's one of the most stressful industries in the world to work in. But we are here to make sure that we're all happy and it's not as stressful because we're sharing and caring about each other a little bit more.

And how did you start? 

We got some lovely people that have helped us right from the beginning. Getting the brand right, the goal right. You know Joanna from AstraZeneca, Kathleen from the SEC, people I really respected. And we got together and worked out what was going to be right for the industry. The ICE awards came up as the immediate thing, that the in-house teams don't get recognised for what they do and it was the key to getting everyone engaged. 

When you're building a community, it's working out what the common goal is, that common good. Everyone I talk to is doing such interesting things and we are hear to foster collaborations, to support and solve the big industry wide problems as well as being a friendly face into this industry.

And collaboration has been such a driving force behind what you do. It’s what Chorus Arts really resonated with when we started our conversations. 

Yes! Collaboration networking. The big thing is always people. And remembering to keep in contact with them. You just don't know where people end up and people always love knowing what you're doing. 

And what Chorus Arts is doing and going to do is just so exciting. The mentoring of artists to become more commercial is just so great! And artists can come to you at any stage of their life and career. It’s that sharing knowledge and helping people just do great things. We did post out last week I think, or the week before on getting young people into the industry. And we asked if anyone would be willing to share their career journey with us? And it's been really well received. I've been doing the interviews today and it just makes you love the event industry and you just go, if you're young, why wouldn't you go into this industry? It's so brilliant! It’s reaffirming.

I guess that brings me onto one of my next questions, what have been your biggest successes?

I think the biggest success is when we get a corporate planner coming on board and they understand immediately that there's other people to help them. That they're not by themselves. Because I think one of the things that happens within corporations is the events team not feeling that they've got support around them.
This is where ICE has been really successful, connecting people with another person if you've got a problem, a problem shared. 

The individual success stories are actually what makes ICE such a fabulous community. You really do support and champion each member.

Some people go, I wish I knew about the network sooner because I've gone through a load of rubbish.
A big success of ICE is that they know that they're safe, that not they're not going to be ignored, but they can talk to their peers, talk to the agencies and talk to the supporters who can and want to help!

When I started, when I ran my tech company, when I started selling to corporations, I really appreciated that event planners are siloed so much within their businesses and they're not considered strategic. It's amazing the brains and the creativity that we've got. 

Bringing creativity out is so important. In every part of what we do and in what we want to see in events and experiences too and what you do. 

What I find really interesting about Chorus and Chorus Arts is that the creativity isn't being lost whilst you're dealing with the major brands. 

When I was first told about Chorus Arts and what you were doing, I just went ‘this is so great!’. We set up ICE on the back of a marketing activity we ran when we were trying to look intelligent in front of corporate clients, but really it became a passion of creativity and community. 

And commercial, you need all of it!

You do! And those artists that you are mentoring are artists of the future, artists that brands will want to work with. 

And it’s about making that process less sticky, less challenging and ultimately more successful for both the artists and the brands. Going back to creativity in everything we do, can you talk more about ICE Expo?

Yes! It's our 10th birthday, so we have launched Ice Expo, which is basically unboxing exhibitions, pulling them apart and then going to the network to reinvent them. We want them to be more sustainable and more creative and more beneficial to everyone. 

One of the elements is a new way of solving problems. Real problems that corporations have told us about and then ICE supporters are going away in groups, teams, to each solve one of the problems. We’re really trying to move away from those awful pull up banners, and really get that interaction and collaboration going. 

Anita, it was such a pleasure chatting to you today. So much food for thought and we can’t wait to see how the ICE expo unfolds and what the next 10 years of ICE have in store. It’s really exciting!

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March 22, 2023
Interview with Anita Howard from ICE
Emma Stones