ow do you evaluate ICE 2013?
Having had time to reflect on ICE 2013 I honestly believe it was the best exhibition I have been part of in over 20-years working in the business. These weren’t normal exhibition circumstances in that we not only moved venue to ExCeL London but we also moved dates – it’s a bit like moving house and getting married on the same day! During my career I have put on many hundreds of events in different industries and in different locations and you develop the ability to be able to very quickly identify a good show from a bad one and I have to say that ICE 2013 excelled and went way beyond what we could have reasonably expected. My professional view is one thing but the real litmus test is what our customers felt about an event which they invested in. The response has been fantastic and I’m not ashamed to say that some of the really positive emails I have received have made me quite emotional. The ICE brand is very dear to my team all of whom have put their life and soul into creating something which really means a lot to their customers who once again came to London from all corners of the world. ICE 2013 provided a great platform for us to really build the brand and I can assure everyone in the gaming business that we are not going to rest on our laurels and that we have big plans to make the world’s number one gaming event even better in 2014. We should not overlook the ICE Conferences which I believe to be the best learning programme anywhere in gaming. These sold out sessions featured some 170 thought leaders and received great acclaim from delegates.
How many visitors have you received? Where did they come from?
We’re currently in the process of an independent audit of our attendance figures for ICE and will be able to issue these shortly. But the unaudited onsite figures already reveal an increase in attendance at the show at our new home. This is an enormous vote of confidence from our industry as more of them made the trip to ICE at ExCeL than ever came to Earls Court. And these increased numbers were reflected by the buzz on the show floor evident for all to see and feel. On the middle day of ICE, there were over 16,000 people on the floor of the show, which made for quite a spectacle. Also, the sheer size and scale of ICE now means that it’s impossible for visitors to take in everything that our exhibitors bring to ICE in a single day at the show. The quality and breadth of the thousands of product innovations displayed by ICE exhibitors was quite staggering and that prompted all visitors to ICE to now spend an increased average time of 1.58 days at the show, reflecting even more people returning to ICE for second and even third days. Also, the proportion of our audience who are international visitors to ICE continues to climb, with initial figures suggesting it is now up to 54% of all visitors. This, coupled with the fact that 71% of ICE exhibitors are based outside of the host nation, confirms ICE’s status as the only truly global event for the gaming industry.
Taking in mind the feedback, what changes are you preparing for 2014?
Exhibitions which are really in touch with the markets they serve never stand still. We are constantly looking at ways in which we can improve the experience and enhance the product offering. We do this by engaging with groups which I call our ‘critical friends’. I’m referring to organisations such as the European Casino Association, the Remote Gambling Association, the National Casino Industry Forum who I know will provide me with honest and positive feedback. We also have a dialogue with our exhibitors and each year we invest in an extensive and very thorough post show research which provides both a quantative and a qualitative view of what we are doing and how we are performing. On the basis of that feedback that industry creates the type of event that it wants. Whilst it’s good to know the areas that are performing to the high levels that are associated with the ICE brand I am particularly interested in the areas where perhaps it didn’t go as well as it should. We want to put things right and not pat ourselves on the back. One big change for 2014 relates to the configuration of the hall. Those people who attended will know how long the South Hall was and what we are doing is reducing the length of the South Hall and moving into the North Hall and incorporating the boulevard. This will make the event more square in shape and in the process increase the size by some 10%. Once again this has been very well received and will enhance the experience for both visitors and exhibitors.
In general, what kind of innovations could be seen this year in the exposition area?
At Events the size of ICE, which is the biggest gaming exhibition in the world and one which embraces all of the gaming platforms and sectors, it’s impossible to talk about just one type of innovation. Throughout ExCeL there were examples of companies taking innovation to the next level. There was a company showing portable tablet gaming, there was hologram technology, new content, new cabinets, there were developments in remote data capture, low entry point lottery systems, new gaming licenses for street and casino, social gaming initiatives, card reading innovations – everywhere you looked there was something new, exciting and potentially business changing: that’s the beauty of big exhibitions and there’s nothing quite like it for inspiration and confidence.
What mood could you perceive in the halls? How is the industry this year?
I felt the mood in the hall was very positive and very upbeat. We are not being naive and we know the economic conditions remain extremely challenging but I did feel that people were at ExCeL with a purpose after all you don’t travel thousands and thousands of miles to be downbeat. Landmark exhibitions have the capacity to raise spirits and galvanise visitors and I think, certainly from the contact I have had with our exhibitors, that people had rediscovered their positivity. We should not overlook the ICE Conferences which I believe to be the best learning programme anywhere in gaming.
Where will you put the focus in the coming months?
We start again. We begin by taking stock of how we saw the event from the various departmental perspectives, we go through all of the media coverage to establish their insights. We then receive a presentation from the market research agency on their findings and analysis. All of that is then fed into a three day strategy session at which I encourage everyone to think laterally and without the restraints of conventional thinking. Each year I stress the fact that we have no right at all to people’s custom and that to win it we have to earn it. That’s achieved by doing the simple things excellently and adding the inspirational elements which explain the difference between a good event and an outstanding event. ICE Totally Gaming enjoys an outstanding reputation throughout the markets it serves.