More than 1,600 channel movers and shakers under one roof for one night only: that was the CRN Channel Awards 2014.
In one sense, these celebrations mark the end of the year; in another sense, they mark the culmination of 12 months' work by CRN to produce them and ensure that the very best of the best can be recognised.
The night kicked off as usual with a champagne reception for all guests from 7pm in the lavishly decorated permanent marquee in Battersea Park, with seats taken for dinner from approximately 8:30pm when all were welcomed by a speech from CRN editor Sara Yirrell.
"What is most gratifying about this event is the way that so many channel players get together and enjoy it as a real social occasion," Yirrell said after the event, which came of age this year, enjoying its 21st anniversary.
"Whether you're a distributor, reseller, services provider, vendor or some other channel partner, you can be guaranteed there will be plenty of time to chat with your peers."
CRN publisher Alan Loader agreed with Yirrell: "It has been a great year, and I'm really glad to see so many CRN readers and supporters at the event. Competition for awards has been tough this year and the winners have earned their success.
"It does continue to be a great evening - and thanks go to our sponsors as well as the hardworking marketing, events and judging teams - and we can only hope it continues to go from strength to strength next year as well."
Some of the sharper-eyed may have spotted a relatively new recruit - editor of Channelnomics US, Jessica Meek - at the tables or even on the stage on the night. Meek will be channel partners' first port of call for all channel news emanating from or affecting the US market into which Incisive Media is now expanding, complementing Channelnomics.eu - itself helmed by CRN content editor Sam Trendall.
Quite a few may have been surprised - if not downright startled - by the rockets that raced across the ceiling to announce dinner, a new "light and sound" special effect at Battersea lasting a split second that rivalled an outdoor fireworks display in terms of noise.
Dinner was salmon, followed by braised beef cheek, mashed potato and vegetables, followed by a deconstructed banoffee pie - all washed down by plenty of wine, champagne and spirits.
So who was there?
We spotted long-time channel stalwarts such as Westcoast's managing director Alex Tatham, and Manchester's finest supporter -- and winner of the Industry Achievement Award -- Scott Fletcher on the evening, as well as senior executives of most tier one vendors and distributors, and plenty of senior VAR bosses and execs as well.
The night also marked the launch of the CRN A-list 2015, which is now available online at www.channelweb.co.uk.
We have reason to believe that Kelway's Phil Doye - although he may not have been at the event - was pretty chuffed to see his company take home the trophy for the Managed Services Provider of the Year - with the proud contributors to that performance all lined up and photographed for Twitter at the Peterborough office the next morning. Kelway also took the coveted Reseller of the Year prize, as revealed in these pages.
"Woke up to discover that Kelway are double award winners at the CRN Awards," Doye tweeted the morning after the ceremony. "What a week!"
As with the awards themselves, however, there are always plenty of new faces and names to meet and greet, whether during dinner, after the presentation, or at the traditional after-party at The Qube Project (formerly Pacha London), a boisterous nightspot near Victoria station.
Bruce Hockin, director of storage solutions at distributor Cloud Distribution and member of the judging panel, said: "The change of format; I loved it!"
Vijay Mistry, partner account manager at Cisco Systems' international arm, came and introduced himself to CRN on the night. He didn't want to incriminate himself with a direct quote, however - although he was happy to say he enjoyed himself and finds the event useful for bridge-building between contacts.
Geoffrey Kasule, business unit manager at distributor CMS - a regular attendee at the Channel Awards - confirmed: "It has been a fantastic night; this is one of the best events of the year."
Robert van Tongeren, an engineer at managed services provider NetConsult, echoed the comments of the others: "Yes, I've had a good night."
Tongeren felt the event was especially valuable for SMB resellers, looking to build their margin and brand in an extremely competitive industry. "We are just small, we've gone over £4m [in revenue] this year, and we're a reseller working in the financial services industry," he confirmed.
NetConsult is based in the West End of London and focuses on providing that customer service that makes smaller, nimble companies stand out among long-standing peers. A vertical focus was also important in its success, he suggested.
"We came here as we were shortlisted, as one of some 28,000 IT resellers in the UK. In terms of direct competition there are about six companies, and out of them we were shortlisted. Some of them were six times the size," said Tongeren.
Jason Manford, the Salford-based comedian known for his appearances on TV programmes Eight out of 10 Cats and The One Show, was the host this year.
He kept everyone giggling with his rapid-fire arsenal of good-humoured witticisms and one-liners, introducing the winners and judges' commendeds accompanied by live musical stings from the band, whetting the audience's appetite for the rest of the evening. Show Me the Funny - another programme in which he has appeared - indeed.
The CRN team would like to congratulate all those who did well; we hope to see you all again next year.
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