10 Trends for Corporate Events Seen And Heard at CEMA Summit 2023

August 15, 2023

Held Aug. 6-8 at the Hyatt Regency Salt Lake, the 2023 Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA) Summit drew more than 500 attendees, up from 455 in 2022. Here are 10 trends we saw and heard at #CEMASummit2023, powered by PCMA.

Peer-to-peer learning. Even during sessions with panels, attendees were encouraged to discuss scenarios, as well as share challenges and solutions. For example, during the session, “Design Lab: Guiding Principles in Experience Design,” attendees shared ideas about event strategies for awareness, registration, anticipation, arrival, content, connection, activation and community. 

Hotel rates will continue to climb but at a slower pace. “Group and business travel is back,” said Michael Dominguez, president and CEO of Associated Luxury Hotels International (AHLI). Average daily room rates (ADR) grew across all days of the week in April 2023, compared with April 2022, he said. “Rates will continue to grow but probably in the single digits,” he predicted. “We’ve never had this kind of compression before, with no supply coming online. Rates won’t go backwards because the increase in wages is permanent.” Most resorts have fully recovered to 2019 levels but large urban hotels are lagging, he said.

CEMA 2023


Wellness activities. The importance of wellness has never been more front-and-center. Hilton sponsored a Sunrise Walk and worked with Visit Salt Lake on the guided tour of downtown Salt Lake City. “Extreme effort can lead to extreme burnout,” said Sarah O’Hagan, CEO of Exos, who delivered the closing keynote. “In the workplace, like in sports, readiness leads to peak performance while overtraining leads to burnout.”

Interactive networking that is sponsored and aligned with brands. CEMA offered attendees eight options for interactive networking, from bourbon and wine tastings to sound baths and yoga. Each was sponsored. During The Art of Charcuterie sponsored by Freeman, attendees created meat, cheese, fruit and nut boxes while noshing and networking with colleagues.

CEMA 2023


F&B that makes an impression. From breakfasts and breaks to receptions and dinners, attendee expectations for event food and beverage continue to run high. During the morning and afternoon breaks sponsored by Meet Hawaii, attendees sampled browned butter mochi, hurricane popcorn, tropical trail mix, taro chips, macadamia nut shortbread with dark chocolate drizzle, ahi poke and malasadas. 

Getting a seat at the table. During a town hall, NVIDIA Senior Director, Corporate Events Jasmin Dave asked why event marketers and engineers aren’t respected as much as other engineers and executives when it comes to having a seat at the table for strategic discussions. She asked: “Is that something we can talk about as an industry?” 

CEMA 2023 town hall


No replacement for F2F. The pandemic has enhanced the value of in-person events, and work from home (WFH) is having a positive impact on attendance at corporate events. As much as 22% of new customers gained was recorded to come from in-person events, said Dominguez, who presented updated research from the Events Industry Council and Oxford Economics.

Go big with staging and production. During keynotes, CEMA made an impression with three massive screens, lighting and production. The room was set with a variety of seating options — from comfortable couches and chairs in the front to high-top tables and chairs on the sides and in the back of the room.

CEMA 2023


Road shows vs. flagship events. During the session, Getting the Green Light: Secrets to Executive Buyin on Event Strategy, Amplitude Director of Corporate and Strategic Events Sarah Shaheen said her executive team is evaluating whether to invest in road shows or big annual corporate events. To get executive buy in, “present industry data, evaluate what your competitors are doing and talk to agencies about trends,” she recommended. 

Experience vs. swag. One of the most popular activations in the CEMA Lounge was the Impact XM soda parlor and photo and video booth. Attendees selected custom, signature sodas to sip on during breaks and took photos and videos with props against a colorful backdrop. 

The 2024 CEMA Summit will take place Aug. 4-6 in Seattle.

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