CEMA Summit 2018 Recap

July 26, 2018

The Corporate Event Marketing Association’s CEMA Summit 2018 was held July 22-24 at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

Prior to the event, each CEMA board member was assigned as an “ambassador” for a group of first-time registrants, reaching out via email. A special first-timers reception onsite helped ensure that everyone felt welcomed. Despite the fact that I already knew quite a few of the attendees, as a first-time Summit-goer I very much appreciated that extra level of care.

Chairwoman Angie Smith presents at CEMA SummitAngie Smith, CEMA Chairwoman, opened the CEMA Summit educational program by talking about the importance of sharing and collaboration and touting CEMA’s commitment to transparency and openness.

“The world is changing at an exponential pace and we as event marketers have to keep up with that,” said Smith. “CEMA is all about making great ideas better.”

The conference was geared towards helping event marketers do just that. From opening speaker Duncan Wardle talking about the theory of creativity and giving practical, actionable tips on how to spark that creativity personally and professionally to closer Erik Qualman advising disruptive thinking as a way towards success in a digital world, the content did not disappoint.

Other notable main stage industry-agnostic speakers included Rohit Bhargava, who spoke about the power of “non-obvious” thinking, and Anne Marie Malecha of Dezenhall Resources who provided real-world examples of how to (and how not to) handle crisis management.

There were also presentations focused on practical applications, best practices for combining events without losing one’s audience, agile marketing for events, the value of data and responsibilities that come along with data collection. The underlying message was clear: events can’t exist in a vacuum, they must be part of the organization’s marketing strategy.  

CEMA Summit Taste of Las Vegas dinner
S'more-making at the "Taste of Las Vegas" evening event

Between sessions there were breaks and prize drawings courtesy of a number of very generous event sponsors, and “Innovation Unveiled” segments. These brief presentations highlighted technology deemed particularly innovative by the CEMA Summit content committee and gave suppliers a chance to effectively give an elevator pitch creatively.

No event for event marketers would be complete without social activities. From the welcome reception to the Las Vegas-sponsored extravaganza “Taste of Las Vegas” dinner with band Weekend Celebrity and the closing dinner and karaoke, there were plenty of opportunities for fun.

Many long-time CEMA Summit-goers refer to their fellow CEMA members as family. As such, there were some emotional moments when friends who hadn’t seen each other in a year or more were reunited. It’s a loyal community: more than one attendee mentioned that the Summit is now the only event that makes it to their “must attend” list, even if they aren’t able to make it happen every year consecutively.

One particularly poignant moment was CEMA CEO and President Kimberley Gishler recounting memories of industry veteran and friend Susan Littleton, who passed away earlier this year. Gishler named Nicole Parker Vidovich as the recipient of the Susan Littleton award for event marketing excellence. 

Clean the World
CEMA Summit attendees assemble hygiene kits for Clean the World

The event also had charitable components. Attendees worked together to assemble 3,000 hygiene kits for donation to Lava Mae, a charity that helps the homeless. Items for the kits were purchased from Clean the World by Summit sponsor Sparks.  During the closing evening, performance painter Addie Panasiuk created some speed-painted works of art which were then auctioned off, with all proceeds going to the Surfrider Foundation.

The Summit Marketplace demo station area was in the hallway within the general meeting and meals area, making it easy to stop and learn more about the participants. There was also the option for “Speed Dating” with additional sponsors. And those who wanted a complimentary headshot had opportunities daily with Two Dudes Photos.

Attendees could take a short break in the Inspiration Zone couches, conveniently located next to the sponsored Express Kafeh coffee station. I had to limit myself to two double espresso macchiatos each day because the coffee was so good that I wanted more.

    Kim Gishler at CEMA Summit
    CEMA CEO & President Kimberley Gishler introduces the new Board

    Now that I’ve been to my first Summit, I understand why so many people rave about them. CEMA fosters a “no-selling” environment, which means that everyone can network in a no-pressure environment. It doesn’t matter who is a corporate planner or an industry partner, everyone gets to know each other as individuals.

    That being said, it’s also a great environment for corporate event professionals to interact with a large number of their peers — the event attracts senior-level event marketers and planners from a wide range of organizations, including many large enterprise technology companies.

    CEMA Summit 2018 statistics:

    • Sold-out event, with 373 attendees
    • 132 first-timers (for a 49 percent bump in registration)
    • Beat membership goals by 10 percent
    • Sponsorships up by 53 percent

    The location for CEMA Summit 2019 was unveiled at the close of the conference: MGM Grand Hotel and Casino Las Vegas.  

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