Industry Association Profile: Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA)

September 3, 2017

The Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA) provides a community for senior-level strategic event marketers and industry professionals to share their knowledge and best-practices.

Launched in 1990 as an association for corporate exhibit managers in high-tech, its acronym encompassed several meanings throughout the early years. The “C” initially stood for “computer” and the “M” quickly morphed to “marketer” to indicate its focus on strategic event marketing and planning – the whole event experience, not just logistics.

Now in its 27th year, CEMA still has a strong representation from technology companies, but is inclusive of all industries.

CEMA is a small association with only two executive staff members, both with strong backgrounds in corporate event marketing: President and CEO Kimberley Gishler, who joined CEMA full time in 2010 after previously serving as president of the board, while managing marketing communications at HP, and Olga Rosenbrook, who has served as its director of member services for the past 12 years.

An elected board of directors, representing both senior corporate event marketers and industry supplier professionals, drives the association’s strategic direction and periodically audits membership programs, events and benefits.

In addition to online communities and social media communications, CEMA provides opportunities for face-to-face education and networking in various locations throughout the year, including the annual CEMA Summit and the popular CEMA Study Tours. These tours provide members with an opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes firsthand at a wide range of industry events, from large tech conferences to the Super Bowl in San Francisco. Upcoming tour destinations include Microsoft Ignite and New York Comic Con.

In essence, CEMA offers its members an environment where they can learn from their peers, share their expertise and build lifetime relationships.

When asked to define the association in a single sentence, Gishler said, “(CEMA) is a boutique association that provides an education-rich, sales-free environment for strategic event marketers that helps them move forward.”

Quality is emphasized over quantity: membership comes at a premium and event participation is regulated with a corporate member to industry supplier ratio to ensure they are able to deliver that experience. In addition, a no-sales policy is strictly enforced. 

As a small non-profit association, CEMA is reliant on membership dues, event fees and sponsors. For example, OPUS Agency provides registration services for all CEMA events, so they can deliver a positive, consistent experience with a small budget. 

“We can only be as good as the people who support us,” Gishler said. “Without our sponsors, we couldn’t do what we do.” 

CEMA is a member of the Events Industry Council (EIC), the organization responsible for the industry-standard Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation and certification programs. Gishler also is a member-at-large on the EIC board.


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