CEMA SUMMIT 2021 Personifies the Strength, Creativity, Ingenuity and Resilience In Our Industry

<< Back to Event Highlights | Posted on: November 30, 2021

CEMA SUMMIT 2021 Personifies the Strength, Creativity, Ingenuity and Resilience In Our Industry

Last month, 175 events industry luminaries convened at the iconic Arizona Biltmore to share insights, inspirations and ideas, and engage together in Lighting the way to Live Events.

CEMA Summit 2021 kicked off on Monday afternoon, with the first round of Ignite Sessions in which expert panelists shared their experience and insights on our most pressing issues – solving virtual and live event gaps, transforming events into digital experiences, delivering tailored, personalized experiences, that path forward with hybrid events and how to delight audiences despite new health and safety requirements. A really interesting new slant to the sessions was that the panelists were also able to engage the participants to work together brainstorm on strategies for addressing their big challenges.

Each room set-up for the sessions were “layered lounges” that delivered diverse experiences for attendees designed to promote both safety and comfort.

Photo credits throughout article: Two Dudes Photography

There were so many brilliant insights that it’s hard to pick the most memorable ones, but here are a few gems:

  • It’s time for a new ”p-word,” it’s not a pivot, it’s a pirouette. Constantly anticipating, adapting, and acting in the face of continual change.
  • We need a new vocabulary for events the reflects the changing dynamics in audience experiences.
  • We need to rely more on data and use AI and ML to inform event format and content decisions.
  • Audiences prefer bite-sized, digestible content and the ability to curate their own experiences.
  • Our role has evolved from event strategists to influencers and changers of behaviors.
Kimberley Gishler at CEMA Summit
Kicking off Tuesday morning CEMA’s own Kimberly Gishler was “caught” dressed for a virtual event as she pirouettes on to the live stage.

Our keynote speaker Erin King introduced us to the PUB (Personal Useful Brief) approach to creating persuasive social content. Erin’s advice: preview before posting. swap out “I” for “you” in your message headers. Make posts useful – show them what they can’t see. Be brief – know when to land the plane!

In our second Summit Townhall, the panelists weighed in on the progress and ongoing challenges we’ve faced since the “pivot” in 2020. Key insights included:

  • There is value in both in person and digital, it’s not either or.
  • Platforms need to allow brand essence and unique experiences to pull through.
  • Digital is global and can help increase reach and remove barriers to participation.
  • Consider moving from one mega event to smaller moments layered in with digital experiences.
  • Don’t mess with what is working (the wisest idea!).


Presenters: Kavin Schieferdecker, Moderator, Senior VP, Convention Division, Philadelphia CVB; Colleen Bisconti, Vice President Global Conferences and Events at IBM; Vivian Eickhoff, Sr. Director, Global Events, Microsoft; Sara Straw, Sr. Event Strategy Manager at Sage; Raime Merriman, Vice President Marketing, Hubb 

At lunch we were treated to a taste of the new Smart Women/Human I Like (SWIRL/SHIRL) online meetups. Each table engaged in a fun, light-hearted icebreaker – “two lies and a truth,” and then in honor of the lunch sponsor, Visit Dallas, we each got to recount our most memorable (or notorious) Dallas experience.

After lunch we all headed over to the Innovation, Solutions and Growth Idea Builder Rooms. We put our planning skills to the test, worked in mini teams to develop event strategies to maximize reach, engagement, and ROI, and learned how to use data for building insights that can shape future events.
Among the great ideas shared:

  • Content that travels to audiences through Roadshows+Pop-Ups, Brand Festivals and Community Summits.
  • Compelling event result stories that match key data insights to audience interests and concerns.

During Idea Builder sessions, we were challenged to think beyond traditional models of audience engagement – to develop strategic individual moments of impact. We acknowledged that what audiences need today may not be the same in three months. We explored how to treat in-person and digital as two parts of a whole, and to deliver tailored, connected experiences in both venues.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Summit was that no one really knows where this journey will end up or how long it will take. We’re all still figuring it out. We’re rediscovering our love for events and re-igniting creativity and innovation. We need to make the journey fun for teams and audiences. We’re excited about the new experiences we can create with our vision, technology, and most importantly, our passion for our craft.

CEMA Summit has always been a space for human connection and joy, so it goes without saying that it was marvelous to be there in person to reconnect and celebrate our creativity, ingenuity and resilience… and share in the joy of being a CEMA member… especially at the BIG dance-off on Tuesday night!