PCMA and CEMA: ‘The Synergy Is There’

Author: Michelle Russell       

CEMA President and CEO Kimberley Gishler

CEMA President and CEO Kimberley Gishler

At Monday’s PCMA press conference, it was announced that PCMA and CEMA (Corporate Event Marketing Association) have entered into a strategic alliance agreement. The agreement seeks to build both organizations through collaboration and cross promotion, which will involve working together on education and research across different platforms, benefiting members of both organizations.

Convene spoke with CEMA President and CEO Kimberley Gishler before the announcement to learn more about CEMA and what she is looking forward to having this strategic alliance with PCMA accomplish in the coming year and beyond.

How did you first get involved in the industry?

I got involved with CEMA while I was running events for 15 years. CEMA was doing a Study Tour at CeBit in Germany — yes, I am dating myself. Study Tours offer event marketers a behind-the-scenes look at major events. They’re wonderful for gaining “in-the-trenches” knowledge and insights. I really liked the energy of the people who attended and was impressed by their intelligence and experience — everyone was a consummate event pro. From there, I went to my first CEMA Summit and was hooked. I joined the CEMA Board and served for seven years on the board, including terms as vice chairwoman, chairwoman, and past chairwoman while I worked in marketing for HP. When I left HP, CEMA approached me and asked if I would be interested in running the association. How could I refuse? I’ve been CEMA’s president and CEO since 2010.

Can you tell us about your membership?

Our membership [of more than 700] is a unique combination of senior-level event marketers, CMOs, vice presidents of events, experiential marketers, and the suppliers that support them. Membership is 60/40 — 60 percent client side and 40 percent supplier. We strive to keep a healthy balance between the two to ensure that we stay practitioner-focused. If a new supplier wants to become a member, they need to bring in a client-side event marketer.

How has joining the Events Industry Council (EIC) more than six years ago expanded your reach?

Well, first of all, we’ve been the industry’s best-kept secret. Until recently, no one had heard of us. It was — and is — wonderful for CEMA to be part of the council and have a seat at the table. It has definitely expanded our reach.

How did a conversation start about potentially collaborating with PCMA?

Working with PCMA had been on my mind for a few years. The two associations have unique and complementary services, so the synergy is there. And some of CEMA’s past board members have been actively involved with PCMA, so there was a familiarity as well. When I met Sherrif [Karamat, PCMA president & CEO) at an EIC meeting, we started talking about how we might be able to partner on educational programs and cross-promote the two groups. We agreed to stay in touch and recently got together to have a conversation about what each association would like to accomplish. The timing was right, the partnership package was right, and so we agreed to move forward.

What do you envision will result from this partnership?

I’m most excited about the opportunity to collaborate on new research and educational programming as well as expanding access to professional networking and knowledge-sharing. I believe the partnership  will enhance the experience for both PCMA and CEMA members.

Where do you see an overlap between corporate events and association events?   

I think the most important thing for both of us to focus on is how we can best complement each other’s member offerings. For example, we offer knowledge and insights from top-tier, senior-level event marketers. PCMA offers tremendous resources, and in particular, research capabilities — so leveraging those assets has the potential to produce considerable new value to each of our member groups.

What are the biggest challenges your members — high-level corporate event marketers — face? Are they specific to the industry they represent? 

Event marketers continuously need to be thought leaders on trends, technology, experience, ROE [return on experience], and audience acquisition. We also have to find innovative ways to take event experiences to the next level, without driving up cost. Our supplier members are a big help on that front. Event security is also a huge issue because it’s so dynamic — we’re fortunate to have really great minds in that area working with us.

How do you help them rise to their challenges?

Three ways: educate, connect, and promote innovation. We help them stay up to speed on trends, strategies, and new solutions. We make it easy for them to seek and get advice and mentoring from the best event marketers in the business, and we’re always pushing them to think differently about how they’re approaching a project, creative idea, or dilemma.

What are some of the initiatives — sustainability, CSR, tech/data — you make a part of the CEMA Summit as a way of setting an example or sharing best practices for participants for their own events?

We have a strong focus on sustainable events — and some great minds in that arena. We’re also able to showcase cutting-edge technology and services from both the vendor and the practitioner’s perspective. So you get the real value story vs. just the “sell.” And whether it’s at the Summit, a Study Tour, a workshop, or day-to-day, we are constantly getting great ideas and insights from our members and sharing them throughout the association.

Tell us more about the Study Tours.

This is one of our best member offerings. We are constantly looking for experiences that our members wouldn’t likely think about pursuing. Our Study Tours really started to take off when we did E3 [Electronic Entertainment Expo] three years ago and we haven’t stopped. They are intimate settings with 20–50 members, whom we take behind the scenes of an event where they can see things they wouldn’t normally be privy to and get aha moments that are simply amazing. [Last] year we did CMA Fest, Microsoft Ignite, and the Disney Experience, along with many others. These tours really get event marketers out of their day-to-day routines and open them up to new thinking. We believe that if our members take away one idea that sheds new light on their event planning, it’s worth it.

What are you most looking forward to for CEMA in 2020?

Beyond this exciting opportunity to collaborate with PCMA, we look forward to more Study Tours to offer our members, and an amazing CEMA Summit in Nashville, July 26–28.

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