CEMA Summit Bar Talk
In July, the corporate event marketing industry came together for the annual CEMA Summit at the gorgeous Terranea Resort in Southern California. It’s no small feat to cater to this particular group that consists of some of the most senior and experienced corporate event professionals in the world, but the organizers did a fantastic job balancing a robust agenda with windows for attendees to get outdoors and enjoy the world-class amenities that the Terranea Resort had to offer.
While there were ample opportunities to learn and get inspired by all of the keynote presentations and breakout sessions, many attendees will attest that some of the most productive and engaging discussions happen after hours in the hotel bar or around the resort grounds. Below are a few hot topics of conversation that we picked up on during the Summit.
New benchmarks have already been set in 2018
As we move into the second half of 2018 and the busy Fall conference season, a number of remarkable events and activations have already been executed. A few buzzworthy events and activations that have set an incredibly high standard include Intel’s CES 2018 Keynote, Google’s CES Experience, and Refinery29’s 29Rooms. These high production quality, non-traditional approaches have captured people’s imaginations and raised the bar for unique and impactful overall experiences.
Intel’s 2018 Keynote at CES threw just about everything imaginable into the mix with a well-orchestrated presentation that included drones, a giant LED floor and back wall, an autonomous volocopter, and more, enclosed in an intense and dramatic environment. At the Summit, attendees seemed to have come to a consensus that this was just about the most elaborate press or keynote event they’ve ever seen. It clearly raised the bar high enough that future events of this kind will be difficult to top.
The rise of the “non-conference”
While the vast majority of corporate events, conferences, and expos are still following a traditional model of a keynote stage and expo floor, creative marketers are breaking the mold with “non-conferences” like C2 and the Future of Storytelling that take on more of an inclusive festival-like atmosphere. Event marketers are increasingly questioning whether there are other, more effective ways to structure their conferences, events, and activations than with the traditional template.
While we are likely a ways off from seeing drastic shifts in the way large-scale conferences and expos are fundamentally structured, there is a clear desire from both attendees and event producers to experiment and push beyond passive keynote kinds of experiences or cluttered expo halls, and create attendee-centric experiences where the focus is more on participation and immersion.
Actionable insights versus skewed survey data
Measurement is a continually hot topic among corporate event professionals. It’s universally accepted that measuring the effectiveness of events is a tricky task. Survey results can only provide so much due to the subjective nature of this kind of data. Integrating marketing automation and CRM platforms can also be a daunting and sometimes impossible task.
Instead of the traditional methods used by event marketers to measure results and get at some kind of ROI formula, more actionable insights are being uncovered by smart marketers who are weaving measurement directly into the experiences they’re creating. This kind of approach was rolled out at Amazon’s booth at the 2018 Game Developers Conference where attendees could use a simple touchscreen interface at the entryway to “choose their own adventure” and create a custom journey through the booth based on their interests. In addition to enabling a more personalized and meaningful experience for attendees, Amazon was able to determine what kind of content, topics, and products attendees were most/least interested in, with clear data gathered directly from the show floor to support these insights.
The new era of corporate events
It’s clear from the many passionate discussions unfolding all around this year’s CEMA Summit that an exciting shift is underway in the corporate event marketing space. Boundaries are being pushed as the bar has been raised higher than ever and attendees increasingly demand more personalized and immersive experiences. All kinds of wild, wacky, weird, bold, and creative ideas were shared over cocktails and in break out discussions by the highly talented executives in attendance at this year’s CEMA Summit. It will be exciting to see who takes this energy and excitement back to their companies following the Summit to deliver the next round of incredible corporate events and experiences in the coming months.