CEMA SUMMIT 2000 IACVB ON THE WEB CEMA SUMMIT 2000 REPORT Tough issues and high spirits marked the CEMA Summit 2000 at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif. This year's Computer Event Marketing Association annual meeting drew 277 attendees, a 20 percent increase over the previous year. Since last year's meeting in Quebec, there has also been a 20 percent increase in membership. There are now more than 440 members from 107 companies that put on tech industry events and meetings, and 78 associate (supplier) companies. Not a bad way to celebrate the organization's 10th anniversary.

For the first time, the meeting's sessions were divided into tracks: one for measuring an event's return on investment; a second on best practices; and a third on branding. While the overall theme of the meeting was the impact of the Internet on event marketing, an important sub-theme was the human side of the business: both the importance of face-to-face contact in building and cementing customer relationships and the challenges faced by CEMA members in keeping themselves on track in a world of increasing technological change and the associated problems of keeping themselves and their employees focused and motivated.

The keynote speaker dove directly into the main theme. Jere Brooks King, vice president, worldwide marketing communications, Cisco Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif., demonstrated how her company made the Internet an integral part not only of its event and meeting management and marketing but also of its overall marketing strategy. She spoke in detail about Cisco's "Networkers" event, held in 10 venues a year around the world, including two in North America. While emphasizing the need to keep live events in the marketing mix, "because that's where you really cement that customer relationship," she talked about using the Internet to leverage the event's marketing impact.

"We make sure this event is well-communicated and well-marketed to our customers during the 360 days when they are not at the event," she said, adding that Cisco was not yet attempting to duplicate the event online.

The Internet is more than a vehicle for customer communications; it also helps show organizers manage what King calls the "backstage operations." Cisco makes available to its departments tools such as show and communications plans, end-of-show report forms, and a companywide calendar of events. The company also keeps all its graphic assets for exhibitions and meetings online (as does Texas Instruments, which also presented its strategy).

The bottom line for Cisco's putting so much event information online? "Next year we'll be able to do more reporting and analysis of events - what the response was like, what lead-analysis results were obtained, and which promotional vehicles were most effective," said King.

Next year's Summit? At the Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz., July 8 to 11.

No CEMA Summit is complete without silliness. The meeting's opening session began with a video parody of the "Survivor" television series, called "CEMA Survivor." CEMA board members (whose names will not be revealed to protect their reputations) were stranded on a desert island where they were faced with such gruesome challenges as eating convention center food, negotiating with union help, and figuring out how to top last year's results with their budgets cut in half.

Monday afternoon included a team-building exercise called "Design Your Own Golf Course," and Tuesday's closing dinner event was the ludicrous "Joey & Maria's Comedy Italian Wedding."