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CEMA Strategy Head to Leave After Only Nine Months on the Job

Pegs in a board to represent the departure of head of CEMA

Skift Take

Sandra Marcus, VP of Strategy and Operations at CEMA, is leaving the association after nine months. Some say the CEMA 2024 Summit in August is a make-it-or-break-it event for the association. 

The head of strategy for the Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA), Sandra Marcus, is leaving the role after just nine months on the job, two sources with knowledge of the plans told Skift. 

Marcus joined CEMA as vice president of strategy and operations last April. 

“She wasn’t the right fit for the job,” says one of the sources, who asked to remain anonymous. 

“We do not comment about individual team member departures,” says a spokesperson for CEMA’s parent organization, the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA).

Marcus declined to comment for this story. 

PCMA and CEMA Join Forces 

PCMA acquired CEMA in December 2020. The deal between the two organizations was signed after members of CEMA voted in favor of the acquisition. The hope was its educational offerings would become more robust. There are some who say this did not happen.

Then, during IMEX America in 2022, CEMA had two high-profile resignations: executive director Kimberley Gishler and director of programming and member services Olga Rosenbrook. 

Gishler served in the top role for CEMA for 12 years. She also headed up the PCMA global events team. Gishler was credited with tripling CEMA’s membership and increasing attendance at its events, PCMA reported. 

Last April, PCMA and CEMA president and CEO Sherrif Karamat announced the appointments of Marcus and Nicole Kern, manager of community development. Marcus was tasked with working collaboratively with the PCMA team and the CEMA Advisory Board to execute the vision and lead growth initiatives, including brand marketing, new program development, events, membership, and ongoing community engagement. 

She joined the team with more than 30 years in the corporate industry as an event professional and a marketing leader. Twenty of them with IBM in a variety of event leadership roles. 

“There is not a lot of content coming from them these days. I remember when its lunch-and-learns and discovery tours were hot ticket opportunities,” according to our source. “Today, many are asking what the value proposition of being a member is.” 

Many complained that last year’s CEMA Summit had far more suppliers in attendance than event marketers. This year’s Summit is being held in Seattle, Washington, August 4-6, and some say the association’s future rests on it.