UPDATE: I am proud to announce that I have now earned my CEM designation! Thank you everyone for your support.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be an event organizer?

I’m currently in the process of getting my Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM), and I thought it would be fun to share a behind-the-scenes look at what a week of classes is like. From HR management to contracts and everything in between, a lot goes into planning a successful event!

So, without further ado, here’s a peek into my week as an event organizer-in-training.

What is CEM?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the classes, let’s first answer the question: what is CEM? CEM is a professional designation given by The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) to professionals who manage exhibitions and trade shows. To become a CEM, candidates must complete a course of study and pass a series of exams.

The CEM course of study covers everything from exhibit design and sales to risk management and logistics. It’s a lot of information to take in, but it’s also really interesting stuff! I’ve been learning a lot and am excited to put my new knowledge to use. 

Classes fly by because there’s so much to learn and discuss–plus, they’re five hours long! You need a minimum of nine classes and successfully pass an exam for each one to become a certified professional. 

How Can You Take the Classes?

Choose your own adventure! You can take all nine courses online (self-paced), on-location, virtually, or a mix of everything. It’s totally up to you!

IAEE’s one-week intensive course program (CEM Week) is a great way to knock out five courses in a week! I would definitely recommend this program to anyone looking to get ahead in their studies.

I was curious to see what the program was all about, so I decided to take a week out of my busy schedule to attend the classes the last week in August down in Orlando. Here’s a breakdown of my week as I embarked on my CEM journey. 

Day One of My CEM Journey

Neuroscience of Exhibitions & Events

My very first class for my CEM designation was all about the brain, and I’ll admit: I was pretty darn nervous. This would be my first time “officially” back in school studying (gasp!) science!

I was thrilled that returning to “school” l wasn’t as daunting as I had initially thought. This concise and well-organized class opened my eyes to how neurotransmitters work and their effect on event planning. The instructor was highly knowledgeable and passionate about the subject, which made it all the more enjoyable. And, a little bragging here, but I’m proud to announce that I passed my first exam and completed it before anyone else!

Opening Reception

Everyone made me feel so welcome, and I met some outstanding individuals in all areas of the events industry. It was fascinating to speak with other people in the business and learn about their experiences organizing events. 

I was ecstatic to meet many of these individuals at a fantastic networking event held that night at our hotel. And, the greatest part? We were able to enjoy a grilled cheese and tomato soup station! What a lovely evening it was, and I hope there will be more events like it in the future.

Mid-Week of CEM Week

I’m in a rhythm now. My classes and examinations have gone well, and I’m beginning to think that this event certification, while definitely intensive, may not be as tricky as I had previously thought.

Tour of Orange County Convention Center (OCCC)

Our class had the opportunity to visit our current training location, which was one of my favorite parts of the week.

The OCCC is a 7-million-square-foot facility. That isn’t a typing error; I couldn’t believe it, either. In the United States, the OCCC is third in size only to McCormick Place and Jacksonville Landing.

This field trip was the perfect time for us as we were already collaborating on our floor plan development class. We learned about all of the vital elements that go into event planning, from security and food to accommodation and transportation. Having this knowledge in the middle of our course allowed us to understand the importance of meticulous logistics when creating a successful floor plan.

IAEE Southeastern Chapter Reception

On Wednesday night, a few of my new friends and I took an Uber to Hampton Social to meet the members. When we arrived, we were offered a complimentary cocktail and got to talk with some really great people. I even got to meet one of my teachers later in the week. This group was clearly passionate about events, and it was amazing to hear about their roles within the industry.

Event Marketing

Of the five classes I had signed up for this week, this one was the most relevant to my career experience. If I can’t excel in this class, then that creates a problem regarding my future career prospects. 🙂 Additionally, I knew it would be taught by an experienced and successful marketing events professional who is the best in the business.

I learned a lot about marketing in this class. I have always considered myself to be a reasonably competent marketer, but this class has taught me a great deal about new strategies and tactics that I can use to address changing social, cultural, and economic circumstances in the events industry.

The course has also helped me better understand how to create a marketing plan that incorporates core practices, new ideas, innovations, and unique points of view. This knowledge will be invaluable as I continue to develop and execute marketing plans for A2Z Events.

Final Day of CEM Week  

Digital Events Management

It was my last day of school, and I was both sad and happy. I was sorry because I would miss seeing my classmates and new pals daily. But ecstatic because, as a result of this week, I was a lot closer to achieving my event management certification.

But First… We ‘Wobble’

After witnessing our teacher’s positive energy in the room, any sadness I had vanished. How can you be sad when you start your day with the “Wobble Dance”? Let’s say I was happy not to be graded on my dance moves.

I have found this class to be extremely helpful in learning about the various aspects of planning and executing a digital event. I have learned much about the different tools and technologies and their best practices.

Although we discussed it at length, our class also unanimously agreed that digital-only events are not ideal. Instead, we would attend an event in person because there is simply no comparison to the experience you get when you’re face-to-face with someone.

Conclusion For Now…

So there you have it! A little glimpse into what it’s been like for me taking classes towards my CEM designation. From online learning to networking nights out, a lot was packed into the week. But so far, I’m enjoying myself and looking forward to seeing what else this program has in store for me! Wish me luck, and if you have any tips for me, feel free to share!