A Failsafe Guide to Setting the Theme for Your Event
If you’ve drawn a blank while planning your event theme, you’re not alone. Here’s a reliable guide to help you choose a super-hit theme for your next event.
It’s that blank sheet of paper that gets you. When it’s time to think of an event theme, sometimes the idea well runs dry.
Yet there’s that darn calendar – blinking red, or so it seems. You needed a theme yesterday. Your pre-event promotion team is chomping on the bit to get the word out, and all you have is a blank screen.
You need a fail-safe guide that can help you choose a theme that will practically guarantee a successful event. You’ve just found one.
As a frequent event speaker, I’ve learned how successful event planners work behind the scenes to come up with a theme. In this article, I’ve jotted down many of these ideas to serve as a guide. Each of these ideas falls into one of two broad categories. Read on, take inspiration, and turn that blank sheet into a treasure trove of ideas.
Look at What’s Trending
People always like to hear new insights on the latest news. Take a three-pronged approach to review the latest trends in your industry, the world at large, and event marketing.
Ride the Wave of Industry Trends
First, look at what’s trending in your industry. Find a new angle to explore those trends.
For example, if you’re in the pharmaceutical or agricultural industries, you might want to explore the role that blockchain technology plays in getting products to market – from raw materials to store shelves. An event that centers around unpacking all the ins and outs of that technology, such as “Blockchain 101: Building Customer Trust One Step at a Time.” Or, if your event is a gathering of sports physicians, you might explore the impact that athletes’ drive to push their bodies to seemingly impossible feats has on the length of their careers and their health later in life.
When you align your theme with the latest developments in your field, you’ll be more likely to attract the kinds of thought leaders that want to inject their viewpoints into the conversation. They, in turn, will draw their own followers to your event.
Leverage Trends in the National and World News
While you won’t want to tackle too-controversial news topics (unless your event is a gathering of people with a common interest in a particular issue), you can leverage the curiosity factor with a newsworthy theme. For example, when the national economy is going well, a financial services gathering might attract a large crowd with a theme like “Ride the Financial Wave” – especially if the event takes place at a beach resort. During an economic slowdown, the same industry conference might go with something like “Insulate Your Clients from the Cooling Economy.”
Use Event Marketing Trends to Prime the Pump
The event marketing industry, too, is a rich source of ideas for theme topics. After all, these professionals have a wide range of experience planning events for a variety of industries.
While some of the event industry’s current trends might overlap with some of your other sources of inspiration, looking at these trends from a professional event planner’s eye can give you a different perspective.
For 2020, those trends include:
- Sustainability: From using digital tickets to biodegradable promotional swag, many 2020 events have adopted a more eco-conscious way to do business. When you pair this trend with new developments in your industry, it can become a mother lode of theme ideas. For agricultural industry gatherings, for example, you could go with “Reduce Your Farm’s Carbon Footprint.” Sports industry conferences could choose a theme like “Making Competitions Sustainable.”
- Wellness: If you’ve noticed the TV ads lately, quite a few of the most popular ones involve dieting, fitness equipment, mobile medical apps, and at-home medical tests. Getting and staying fit is definitely a trend for the 2020s. An event theme that works wellness into your industry’s niche will likely attract a lot more attendees than the “same-old, same-old.”
- Augmented reality (AR), extended reality (XR), and virtual reality (VR): Although these technologies are common ways to enhance the wow factor during events, they could easily become an event theme, depending on the type of your event. A conference that focuses on the benefits these technologies can bring to your industry could prove to be a huge draw for businesses hoping to gain an edge on their competition.
Collaborate with Others
When the pump runs dry, try priming it with others’ ideas, as event planning giant Eventbrite’s Alyssa Torres suggests. Bouncing ideas of each other can give all participants another perspective. When you and your team see insights that come from another’s perspective, you can often trigger a breakthrough in creativity.
Several collaboration strategies can help drive the creative process. Here are a few:
- Start with your target attendees: Like other marketing strategies, your event marketing strategy needs to focus on your customers – the people you want to attract to your event. What are their needs? What keeps them up at night? Solve those problems with a theme that focuses on those needs.
- Use vision and mood boards – even music – to turbocharge your imagination: Sometimes, visuals can help spark ideas. Putting together a collage of words, colors, images, and ideas that come to mind can help you think up event theme ideas. Often music, too, can get the creative juices going. Don’t forget online boards, such as those you can find on Canva and Pinterest, Torres advises.
- Do some online and in-person research on other events: Start with your own industry and work outward. Often, looking at ideas from events in other industries can provide you with innovative ideas that can help you create an attention-grabbing theme idea. When you attend in-person events in your own industry, ask the attendees about what themes they would like to see covered in future events.
- Consider more abstract, broad ideas: TED talks are some of the most popular events in the country. In a recent article, the TED team suggested that thought-provoking themes, such as “The Big Questions,” “The Substance of Things Not Seen,” and “Ideas Empowered” inspire guest speakers to apply these lofty themes to solve real-life problems.
When you pour your passion and thought into selecting a theme that will attract the right people, fill their minds with useful information, and inspire them to take their business to the next level, your event will have a better chance at success. Even if you’re a first-timer, following this fail-safe guide will help you choose a winning theme.
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