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Conference themes aren’t whimsical tomfoolery. They play a very important role in your association’s ability to connect with your audience and reach your business objectives.
If you’ve ever been to a themed party, you know the creativity and fun it brings to the event. Association conferences are no different. A theme can certainly liven things up and breathe new life to the event, but it also does some remarkable things for your business objectives.
How to Select a Pertinent Theme
A theme offers a condensed version of what you’re interested in accomplishing. Things you’ll want to consider when selecting an effective theme:
- Your audience and their interests/needs
- The host city and how it ties in
- Something that is in line with your objectives that personifies them, but still leaves some room for interpretation
Once a theme is selected, it should permeate all aspects of your conference.
A Theme Unifies Objectives and Provides Focus for Events
Themes don’t have to be kitschy costume parties. They can be whimsical or serious but they should always focus on a business objective. For instance, a “Focus on the Future” theme sets the tone for presentations, conversation, and innovation. It signifies to the conference goer that this will be a forward-thinking event. You won’t be hashing out the same old topics. You’ll be charting a course for future success.
A successful theme shapes your conference agenda and personifies your objectives for the event.
Keep Content Interesting with an Event Theme
Your signature event requires a lot of content support. You’ll create content on the host city, content around the keynote speaker, miscellaneous content for newbies, etc., but after a while your event content can start looking formulaic and like everyone else’s, especially if you begin marketing and creating the content shortly after the last event ended. That’s nearly an entire year of content surrounding your event!
A theme gives you something new to say about your content – a new filter with which to create. It should color your social media posts as well as your video and written content. A theme also draws people in, makes your content feel unique each year (and not another post about what to bring to conference), and gets people excited about the event. It helps attendees draw connections, which makes people more engaged and supports more lively discussion.
A Theme Generates Buzz
Attendees will get excited about a well-chosen theme. If you take the time to select something with mass appeal to your constituency, one that resonates with them, they will help you with the marketing of the event. The excitement will build with each piece of shared content and their posts may elicit questions from others who see it in their streams. Themes are interesting. Themes draw a crowd.
Themes effectively shape your marketing collaterals and the big reveal of what your yearly theme is can generate a buzz on its own. For instance, the Higher Education Users Group (HEUG) ties its conference theme tightly into its host city. The theme and host city reveal are widely anticipated.
Speakers Feel and Understand Direction with a Theme
One of the hardest things to do when you select a big name keynote speaker (and any speaker outside of your industry for that matter) is to ensure s/he understands your audience and their needs. In order for the keynote’s message to resonate with them, the presenter needs to speak the language of your audience. They need to understand your audience’s concerns and goals from an industry perspective. For the largest emotional appeal, speakers need to know what keeps most of your audience up at night.
When you create a theme you’ve taken that into account. Your theme should, and must, resonate with your group. It will give the speaker meaning, context, and focus for his/her content. It provides a subtle direction of lens in which to view his or her approach. TED and TEDx events incorporate themes as “taglines” for their wildly successful speaking engagements. Past themes include: “The Substance of Things Not Seen” and “The Big Questions.”
Themes Have a Visual Appeal
Themes bring visual appeal to your message. The theme can, and should, influence everything from your meeting logo to your catering and snacks. Attendees should be able to glance at components and collateral in a large conference center with multiple conferences occurring at once and know which ones are yours merely by scanning.
Your conference theme anchors and shapes all visual aspects of your event including logos, apparel, giveaways, and other graphic representations of your event.
A theme is not a silly party. It is a meaningful reflection and interpretation of your event’s goals and objectives. It functions as the elevator pitch for your conference and helps people understand in a very short period of time what your event is trying to accomplish. You don’t need a theme for your conference to be successful but why pass up a way to encapsulate your mission to your attendees and the outside world in such an effective way?