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5 Musts for Planning a Memorable Conference Theme

Every event planner wants a stand-out event, and one of the best ways to accomplish this is with a memorable theme. Here are five tips that should make planning your event’s theme as fun for you as it will be for your attendees.

1. Choose Something Attainable and Realistic
First and foremost, ask yourself, “Is it doable?” There’s no sense choosing an extravagant event theme if you can’t execute it, pay for it, or do it justice. On top of that, extravagant themes can get out of hand quickly and leave you more stressed than you ever expected. Consider your budget. If your theme will eat up a good chunk of it, be sure that the theme’s impact warrants the spending. Another important factor is your venue, which can go a long way toward setting the right tone and supporting your theme, so make sure the two complement each other.

Also, keep today’s social climate in mind. It never hurts to consider how the theme of the event could be interpreted by your attendees. Think about who will be attending the event and consider any limitations or preferences they might have. The last thing you want is to be memorable for the wrong reasons.

2. Cross Your T’s and Dot Your I’s
In other words, the more details the better! Do you know your color scheme, event logo and title, budget, and the elements that were loved or hated at the last event? Knowing the details will also help when you approach your vendors. At that point, you want to be absolutely certain of what you are looking for so you do not end up with a mix-and-match situation.

3. Make What’s Old New Again
What’s wrong with repurposing something great? Some event themes may seem outdated or overdone, but there’s a world of possibilities for modernizing your idea or putting a spin on something classic. (Thank you, Internet!) People love an unexpected twist. Take, for example, a spy-themed event. This may seem like it’s been done to death, but how about using the power of an app to give it a modern facelift?

4. Personalization Counts in a Personalized World
Once you’ve picked a theme, consider ways to add special touches specific to your attendees that will show you planned the event with them in mind. If, for example, you’re planning an annual corporate event, how about incorporating a running company joke to the photo booth or adding the company mascot to the gift bags in some form. Attendees notice the little things, and those will influence how they remember the event.

5. Hire Partners that Understand You and Your Vision  
When you meet with the partners who will help you bring your theme to life—content providers, caterers, lighting/AV companies, and decorators (to name just a few)—have your theme clear in your mind. Being able to articulate your vision is essential to ensuring that partners can confidently commit to it. Get everything you agree to in writing so you have something to fall back on if you get something you did not anticipate.

As the event planner, it is your responsibility to bring the theme to life in a way that positively influences the attendee experience. Following these five tips and you’ll be on track to creating cohesive, well-executed, and memorable events.

Sue Wigston is chief operating officer of Eagle's Flight, a company focused on creating experiential learning programs

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