Twitter allows us 140 characters to deliver a message and catch the attention of our followers to take action. That action may be to connect to an article, Web site, book, or to engage another person. Either way, it is the haiku of the Twitter experience that makes it so effective—short, to the point content that evokes and prompts a response.
Think about your meeting themes that way, too. When events first debuted as theme parties, there was no rhyme or reason for their content. The opening night of a three-day conference would be destination-focused, while the remaining two nights were focused on anything from rock-and-roll to a specific color. These days are long gone as events are now an important part of an integrated communication plan.
A theme provides unity, direction, and appeals to prospective guests to attend. A strong theme is based on the objective and goals of the meeting or event, and provides a foundation for messaging to the participants and stakeholders.
For example, I worked with a client whose company tagline was “Change the Nature of Things.” When planning the first meeting with the executive team, we presented many choices for themes. The core objective of the meeting according to the then-chairman was to give permission to the existing four silos, which hadn’t worked together in the past, to interact with one another. The theme: “Change the Nature of Things… Now.” This was so effective that the following two years’ meetings kept the same tagline with one word difference: “Change the Nature of Things…Together” and “Change the Nature of Things… Faster.”
Whether your meeting is meant to inspire, motivate, or celebrate, here are 10 tips to designing a killer theme:
1. Have a clearly defined objective for your event: Why are you bringing people together?
2. Begin with the end in mind: What actions do you want participants to take as a result of participating in your meeting?
3. Identify risk management concerns: Check that the theme doesn’t conflict with another company or a competitor. Ensure that the meaning of your theme will interpreted to complement your objective and goals.
4. Invest time in research. Themes and great taglines evolve after a process. A part of the process is doing research on the company, management, products, and services, and truly understanding how they work and meld together and how the meeting and event will affect all. Perhaps the logo color will affect the design or a shape of a new product or the destination where the company is opening a new office.
5. Collaborate, brainstorm, and use games and visuals to support creative thinking. Nothing like putting a word on a board and seeing where it goes. I used the word “egg” at a recent brainstorm and the results were eggsceptional.
6. Stimulate the senses: You “gotta have a gimmick” to speak to people. Don’t be afraid to have a little fun.
7. Sleep on it: Every idea needs different perspectives and time to grow and develop.
8. Focus your attention on the Big Idea that ties everything together.
9. Communicate with your advertising, public relations, and marketing colleagues to ensure the messaging is on target with the overall company direction.
10. Remember, you can know why a meeting is happening, but understanding how to tell the story takes time, work, and expertise.