These days, it can be difficult to stand out in a sea of Zoom happy hours, hybrid classrooms, and socially distanced outdoor gatherings. The cure? Brainstorming event theme ideas and choosing one that will engage your attendees. Creating a unique event that stands apart from the rest is overwhelming, but if you take advantage of the technology available and apply a bit of creativity, your event will attract registrations.
Centering your event around a fun event theme can be an easy and effective way to engage your attendees. In this blog post, we will introduce some event theme ideas that will jumpstart your planning process. Here are a few event theme ideas for every event in your total event program.
Event Theme Ideas for In-Person Events
As COVID-19 vaccines begin to roll out and the temperatures allow for comfortable outdoor gatherings, we will begin to see more and more in-person events on our calendars. Of course, attendee safety and health will still be priority number one. Below, we have some fun event theme ideas that incorporate onsite technology to ensure your attendees’ safety.
Clue – An Event Mystery
Badges aren’t usually the “fun” part of an event. If anything, the printing, stuffing, and inevitable losing of the badges have made these necessities more of a nuisance than anything else. However, with on-demand badge printing and customizable designs, you can turn these bland event accessories into integral props for your event theme.
With everyone in quarantine for at least some of this past year, we have all rediscovered favorite board games. Channel your inner detective and create a “Clue”-themed event. This may be difficult for a large event, but if your in-person event has a smaller audience size, this is a great way to encourage networking and communication.
Before the event, design your badges by assigning each attendee a “character”. Put your attendee’s name and their character’s name on the front of the badge. Then, have fun with the story! Make up a mystery and provide clues and questions for attendees to solve on the back of their badges. The goal is that by the end of your event, your attendees will have solved the mystery and can celebrate at a themed closing reception.
[Don’t] Question It
Social distancing is a buzz-phrase that we have heard plenty of over the past year. Unfortunately, it’s not going away anytime soon. Instead of fighting it, take advantage of assigned seating and center your event theme around getting-to-know-you games.
Using a seating diagramming tool, assign your attendees to tables and set up the chairs so that they meet the minimum social distancing requirements. Try not to seat colleagues, friends, or relatives together at the same table. Then, buy or create question cards for each table to serve as ice breakers. Some ideas are Two Truths and a Lie, 20 Questions, or Would You Rather. While these games are not new, they are a great way to spark a conversation and give attendees a way to get to know one another.
In your registration confirmation emails, assign each attendee a color to wear to the in-person event. Encourage your attendees to get creative with their outfits: wear fun accessories, colorful shoes, or bring props! Let them know that there will be a contest for whichever color team is most spirited. Continue the theme with your decorations as well: streamers, tablecloths, centerpieces, flowers, etc. A fun bonus – the colorful outfits and decorations will make for a great photo to post on your organization’s website!
Event Theme Ideas for Hybrid Events
Hybrid events are quickly becoming the norm in the events world. These events can be particularly tricky to pull off – you must create one event but with two distinct experiences. How can your in-person and virtual attendees both take part in the event theme? For these events, we came up with some event theme ideas that will allow both sets of attendees to be involved in the excitement.
Keep it Simple
For a hybrid event, it is best to keep your event theme simple. By keeping the theme basic, you can commit to making it a fun experience for both your in-person and virtual attendees.
Choose a theme that you can easily illustrate through your event registration website and your marketing emails. With these events, encourage your in-person and virtual attendees to dress in theme so they can feel like they are truly together at one event. Below are some themes that will have your in-person and virtual attendees equally engaged:
Wear tropical shirts, beach hats, and sunglasses (turn on that Zoom video filter for the virtual sunglasses!). Design your virtual platform with ocean waves and seagull sounds. At your venue, decorate with inflatable palm trees and serve some fun beachy cocktails. Supply the recipe and ingredients to your virtual attendees so they can join in on the celebration. Finally, keep attendees connected by putting out some live poll questions at various times throughout the event:
- What is your favorite beach activity?
- Do you prefer the ocean, lake, or river?
- Who is your favorite beach buddy?
- Where is your favorite beach?
- What is your favorite beach snack/drink?
Time to bundle up! Put that Netflix fireplace video on loop and encourage your virtual attendees to wear their comfiest work-from-home sweats. At your in-person venue, suggest that attendees don their best winter wear: ski gear, cozy sweaters, or chunky mittens. Have a gourmet hot chocolate station, and have a sponsor donate some quality ingredients to your virtual attendees.
Is it just us, or are we getting a little tired of swapping out our pajamas for our sweatpants every day? Dig out your evening wear and change out of your slippers for this glamorous event. This theme is best for an awards gala or a nighttime event. Serve a fancy meal and some champagne, and if possible, have a sponsor send meals to your virtual attendees as well. You can even have a professional photographer take some high-quality photos of your guests looking their finest. Get both audiences involved in a game of Hollywood trivia featuring famous films, actors, and movie quotes.
60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, early 2000s – the possibilities are endless! You can either choose one decade to base the entire event around, or you can feature a combination of all decades. Play the most popular songs of the decade, wear the hippest fashion trends, and mix the coolest drinks. If your event is focusing entirely on one decade, design your virtual platform around this and have both sets of attendees dress in that decade’s fashion. If you are featuring various decades at one event, assign each attendee a decade in their registration confirmation email. At your in-person event, you can have various rooms or areas dedicated to different decades and decorated accordingly. Through your virtual platform, you can have each online session feature a different decade.
If your organization has access to a mobile event app, a hybrid event is an excellent opportunity to put it to use. Everyone has their phone with them all the time, so use it to your advantage. Design your event theme around a treasure hunt, using the mobile app as the attendees’ “map”.
Create competition through leader boards and gamification. Encourage attendees to chat through the app to help one another find the “treasure”. Send out clues and tips through push notifications and banner ads. You can even incorporate your sponsors in the fun – allow them to sponsor a clue or even the final treasure itself.
Event Theme Ideas for Virtual Events
Finally, the biggest event trend of 2020: virtual events. However, this is one trend that is here to stay. Virtual events supply many benefits, from increased registration numbers to on-demand content options. However, it is difficult to keep your audience engaged over a screen, and it’s even harder when the event haphazardly transitioned to virtual. By designing an event theme that cooperates well with a virtual environment, you can take your event to the next level. It doesn't have to be complicated, but fun virtual event ideas can make your meetings more engaging.
If you’re using a virtual event platform, take advantage of built-in communication and engagement tools.
One of the coolest things about a virtual event is that it allows people from around the world to connect. There is the opportunity to meet people and listen to speakers from around the globe. Your event theme should celebrate this fact.
Encourage your attendees to wear their regional sports apparel. Host a happy hour where everyone makes their city’s signature cocktail, or hold a virtual lunch where attendees bring their hometown delicacy. The audience can take advantage of session chat and learn about others’ birthplaces. Finally, use gamification to create a contest encouraging attendees to network and chat. Challenge each attendee to meet someone from a state they’ve never visited, or to get a new regional recipe from a fellow attendee.
This is a very fun theme to design online. Think bright colors, modern shapes, cool art, and more. You can get creative with the look and feel of your virtual platform. To get attendees involved even more in the theme, host optional sessions on the history of some of the most famous artists of this genre and offer surveys or live polls on attendees’ favorite pieces.
Do Good, Feel Good
It’s safe to say that we have all grown accustomed to virtual events over this past year. But we need to remember that the reason we are all interacting from behind a screen is due to this global pandemic. We also need to remember that there are lots of people, places, and organizations that need our help now more than ever.
Use your virtual event to do some good for your community. Compile a list of charities that your event could donate to, including your local animal shelter, food bank, homeless shelter, etc. Include a survey question on your registration site that allows attendees to vote for their preferred charity. Tally the results and send an email to your registrants letting them know which charity will be receiving the donations collected at the event.
During your event, set up a way to virtually collect donations. Also, provide links and resources for attendees who want to help out further. If your event allows, invite a staff member from the charity to speak during one of the sessions. This inside knowledge of the organization will have your attendees even more compelled to help.
With in-person, hybrid, and virtual events all a part of our industry’s reality, there is triple the pressure to create an unforgettable experience for your attendees. Event themes can make a conference better. By designing an event theme that is creative, engaging, and works to enhance rather than fight against the event type, the planning process will be that much smoother. While we suggested themes based on event types, many of these themes can work for all three event types. Just be sure to stay true to the event type’s advantages and don’t force a theme to work. An event theme should improve your attendees’ experience, not detract from it.