Of business event themes and how to choose them

by Editorial Team
6 minutes read

In the past having a topic, venue and dates for a planned conference, meeting or exhibitions was enough for an event organiser to go out to the market to sell it. But no so anymore. Today, marketing a business event without a theme has become something of an anomaly.

Put differently, business event themes have become an integral component of event marketing communication messages. But what is an event theme? An event theme is title or tagline of an event. Themes sometimes also go beyond the tagline. It can be about the ambience of an event venue. A meeting or conference on export promotion, for example, can be characterised by export related items in the design of the venue. These could include images of shipping containers or a ship at a busy seaport.

A theme can also assume the form of dressing. In 2018 the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe’s 10th Annual Marketers’ Convention ran under the theme, “Innovate. Thrive. Consolidate” but during one of the nights the association chose a 1970s dressing theme.

The question that readily comes to the minds of many business events stakeholders is: What is the purpose of themes in business events? Themes serve a number of purposes which include the following:

  • Themes set the tone for of events using an overarching question or statement. They create the first impression that stakeholders will form of an event.
  • They give an indication to visitors and delegates of what to expect from the event.
  • Themes provide guidance to speakers and presenters on how to craft their content. They also guide exhibitors on how to design their exhibitions stands and arrange their exhibits. During the 2019 edition of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show exhibitors who wished to participate in the various trophies awarded on the official opening day were expected to have their stands and exhibits designed in line with the event’s theme, “Technology, Innovation and Modernisation  – Adopt. Accentuate. Accelerate.”
  • A theme can guide design and decor professionals on how to design the event venue decor enabling them to harmonise the event theme and the venue ambience which creates impact and a positive impression.
  • It has been established that themed events are more memorable than ones which are not.
  • Themes help to create marketing buzz for the event if well chosen and crafted. This is achieved through word of mouth, marketing collateral items and social media activity.
  • They also have a visual appeal which manifests in the venue ambience, wall branding, event logos and giveaways among others.
  • Themes especially those which are based on clothing that does not really have anything to do with the deliberations, add a bit of fun and novelty to events.
  • Event themes also enable event organisers to attach uniqueness to each edition of an event. This is very important especially for events which are held annually such as those held by membership-based organisations (MBOs) like the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industry (CZI) or professional association like MAZ.

How to choose effective and engaging themes

Event themes are not we-too fads which organisers must adopt just for the sake of it. They are part of the strategy of marketing business events in order to enable organisers to meet their event objectives. In view of that, it is important to ensure that the themes used are well-chosen. Here are a few tips on how to select themes that promote the objectives of the event.

  • Objectives

Business events such as MBO conferences are usually guided by the objectives of the organising bodies. The objectives, goals and purposes then become the basis or thrusts of the themes for such events. The task should then become to synthesise and distil the objectives into a concise theme that connects with the target delegates, attendees and visitors.

  • Target audience

Another major consideration is the target audience. A theme should resonate and connect with the target audience, visitors and delegates. It should give an indication of what they should expect from the event. Put differently, a theme should be relevant to the target audience.

  • Nature of event

The type of event can also provide guidance on how to craft a theme. Some events readily provide direction for a theme. Brand anniversary events, for example, usually emphasise on the long history of the celebrated brand with themes such as “Celebrating 50 decades of serving Zimbabwe” or “A decade of teaching young minds.”

  • Simplicity

Event themes should be simple – jargon and technical language unless it is targeted at stakeholders of esoteric subjects such as astronomy. Most business events bring together people of different levels of sophistication. An example of this is a national show where expert and interested lay people meet.  This could be a research expo where specialist experts and ordinary people such as school children meet. Given this mix of people of disparate backgrounds and levels of sophistication, a theme should address both groups without appearing to be overly simplified or too complicated.

  • Budget

Event themes, especially ones that relate to event venue decor, are determined by the event budgets. Elaborate and expensive themes demand more money than simplistic ones. Depending on the nature of the event, most organisers go for intermediate to simple themes.  However, when organising large international business events one cannot avoid elaborate themes to match the event’s stature.

  • Consulting experts

One sure way of coming up with great event theme is consulting business event organising experts who have vast wealth of experience and expertise. This may cost some money but is well worth every cent. These are people who have organised business events over a long time and know what works and what does not work. They know the advantages and disadvantages of certain choices.

Leveraging event themes

Going through the painstaking effort of coming up with a great theme may amount to nought if it is not leveraged to market the event before it happens, during its deliberations and after. Leveraging an event theme means using it in marketing collateral such as invitations, branded promotional products and event venue decor which includes branded walls and facades.

Other ways of making the most of event venue themes includes the use of branded stationery such as notebooks, pens and other items of stationery which are used in conferences. Food and beverage items such as branded bottled water also go a long way in marketing a business event while it progresses.

Branded clothing items such as golf shirts, T-shirt and caps among others enable organisers to market the event even beyond its designated time.

















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