by Devin Carver October 26th, 2023

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Event coordination is more than a set of tasks and more than a checklist. While those are necessary to ensure you have everything covered, getting bogged down in details can mean you miss the big picture. One way to keep the big picture in mind and tap into the enthusiasm you feel when planning an event is to choose a theme early. From selecting decorations and giveaways to choosing colors and activities, the thrill of designing your event can help you stay energized and share that excitement with attendees. For many of us, the best gatherings and functions we've attended are the ones that featured the most captivating themes, engaging activities, and memorable gifts for attendees. Your corporate event should evoke that same level of excitement.

Reach for the stars themed eventQuick Links

Types of Corporate Events

Corporate events include a variety of functions occurring over a single day or several days, depending on their purpose. They are designed to bring together a business’s stakeholders to celebrate wins and achievements or introduce them to ideas, initiatives, or even a new product. Corporate events include:

  • Trade shows
  • Conferences/workshops/seminars
  • Executive retreats
  • Incentive programs
  • Appreciation events
  • Organization celebrations (marking milestones)
  • Team-building events
  • Board or shareholder meetings

While many businesses hold smaller, informal events (such as dinners and office parties), those rarely require outside help. In contrast, corporate events are larger and more intensive, requiring coordination between many moving parts from venues to menus and entertainment. However, because they’re so varied, you can help differentiate events and make them stand out for attendees by including a theme.

Why Does Your Corporate Event Need a Theme?

Themes are more than just an effort to coordinate colors. In fact, they’re a valuable part of your event and can help reinforce your message when planned well. While you could host a corporate event without a theme, it’d be a missed opportunity.

Themes Create Community and Cohesion

One of the primary reasons your corporate event needs a theme is because it brings everything together, including your guests. Your theme should reflect your event’s mission or goal, and that theme helps you craft messaging from your website to your event app.

From planning and invitations to the event itself, a theme unites attendees who share the same experience from keynote speakers, breakout sessions, activities, and more. Essentially, it sets the stage for an immersive experience that captivates your audience, enabling them to fully engage with your event's purpose and the message you want to convey.

Themes Create Focus

When introducing or reinforcing a value or idea to your attendees, themes keep those concepts top of mind. Everything from your event menu to creative design helps deliver that message and focuses guests on your theme.

For example, if your event’s goal is to celebrate a milestone, such as a decade in business or the opening of a new office, your theme could be travel. Your speakers would then incorporate that idea into their sessions, your guests would be surrounded by decor that reminds them of travel, and your menu would offer a cross-country experience, featuring foods from the regions where you have offices.

Because your entire event is focused on the theme, it keeps your guests and speakers present and focused. 

Themes Create Buzz

Want attendees excited and talking before your event? Sharing on social media? One of the best ways to build buzz is to choose a unique theme. With that theme in mind, you can start planning event activations and encourage your attendees to engage with the pre-event information available via your event app or social media posts. If we stick with the travel theme we just discussed, you could announce a karaoke contest that features travel-related songs.

Not only can you create exciting promotional materials, but you can also choose decor and props that promote your theme. This means your guests will be more likely to share information about the event with their friends. That word of mouth is invaluable for your brand, your product, and your next event.

In short, the right theme can help all facets of your event, from the planning and cohesive messaging to the promotion and social media buzz.

Rock star event theme
How to Choose an Event Theme

Because your corporate event theme has the potential to bring the entire experience together, choosing the right theme is important. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can narrow your choices.

1. Review your event goal(s)

Remember, your theme is an opportunity to reinforce your event goal or mission. Consider the key messages, lessons, or ideas you’d like your guests to walk away with, and try to incorporate those into your theme.

2. Consider the tone of your event

The type of event you’re hosting will undoubtedly have an impact on your theme. For example, a retirement event for the CEO will have a different theme from one rewarding your employees for a banner year. You want the theme to reflect the tone of the event. 

3. Define your audience

Much like the event’s tone having an impact on your theme, so will your audience. What is appropriate for stockholders or VIPs may not be appropriate for employees or loyal customers you’d like to reward. You’ll also want to consider demographics, such as the age range of your guests. For example, if it’s an event where employees or guests may bring their families, you’ll want to make sure to choose an inclusive theme.

4. Consider your venue

If you’ve already selected an event venue, consider it in your theme. Utilizing the venue in the theme’s creation can reinforce your theme and help create a memorable experience. While ballrooms are popular, investigate the variety of spaces your venue has to offer. You may feel instantly inspired when viewing your venue. If not, the venue or your event planner may be able to tell you about previous event themes that were successful.

5. Consider what you don’t want

Sometimes considering what you don’t want provides more clarity for determining what you do want. When making these decisions, consider what has been done in the past, so you can avoid overused or cliched themes. Knowing what to avoid provides a focused framework for brainstorming theme ideas.This ensures that you avoid themes or concepts that might clash with your company’s values, mission, or image. It also makes certain that the theme aligns seamlessly with your identity. 

6. Seek inspiration

There are tons of resources to consider when looking for inspiration for your theme from the web to other organizations that have held similar events. Further, you can check with potential venues to learn what events they’ve hosted and what was successful. You can also seek inspiration from your team members and important attendees. Brainstorming sessions can be extremely beneficial.

7. Seek expert help

If you hire an event planner, one area of expertise they can share with you is theme selection. Not only are these individuals experts at delivering creative events, but their experience in the industry means they’ve seen more themes than most. With a keen sense of what’s successful and what isn’t, they can provide ideas that match your aesthetic and your mission.

Three Theme Idea Examples for Unforgettable Events

At Bishop-McCann, we’re no strangers to requests for memorable event themes that will keep guests talking for years to come. Let’s take a look at a few of our favorites.

Guests at desert disco themed eventDelightful Desert Subthemes

Sometimes an event will have a main theme that connects all attendees, and subthemes used to connect separate event experiences. Such was the case at a national field meeting for one of our pharmaceutical clients.

With teams from all over the nation gathering, various events were held with some bringing together everyone while others were designed specifically for those in particular regions. Due to the separate events, our client wanted a way to connect each of these experiences with a common theme to ensure a shared experience. This is why the event’s overarching theme of “Lead With Purpose” was enhanced by adding sub-themes to tie in various event elements.

Given that the event was hosted in Las Vegas, we decided on a desert sub-theme that featured:

  • A “Boho Desert” welcome reception
  • A “Neon Desert” concert 
  • A “Disco Desert” after-party with an upbeat, club environment
  • A “Desert Under the Stars” after-party with a mellow, pub environment

From Vegas showgirl headdresses to a disco photo booth at the after-party and neon cactus decor, every event element embraced the sub-theme of desert. If you want to create an overall theme that reflects the event’s goal but also want to include fun, light-hearted themes to boost engagement, sub-themes can be extremely useful tools. 

Attendees at Reach the Beach Incentive Trip at Tiki BarReach the Beach

At this award-winning event, the attendees were the top sales associates for Verizon. Not only was the goal to reward these individuals, but they also wanted to motivate attendees to continue exceeding sales goals and expectations. Throughout the year, sales associates were made aware of the “Reach the Beach” challenge, pushing them to work hard in order to earn the trip (as well as other gifts and rewards).

To drive home the theme, the event was held in Miami Beach, Florida, and featured:

  • A “Neon Nights” tiki bar, including DJ, bar, and graffiti artist
  • A “Price is Right” game night to win more rewards
  • Catamaran cruises
  • Everglades tours
  • Spa days
  • Little Havana lunch and culinary tours
  • Monument Island kayak and snorkeling trips
  • Speed boat rides

Additionally, attendees received swag, such as Ray-Ban sunglasses, that fit the theme as well.

G6 hospitality group theme corporate event red convertible coupe
Route 66

A Bishop-McCann favorite tapped into America’s iconic Route 66. Route 66, as America’s first “highway” to the West, represents many aspects of American culture, such as wide open spaces, travel, entrepreneurship, and the promise of the West itself. Its rich history and connection to the tradition of American road trips made it the perfect theme for G6 Hospitality. Deemed “Route 6” to play off the iconic brand Motel 6, the group shared a mission to open the roads and the American landscape to everyday travelers.

For an owner’s conference, the theme allowed our team to tap into a retro style that captured the history of both the motel and the highway, especially with some creative environmental design elements. This theme enabled our team to design decor that embraced the spirit of freedom and adventure symbolized by the iconic roadway.

Starting with registration, which featured an old-fashioned service station complete with attendant hallways lined with roadside attractions, the event’s theme was utilized throughout. A Converse sneaker “Get Your Kicks on Route 6” station was also featured in the lobby of the resort and spa in Phoenix, Arizona.

These are just a few of the memorable events we’ve helped our clients create. If you want to achieve your event goals and leave a lasting impression on attendees, then utilizing a creative, cohesive theme is the route to take. Choosing a theme keeps your event unified and your guests focused even if (as in the case of our national field meeting) they’re attending separate sessions at a larger event. It doesn’t always have to be elaborate, but it should deliver a message and a feeling that captures the spirit of your brand.

These are just a few examples of ways that Bishop-McCann has been able to provide immersive themes for our clients. If you’re looking for a way to wow your attendees, let’s explore the options together. Get in touch with our team today, and let’s start planning!

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