Picking Event Themes | WSB

3 Things to Discuss with Leadership Before Your 2018 Event

The event date has been scheduled. The planning team has been assembled. The ideas have started flowing. Now, it’s time to share your initial plans with leadership. Are you ready for the conversation?

Whether you’re the head event professional at your organization or you collaborate with other stakeholders, there is bound to be a time when you have to present your plans and gain support. As you prepare for those meetings, think through these three topics to set the stage for success.

1. Event themes

A strong speaker lineup attracts registrations (and a higher price point for paid events), creates buzz and ensures attendees go home with valuable insights. It’s understandable why many event professionals begin the planning process with speaker outreach, but after helping organize more than 50,000 engagements over the course of almost 40 years, our team at Washington Speakers Bureau has identified a more strategic and effective approach: selecting event themes or a featured topic first.

Consider these questions as you’re brainstorming event theme ideas:

  • What are the hot topics being discussed within your company or industry?
  • What common questions do you or your Sales and Customer Service teams receive from potential and current customers?
  • What are some of the biggest challenges your customers face every day?
  • Is there an event theme that would be relevant based on the season or similar events happening around the same time? (e.g., strategic planning in Q4, Summer or Winter Olympics, Super Bowl, summer travel, etc.)
  • What event themes have your competitors and peers used recently? Which ones are they planning to use in the coming year? (Steer clear of those themes to provide a unique experience and avoid copying.)

2. Event speakers

Rather than selecting speakers purely based on popularity or personal preference, establishing the conference or meeting theme first is a helpful way to guide the type of experience your team wants to create and hone in on the most appropriate, engaging speakers for your audience.

For example, if your theme is related to sports or a sports metaphor (such as “hitting a home run” or “going the distance”), you could connect with sports speakers like Terry Bradshaw and Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Or perhaps your event theme would lend well to having an inspirational storyteller on stage, such as TED speakers like Amy Cuddy and Susan Cain.

As you’re thinking about which speakers would be a good fit for your event, keep this checklist handy:

If you select a high-profile presenter, consider these tips for working with celebrity speakers as well.

3. Event technology

Event technology plays a key role in supplementing the in-person experience and thought leadership at a conference or meeting. Using the latest technology can help wow attendees, but truly integrating it into your event strategy adds even more impact and can create a truly memorable event.

Here are three trends in event technology that we expect to see more meeting professionals using to take the experience to the next level:

  • RFID: After gaining popularity at music festivals and theme parks, radio frequency identification (or RFID) has been crossing over into professional meetings for the past few years. While not new, RFID adoption is increasing and integration is becoming more widespread. This wireless event tech is used in wristbands or conference badges and has a multitude of uses including speeding up registration, facilitating check-in for sessions or VIP areas, allowing cashless purchases, unlocking additional content from sponsors and speakers, and more.
  • Chatbots: Chatbots help automate customer service, allowing attendees to get answers quickly and staff to work more efficiently. In fact, Accenture reports that they “have repeatedly seen more than 80% of chat sessions resolved by a chatbot, which would have otherwise been handled by a human agent in a chat session or call.” With success rates like this, it’s clear why more event planners are considering simple, off-the-shelf chatbots like Facebook Messenger, as well as more robust, custom solutions.
  • Event apps: In today’s digital world, paper schedules, event guides and materials may seem bulky and passé. Event apps are becoming more popular because they provide a more impressive, convenient way for attendees to always have the most up-to-date information in the palm of their hand. Plus, as an organizer, you don’t have to worry about print deadlines or correcting errors in materials that have already gone to print. Just log in to the app, make the updates and push them live!

The beginning of an event planning cycle is both exciting and stressful. Meeting with your executive team, manager or other collaborators is a crucial step in gaining alignment and getting the ball rolling for your 2018 event. Before walking into this meeting, start brainstorming a few ideas for event themes, speakers, and event technology (while making sure they all fit with your goals, budget and target audience) to help lay the foundation for a productive conversation and a successful event.

For more insights on how to choose the perfect theme, speakers, and technology for your next event, get in touch with WSB.

Meeting professionals across the board encounter many of the same challenges with managing speakers, marketing, logistics and technology. How can you not only overcome these challenges, but also prevent them in the first place? Download WSB’s Essential Guide to Planning Successful Events


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