Annual conferences sometimes have a been there, done that feel. But if the same attendees come to yours each year, they expect to learn and experience something new and different each time. If they don’t, your event — and your brand — will become dated.

The key to providing a memorable experience year after year is to come up with a creative conference theme. The right theme will capture attendees’ attention and keep them engaged and energized. As a result, you’ll attract more prospects, engage more customers, and build your brand.

Why conference branding is important

All too often, conference organizers play it too safe with branding. In an effort to protect their business, they go with a generic theme that doesn’t fit. But branding is how you can differentiate your conference from all the other business events professionals can choose from.

Ask yourself: What do you want people to think and feel when they arrive your conference? Do you have a brand promise that’s clear to everyone in your organization? How can you convey that to attendees?

Once you figure out what you want to be known for or associated with, you can go to work on choosing a creative theme. Use your business’s brand values as your north star, but don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and take your brand a step further for your conference theme.

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Inspiration for your conference theme ideas

Still coming up empty-handed? Use these prompts to inspire conference theme ideas:

  • Think about your industry. You don’t want to run a conference that’s too similar in nature to your competitors. If there are other conferences in your space, consider how you can differentiate. You might choose to make yours more interactive, or offer more opportunities for small group networking. If you have a strong differentiator, you could build your entire theme around it.
  • Know your audience. Who’s attending your conference? Clients, prospects, or both? What’s the age range? Will attendees all be from the same area, or will there be people from different parts of the country or world? Try to walk in the shoes of your attendees, and do your best to appeal to their interests.
  • Tie your theme into the location. Having a conference in Texas, Florida, Seattle, or Chicago? Wherever it is, you can choose a theme from being in a particular city, small town, climate, or an area’s culture.
  • Consider your venue. Similarly, the venue you choose may provide your theme inspiration. For example, if you’re hosting your event in a modern looking space, it could tie in well with a futuristic theme.
  • Use time. You could choose a decades theme (like an 80s theme), play with the concepts of past, present, and future, or riff off of the word time (it’s time to shine; it’s your industry’s time).
  • Rally around a great tagline. Sometimes, a strong, positive sentiment can make a great conference theme. Consider a riff on or pun using your business’s tagline as a way to start brainstorming.

Whichever you choose, just be sure that you make it your own, and tie it back to your brand.

Revisit your business goals

Once you think you have the perfect theme, be sure you can tie it to the goals of your conference, and your brand values. Then you can start promoting your theme to get attendees excited, and ultimately offer them a unique conference experience.

For more tips on conference themes and branding, be sure to read The Conference Organizer’s Guide to Branding.