How to Use Themes to Create a Memorable Experience

|||Erin Medina
Whether you’re hosting an exclusive corporate retreat or an industry-wide training, the most important element of any event is what attendees remember from their experience. With planners continually looking for more ways to create an impactful experience that will resonate with their guests, one common trend is themed meetings. No longer are themes only being used for dinners or receptions, but they are becoming something that is infused throughout every aspect of a meeting—from breakout sessions to the general program. When coordinating a themed meeting there are several things that planners should keep in mind.

Use a Theme to Tell a Story

There is no better way to convey an impactful message or a goal than through the form of storytelling, as it helps to truly engage an audience and capture attendees’ imagination. Creating an overarching theme allows planners to be creative with activities, décor and cuisine, and it also provides a way for them to tell a compelling story by infusing messaging and important takeaways for attendees throughout every aspect.

Create a Transformative Experience

One of the many reasons I am a big fan of themed meetings and events is that planners have the ability to get really creative with the décor and activities. It’s amazing to see a normal ballroom or venue that has been completely transformed to the point it is unrecognizable. I’ve seen traditional spaces turned into everything from an authentic-looking Western saloon to an “On the Farm” experience complete with bales of hay and tractors as decorations, roping demonstrations, armadillo racing and more. At Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, we can completely transform one of our outdoor venues into a glamorous camping or “glamping” event set-up. This has been a very popular option as it allows guests to enjoy the feeling of being at a private luxury camping retreat with chandeliers hanging from oak trees to flowing, draped curtains, comfortable sofas, and gourmet food and beverages while enjoying the serenity of the Texas Hill Country.

“Spur” Creativity and Utilize a Destination

When choosing a theme for an event, I recommend that planners utilize the unique aspects of their meeting destination. For example, we recently hosted a “Boots, Blue Jeans and Business” meeting, which featured cowboy hat fittings, BBQ teambuilding competitions and denim linen and decorations. Planners can also expand a theme by bringing the history or culture of the destination into the actual program and meeting sessions. For example, I recommend working with the venue or a local expert to overlay the destination’s history into an introductory session, coordinate for a local prominent figure to be the keynote speaker, or tie in a local charity for CSR opportunities all tying back to an overarching theme.

Get Help from Your Venue

It is very important for planners to work closely with the venue in order to help the vision of their themed meeting come to life. As the venue’s team is very familiar with the intricacies of the property, they will have ideas on how to deliver on the theme and messaging throughout every aspect of the event, from the arrival experience and coffee breaks to general sessions and cocktail hours.

Things to Consider 

When choosing a theme, planners should tie in something that can be organic, true to their company, and will be fun and resonate with their audience. If possible, it is always a good idea to get direct feedback from the people who will be attending your function by asking what type of meeting and activities they would be of most interest to them. Finally, precision is key. Once a theme has been decided, create a clear and streamlined narrative for your attendee’s experience. In today’s world of social media, I suggest creating a concise, or “hashtaggable,” theme name that easily draws back to your overarching goal of the experience.
Erin MedinaErin Medina is the director of events at Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio. She has more than more than 15 years of experience in the meeting, events and hospitality industry.