Event theme trends are like baby names. They’re influenced by economic and cultural trends paired with a good measure of “oooh, great idea!” when encountering a theme elsewhere. Buzzwords and concepts can catch fire, and soon – well, it might seem like everyone is on the “IGNITE” bandwagon.

How many IGNITE-themed events have you been a part of in the past year or so? We’ve certainly planned a few of them. Sometimes the theme is just the word: IGNITE. Sometimes it’s IGNITE <insert city, industry, or company here>, or IGNITE <concept>: “Ignite the Possibilities”… “Igniting Innovation”… you get the point.

IGNITE is exciting. The implication is that the event will light a spark in its attendees. It’s hot. Invigorating. That burning sensation.

Gathering Kindling

Blue FlameWe all get that an event theme sets the stage for the event experience. The theme can be instrumental in conveying complex information during presentations, conferences and training and development programs. Venue selection, staging, messaging and signage, music and entertainment, and details all the way down to food selection can be designed to a dynamic theme. A well-executed theme can seriously contribute to a well-executed, memorable event. But it’s hard to get inspired and nail down event themes with legs.

It can seem like concept themes such as IGNITE can be pretty one-size-fits-all. Any organization can find an angle with the theme that speaks toward its strategic goals. But that’s the trap. Don’t just pick a theme and run with it. Consider ways to integrate your key messages, product and company names, or benefit statements directly into the theme.

So how do you find a fresh event theme? Brainstorm. Google. Pinterest. Look outside your industry. Make lists of words and concepts relevant to your organization, your venue, and the purpose of your event. You don’t have to be too clever, but you do need to be sure the theme is clear, easy to follow, and that you can apply it consistently throughout your event. Create an inspiration board with images that speak toward your theme.

Invent something new. Many planners are moving away from familiar themes and embracing more abstract ideas. Don’t be afraid to design a theme that is not immediately recognizable. Increasingly prevalent are concepts that allow attendees time to piece the inspiration together themselves. Something else to consider: a new trend is the idea of an un-theme, an “Unconference” with informal agenda-setting sessions and crowdplanning.

Go ahead, start your own fire with a hot NEW theme. You can do this.