Event planning isn’t easy. You have to ensure all guests are well-fed, have a good time, don’t leave too early and leave with a full grasp of the intended event message.
While many jump right into the details – food vendors, live band vs. DJ, centerpiece options – seasoned party planners know successful parties start with a solid theme.
Unfortunately, many themes are overdone and worn out. There’s a reason Western parties don’t require much effort – they’ve taken place so many times that finding decorations, music playlists and costumes don’t require much effort.
So where do you start when choosing an original, fun theme? Follow these five steps to narrow down all of your options and throw a successful company event.
1. Consider Your Audience
Start by making a list of key people you’d like to attend the event. What are their interests? What events have they enjoyed in the past? If this is an event for a variety of attendees, you’ll need more thorough research. However, if you’re planning an internal company event, you can just informally chat with your coworkers to determine the types of events they enjoy.
2. Focus on the Event’s Purpose
Many internal company events have two overarching purposes: increase employee engagement and build company culture. On the flip side, external corporate events almost always have a marketing and/or branding purpose. Is your event meant to open up new doors for your business through gained sales leads or push brand messaging? If you’re running a charity event, focus on the mission of the organization it supports. Your choice should subtly evoke these messages. Don’t derail your event’s purpose by selecting an unrelated, or worse – conflicting, theme.
3. Be Realistic
Parties can be expensive, and themes often heavily depend on budget. Consider how your choice will affect other event details. For example, if you plan a futuristic party, people may expect robots. Robots are expensive. For a jungle safari party, your attendees may expect real animals. We all want to pull off the kind of successfully extravagant parties guests continue to gossip about afterward, but many companies just don’t have that kind of budget. When choosing a theme, be realistic about what you can afford.
4. Weigh Other Event Elements
To support the step above, imagine how your theme will play out among all facets of the company event. What kind of food is appropriate for your theme contenders? Can you handle the type of decorations required for each? If you can’t handle related details for a theme, due to budget or complexity, cross it off the list.
5. Question Your Feelings
This is an important, yet often overlooked step. If you can’t support the event theme and get excited about it, you won’t pull off a successful party. Your heart needs to be in it to effectively focus on the details.
Sometimes you have to skip this step, because you just don’t have the final say. Unfortunately, if you hate the theme you end up moving forward with, the party won’t live up to its potential. Period.
On the flip side, if you’re in love with an event theme, you can lose objectivity and become blinded its details, such as its budget-breaking requirements. Carefully consider how you feel about a theme before moving forward with other event details.
Still stuck between several company event theme ideas? Poll a few of your audience members and gauge their reactions to your ideas.
Even better: Allow them to vote for their favorite idea to increase event anticipation and engagement.
After you’ve followed the five steps above and have determined your theme, it’s time to get moving on the big details – food, beverages, related vendors (music and entertainment) and major decoration endeavors. In my experience, you can never start too early. Good luck!