Annual meetings and conventions shape the story you want to continue to tell throughout the year. Some agendas are a mishmash of guest speakers with diverse topics; others more clearly defined.
Focusing your event on specific themes can set up your future story and create a more consistent agenda.
For instance, If the focus one year is technology, guest speakers will present innovative technology solutions. This helps set up your delegates and industry for technology and innovation.
I was a motivational speaker for a restaurant management event that masterfully focused on fine-tuning food preparation processes. Every guest speaker was tasked to tear apart standard food preparation routines and expose inefficiencies.
One restaurant industry motivational speaker was ruthless and shamed the crowd for food waste. This audience craved that Chef Ramsey like fear-based approach.
How do you discover what theme to focus on?
Think of the most significant problem plaguing your industry ( yes, just one) and drill down on it. Get specific and build content around it. If you can’t find a guest speaker to do a particular topic, you have to get close enough and coach them about specifics.
You could also design a session as an industry panel or discussion to cover hard to reach topics.
Research Guest Speakers
Once you set the theme, scour the internet for speakers who speak to those themes. You may choose to check with your speaker's bureau for experts who speak on your topics.
Next, reach out to your networks and vendors for guest speaker ideas. A broad theme will be easier to design, however not as compelling. The more you can drill into your meeting theme with specific, cutting-edge content, the easier it will be to find speakers to address these topics.
Next, use social media and put out a call for speakers related to a specific theme. Do this throughout the year.
Consistently reach out to convention delegates to get their feedback on best practices relating to the theme. Draw from your delegate base to speak on their experience.
Build sessions like roundtables and industry panels to include experts who have experience but don't want to speak in public. Have a skilled moderator for these sessions. They are designed to get the conversation started and build on it.
Once you have hired motivational and guest speakers, coach them to incorporate the theme. Make sure they understand why the convention committee chose this theme at this time. Help them relate to why this theme impacts the audience.
Next, make it clear in the guest speakers contract that the theme must be relatable and woven into the speech.
Chasing After Innovative Events
It’s not enough to get people to come to events. You now have to engage people’s attention and hold it throughout the meeting.
Today, live events compete with the flash, entertainment value and immediate gratification of technology. By having a consistent theme and speakers that resonate and reinforce the ideas, sets the event apart from others.
Maximize your Conference Theme:
- A great conference theme should be motivational and inspiring
- Many meeting planners chose a theme and forget about it. For a theme to have an impact it has to be incorporated into the event. The motivational keynote speakers, guest speakers and event MC need to know the theme and what it means to the event and the audience.
- Create a logo and a color theme to enhance the theme.
- Reinforce the theme with props. Decorate the conference ball room and workshop/ guest speakers rooms with colors and props that support the conference theme. For instance if your theme was african safari you could carry the african theme into facility rooms, badges, event registration forms and bags, etc. Conference volunteers could be outfitted with T shirts sporting the theme.
- Special events and functions with after dinners speakers should support the theme. I was a motivational keynote speaker for a womens event where the theme was Divine Divas, the event was so entwined around the theme, you couldn't avoid it! It had a big impact as everything about the event, including rewards ( like the most Divine Service Professional) and recognition.