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Conference Marketing: 8 Reasons To Theme or Not to Theme?


In our integrated association marketing world, we see a lot of conference marketing and annual meeting campaigns, from the bland to the beautiful.

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8 Reasons Why Your Conference Marketing Campaign Should Begin with a Theme

In our integrated association marketing world, we see a lot of conference and annual meeting campaigns, from the bland to the beautiful. We see associations that merely take some stock imagery from the host city and create their conference marketing campaign around it—how many meetings held in New Orleans have you seen that feature a saxophone or Mardi Gras mask? Ugh. So, to help, we thought we’d pass along these eight reasons why we feel creating a campaign theme with personality—and by theme, we mean a meeting slogan and related visual campaign identity—is essential to breaking through the association marketing clutter.

Creating a conference marketing campaign theme helps your prospective meeting attendees understand right off the bat what they can expect to get, at an aspirational level, from attending. It’s what underscores the objective of the meeting in a memorable, impactful, visually creative way.

Your theme should be rooted in the focus of the meeting’s programming. For example, if your organization wants to focus on the fact that your meeting will provide attendees access to ground-breaking research, build your theme around that. For the Society of Surgical Oncology, we developed 2018’s theme around their wide range of programming focused on treating patients with solid tumor cancers.

A conference theme provides a framework for consistent and cohesive messaging throughout your campaign and a hook to build all your content around. Consistency and cohesiveness help drive awareness and engagement.

Once your theme has been developed, you’ll want to integrate it into your website, emails, direct mail, videos, social media, and any other meeting-related materials, which may open other doors to extend your reach. For instance, you might want to create a social media advertising campaign that uses your theme to reach a larger audience and drive traffic to your registration page. Here’s a look at how we extended the theme “Where Discovery Meets Technology” through SLAS’ 2018 integrated campaign.

Themes are memorable and have personality. If you know all your event marketing elements rely on the theme to carry them through to your audience, you’ll rightly spend more time developing one that is memorable. Once you extend your theme to your target audience, they will begin to recognize and associate that campaign with your organization and your meeting, thus differentiating your message from the hundreds of other messages and offers they receive.

Your annual meeting theme can be brand-compliant. Check that, it must be brand compliant.  What’s the point of investing all that money and time into creating and supporting your organization’s brand and then having your biggest event of the year undo it? Make sure your meeting theme incorporates your brand in a way that makes sense.

Give a sister (or brother) a hand. Themes help provide presenters and other content providers with inspiration and a point of reference around which to construct their speeches/presentations. Here at DJG, we’ve written a speech or two, and few things are harder than drafting that showcase speech for the Society president or executive director. Ditto if you are giving a presentation. Having a theme helps inspire speakers and others attending your meeting and prompts them to get on board with the messaging and vision.

It’s not just the pre-show marketing that benefits from having a theme. It’s onsite at your meeting when that theme brings it home. From the welcome signs, walk-in slides, and mega screens to the mobile app, show dailies, and exhibit hall signage, that consistent theme plays a significant role in making your meeting memorable, building energy and excitement, and delivering a professional, polished, and engaging experience for your attendees. It’s a marketing love connection! And that makes it a lot more likely they’ll come back next year.

To theme or not to theme? That is the question many associations ask. But if you ask us, the answer is clear. Giving a theme to your annual meeting is one highly visual and creative way to differentiate your meeting from the rest of the crowd (competition).

To learn more about how DJG can work with you on a conference theming strategy, and then develop breakthrough creative for your next event, contact Drew Navolio today.