Planning Your Conference: Devising a Theme and Speaker Topics

Planning Your Conference: Devising a Theme and Speaker Topics

If you're planning on hosting a conference in 2022, choosing a theme is an essential first step. Devising a theme that is exciting, relevant and thought-provoking is vital. Your theme will guide panel discussions and inform the topics presented on by keynote speakers.

In this article, we delve into why setting your conference theme should be an essential part of planning a conference. We also run through some tips on how to devise a theme that will help you build an engaging program.

Why Choose A Conference Theme?

Choosing a theme for your conference is an important part of ensuring that the event is a relevant and beneficial one for all conference attendees. A theme ties your conference together, ensuring that there is a sense of unity and cohesion between different speakers and panels.

Themes Provide Focus
Choosing a conference theme helps to set the tone for the entire event. The theme is more than a buzzword or clever phrase – it should directly link to the agenda of the conference and embody the topics that you hope will be discussed and debated. The advantage of a theme is that it can be broad (for example, ‘Planning for the Future’) so it can also invite a lot of different perspectives and opinions, but it will also unify objectives and provide a singular focus.

Themes Create Excitement
‘Company Conference 2022’ isn’t going to generate much buzz for anyone. But attending ‘The Big Questions: Company Conference 2022’ sounds exciting and innovative. People want to come along and find out what these big questions are. The theme can be used in marketing collateral and in social media posts to further create hype and excitement. In this way, themes are helpful to promote your event and ensure it is a success. 

Themes Guide Speakers and Panellists
If you’re inviting people to present at your conference, you may want to give them a detailed brief on what they are expected to cover. But usually, it is best to let experts in your field tailor their own presentation based on a theme provided to them. This gives them more room to expand on ideas and share new insights into your industry and the challenges and opportunities that you are all facing.

Themes Keep Content Interesting
It’s easy for people who present at a lot of industry events to fall into the same, stale conversations. But when there is a theme attached to a conference, it invites everyone attending to look at these same issues from a different perspective. Themes can help to keep the content of the conference interesting, relevant and memorable. They also help to ensure that the ideas presented at your conference resonate with the audience.

Selecting A Theme For Your Conference

Formulating a good theme for your next conference isn’t easy and will require some serious deliberation. You want to select a theme that is interesting, appealing, and invites new ideas and discussions. Here are some steps your association can follow to select a conference theme.

1) Define your goals
What is the overall purpose of your conference? Deciding what you hope your outcomes will be is the first and most important step in choosing a successful theme. Some questions to ask yourself include: What do we want attendees to think and feel at the end of this conference? What key takeaways do we want them to have? What message are we trying to convey? When these have been defined, you can begin to flesh out the details of your theme.

2) Consider your audience
Ultimately, the theme of your conference is designed to create a better experience for your audience and attendees. So you need to ensure you are choosing a theme that is going to resonate with them. What kind of theme will appeal to your attendees? What questions do they want answered? What kinds of communication appeals best to them?

3) Take inspiration from industry trends
An association’s conference will always be closely tied to what is going on in the wider industry. Your theme should be reflective of current trends, topical news and your industry’s culture more broadly. Make sure that it feels appropriate and of the moment to your attendees, without feeling too much like the information shared will only be pertinent for a short period of time. 

4) Look at your values and vision
When you have some ideas of a theme, make sure that these align with your association’s overall values and vision. Consider your theme in relation to your mission statement and to the branding of your association. These key documents can help to inform and narrow down your theme. 

5) Consider the parameters of your event
When you have a broad idea of what kind of theme you would like, you may want to consider the details of your event and make sure that the theme is appropriate for these. Is your conference a smaller, local affair, or a multi-day event that attracts a national audience? For example, you don’t want to be promising to provide answers to all the challenges facing your industry in the next year if your conference is only a single day event with a limited number of speakers.

2022 AES Conference 

The theme for the 2022 AES conference is Associations Leading Change in a New World. Register now for this exciting event. AES will bring together case studies and valuable expert advice focused on the changes that had to happen during the pandemic, as well as what the industry faces now and into the future.

Need help planning your next conference or event? AES is here to help. Call us on 03 8393 9382.

About the Author: Nick Koerbin (Executive Director, AES)

With over 30 years of management expertise, Executive Director and Founder of AES, Nick Koerbin is one of the most experienced NFP leaders in Australia. He has held positions as the CEO of Materials Australia, the National Parts Code, as well as senior positions in the Institute of Insurance, Australian Quality Council, the Financial Planning Association, the Australian Human Resources Institute, and the Furniture Industry Association of Australia. Nick created AES with a vision of creating a set of management practices that could be consistently followed to ensure success. Over his 30 years in the industry, he noticed that inconsistent management practices often impeded delivery of services to members, which in turn created issues with membership renewal. By establishing AES and creating the NFP Association Best Practice Self-Assessment, Nick has been able to assist leaders in becoming more confident and informed decision makers so that they can create more effective strategies and implementation plans.

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