The Themed Event: How to Ensure Memorable, Impactful Experiences for Attendees

If you want your event or meeting to be memorable, then get busy theming it.

Whether you’re hosting an exclusive corporate retreat or an industry-wide training, Erin Medina, director of events at Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio, finds that the most important element of any event is what attendees actually take away and remember from their experience. Here, Medina offers you her perspective and recommendations.

Straight From the Expert

With planners continually looking for more unique ways to create an impactful experience that will resonate with their guests, one common trend I’ve noticed is themed events. No longer are themes being used only for dinners or receptions, but they are becoming something that is infused throughout every aspect of a meeting, from breakout sessions to the general program.

When coordinating a themed meeting, there are five things that planners should keep in mind:

1. Use a theme to tell a story.

Personally, I think there is no better way to convey an impactful message or a goal than through the form of storytelling, as it helps to truly engage an audience and capture their imagination. By creating an overarching theme, it not only allows planners to be creative with activities, décor, and cuisine, but it also provides a way for them to tell a compelling story by infusing messaging and important takeaways for attendees throughout every aspect.

2. Create a transformative experience.

One of the many reasons I am a big fan of themed meetings and events is that planners have the ability to get really creative with the décor and activities. It’s amazing to see a normal ballroom or venue that has been completely transformed to the point that it is unrecognizable. I’ve seen traditional spaces turned into everything from an authentic-looking Western saloon to an “on the farm” experience complete with bales of hay and tractors as decorations, roping demonstrations, armadillo racing, and more.

At the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, we can completely transform one of our outdoor venues into a glamorous camping or “glamping” event setup. This has been a very popular option as it allows guests to enjoy the feeling of being at a private luxury camping retreat, with chandeliers hanging from oak trees, flowing curtains, comfortable sofas, and gourmet food and beverages, all while enjoying the serenity of the Texas Hill Country.

3. Spur creativity and utilize a destination.

When choosing a theme for an event, I recommend that planners utilize the unique aspects of their meeting destination. For example, here in San Antonio, we have hosted a lot of Texas-themed functions celebrating the culture of the Lone Star State and Southern hospitality.

We recently hosted a “Boots, Blue Jeans, and Business” meeting, which featured everything from cowboy-hat fittings and barbecue team-building competitions to denim linen and decorations.

Planners can also expand a theme by bringing the history or culture of the destination into the actual program and meeting sessions. For example, I recommend working with the venue or a local expert to overlay the destination’s history into an introductory session, coordinate for a local prominent figure to be the keynote speaker, or bring in a local charity for CSR opportunities, all tying back to an overarching theme.

4. Get help from your venue.

It is very important for planners to work closely with their venue to help the vision of their themed event come to life. As the venue’s team is very familiar with the intricacies of the property, they will have ideas on how to deliver on the theme and messaging throughout every aspect of the event, from the arrival experience and coffee breaks to general sessions and cocktail hours.

5. Other things to consider.

When choosing a theme, I recommend that planners tie in something that can be organic, true to their company, and fun while resonating with their audience. If possible, it is always a good idea to get direct feedback from the people who will actually be attending your function by asking what type of meeting and activities would be of most interest to them.

Finally, precision is key. Once a theme has been decided, I recommend creating a clear and streamlined narrative for your attendee’s experience. In today’s world of social media, I suggest creating a concise — or “hashtaggable” — theme name that easily draws back to your overarching goal of the experience.

Written by Erin Medina, the director of events at Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio, who has more than more than 15 years of experience in the meeting, events, and hospitality industry.


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