Do association meeting themes work or should they be discontinued?

Is it time to put an end to themes?

Themes are popular tools when it comes to major events such as annual association conventions. But you have to wonder if they add value or slowly suck the life out of an association event.

The value itself is somewhat dubious in any case. You need only have lived through 1999 to experience an endless array of “millennium”-based themes. “Preparing for the new millennium”, “A new millennium of opportunities”, even “Sailing toward the new millennium.” None of these themes helped to distinguish their associations, and none of them gave a clear message about the benefit associated with the convention.

Even worse, the focus on a theme takes away from the branding of the association itself. Keep in mind that the average member doesn’t live and breathe the association like a staff person does. The loss of focus on the association might be even more problematic for a prospective member or non-member who rarely receives communication from the association.

The defense of themes usually amounts to the argument that they add “pizazz” to the event, making it more special and attractive. However, if a theme is a primary reason someone is attending an event, one might submit that the event has major problems; instead, the benefits associated with the content and networking should be the major driving force for attendees to spend time and money by registering.

Surely, arguments could be made on both sides of this issue, but the bottom-line question remains: Do themes add enough value to justify focusing on them instead of the association brand and the primary benefit of attending? Is it time to put an end to themes?

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