Three Reasons to Reconsider Your Conference Theme

Rachel Daeger, CAE, IOM

While reviewing my upcoming tasks in our master timeline, I saw the annual reminder to “ask next year’s conference chair for the theme and start logo design.” If your to-do list has a similar reminder, I encourage you to stop, take a step back and think about the strategy around your conference branding. I propose that:

  • A logo should not be comprised of how long you’ve been having a conference and a nod to your host location is detracting from your organization’s brand,
  • A theme with a slogan that reflects your host location does not accurately reflect the value of attending your event, and
  • An annual conference theme and logo are confusing to non-member attendees.

Use the power of your brand

A good exercise is to place your association logo next to your most recent conference logo. Do they look like they belong to the same organization? Does it reinforce your association’s identity and recognition or detract and create confusion? As you wrestle against all of the voices in today’s marketplace, each point of contact with your key audiences is an important chance to reinforce your association’s value. Don’t dilute those connections with a message that doesn’t reflect your brand.

Share the why

Your conference location may be a fantastic place to visit, but attendees aren’t coming for the great food or local attractions. Does your conference logo reflect the benefit they receive from your programming, connections, or experiences? Don’t make someone guess why they should attend your event; communicate the why through your event logo.

Be welcoming and inclusive

Have you considered that indicating your event is the 31st or 71st event subtly sends a message that outsiders are not welcome? While there is value in celebrating your association’s history or event, don’t send that message that if you haven’t been a part of us for the last decade, then you aren’t welcome. If your conference is open to non-members, consider a focus group that gets their impression of your conference marketing. Even something as simple as a conference agenda full of necessary committee meetings but closed to other attendees could be sending the wrong message.

If you are moving back from a virtual event to an in-person conference, take this opportunity to not just add the next number to your annual conference logo. Rethink the branding, strategy, and power behind a graphic that dominates your communication plan for a good portion of every year. Review RGI’s other marketing resources here.