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CMP SERIES CERTIFICATION MADE POSSIBLE B


ack in the 1990s, when the economy was booming — and so were meeting budgets — it wasn’t hard to sell a board of directors on a big-time theme. Which is how


Phelps Hope, CMP, vice president of meetings and exposi- tions for Kellen Company, one year came to put on an over-the-top, “Gone With the Wind”–themed conference in Dallas, for an association of CEOs. Hope’s team collected attendee measurements ahead of time for costuming purposes, and allowed each person to choose to be a member of the Union or the Confederate army. Throughout the conference, there were pantomime fight scenes and staff members in period dress, old-timey songs were sung, and news articles and dialogue of the era were seeded here and there. “We really immersed the people in the theme,”


the true message the theme was meant to convey — after everyone had flown home. “But,” Hope said, “that was when we had a little more money to play with.”


Phelps Hope


Hope said. “You almost got to be part of a play.” The CEOs were at the conference to get some strategic coaching and high-level thought-leader training — and “Gone With the Wind” was used to reinforce the official conference theme, which dealt with how indi- viduals can learn from history in order to avoid past pitfalls. Another fun layer to the theme was, as Hope put it, “We play a role in our work life, so play it up.” Everything really came together for this meeting, because


Hope and his team were able to fully immerse each attendee in the cinematic experience they created, thus allowing for more vivid memories and greater recall of the theme — and


‘Business messaging does not go away.’


GOODBYE TO ALL THAT In the past, meeting themes were deployed to con- jure emotions in and touch the senses of every single attendee — not just a few. Thus, meeting planners had to make sure their theme could “hold the weight of all that,” according to Lisa English, CMP, CMM, marketing manager for strategic meetings manage- ment for Cvent. Because “Gone With the Wind” is a cultural touchstone for a certain age group, at one time it made for a sure-fire meeting theme. But something like that may no longer resonate for a younger generation. “Where we go for inspiration for themes is interesting,” English said. “When you’re planning an event, you are trying to figure out,


‘What is the emotion, what is the feel I am trying to bring to people?’ ”


To do this, themes commonly have been tagged to a glam- orous destination (“Parisian Nights”), a movie, song (“Let’s Get It Started,” by the Black Eyed Peas), or cultural trend, or a particularly elaborate metaphor. (See “If You Must Have a Theme … ,” p. 48.) Recently, TV has been a big inspiration, said English, who noted that the show “Mad Men” has influ- enced a lot of conferences over the past five years. But like the dramatic, genteel age of Scarlett O’Hara and her antebellum


Girl Power Girl Scouts of the USA’s year-long tagline —


“To Get Her There” — is incorporated into all of its 2012 meetings and events.


42 PCMA CONVENE JUNE 2012


PCMA.ORG


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