minds of attendees — such as invitations (includ- ing email invites), program handouts, signage, and overall conference optics. This is similar to branding, although if a meeting is going to feel different from last year’s iteration, it can’t share 100 percent of its sponsoring organization’s brand DNA. (Nor can it clash with or contradict its parent brand.) This form of light visual theming is what
integral to the brand — the identity — of Coca-Cola that changing it for the purpose of differentiating one of its meetings from another simply isn’t worth it.
Klasky has had more experience with, dur- ing her more than two decades in the meet- ings industry. And it’s not that ASME does “180-degree turns” with its graphics from one meeting to the next; rather, she said, “many attendees come to [ASME’s annual conference] every year — so even if it’s as simple as being able to differentiate programs, we have at a minimum different colors.” But you do run a branding risk in changing up color
‘The environment has taken on a more serious tone.’
THIS TAGLINE MUST NOT BE REMOVED One popular replacement for themes has been taglines — basically, a way of tying together all the disparate elements of a meeting under one central, unifying principle. Kind of like a theme, but not exactly. Tagline examples include “Energy Diver- sity” (from ASME) and “Cure, Treat, Prevent” (from JDRF). “Business messaging does not go away,” Hope
schemes for your meeting. JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) recently went through a big branding exercise, including adopting a new logo. Now, while Barbara Parker, JDRF’s director of national meetings and travel, might want to use a unique color scheme for the organization’s annual lobbying conference, held each June in Washington, D.C., she has to be careful. “Color is a double- edged sword,” Parker said. “If you are trying to promote your brand in the marketplace, that’s how people see you — and Coca-Cola is red and white.” In other words, the red-and-white color scheme is so
don't want to come off as being
gaudy 44 PCMA CONVENE JUNE 2012
said. “How you deliver it can be a victim of cost-cutting.” And anyway, he added, half the time, when clients say that they want to “theme out” their meeting — weaving a varied and colorful theme into its fabric, as Hope did with his “Gone With the Wind” conference — really what they mean is they just want a memorable experience for attendees. Memorable experiences don’t only come from tropical drinks served in coconuts (“Tropical High”), or flower leis handed out at the beginning of the opening general session (“An Island of Innovation”), or even from an overwrought framing device (“Howdy, Pardners! Welcome to Best Prac- tices Gulch!”). You just have to be smarter about delivering the message, so your audience remembers it when they go back to the office.
Which can be difficult. The first step, according to Hope, is to clear your ego out of the way, and ask yourself honestly: Is the tagline direct, and not convoluted? Are attendees going
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