Tips to Eliminate the Corniness from Your Themed Event
By: Tracey-Lee Batsford
As an event planner, we’ve all been there. We’re organizing a convention, tradeshow or corporate event. And we’re asked one of the most catch-22’s of them all: what’s the theme?
We here you. From 80s parties to The Great Gatsby ambiances to James Bond missions, themed events are touch and go. Go overboard and attendees can view your event as the ultimate in kitsch. Tone it down to subterranean levels—and event goers will feel underwhelmed at best.
Trends abound with the usual suspects in terms of event themes (think sports, casinos, masquerades). However, have you thought about a theme based on your event’s location? Most probably. But have you also considered going beyond the clichés for a truly authentic experience?
Let’s take a look at how you can craft an engaging and genuine destination-theme event using Québec City—and its unique culture—as an example.
1. Get past the marketing hype. Destinations are often tagged with two or three core stereotypes. Think of major locations around the world. A few evocative (or not) images may come to mind. However, it’s imperative to dig deeper and understand the true heritage of your host city.
Québec City tip: Québec City is known for being a French settlement and trading post, with the gamut of wars against the English, connections with local Aboriginals, trapping, hunting, buried in snow for months out of the year…you name it! Many planners do pull off wonderfully themed events based on the undeniable allure of Québec City’s past.
However, this is only the tip of the iceberg (pardon the pun). The city culture has also been influenced by the four seasons, the British and Irish, and smorgasbord of other influences. In a nutshell, talk to your destination’s local representatives for the inside scoop into other, more little-known facts that may just as surprise delegates as the obvious standbys.
2. Tap into what’s trending now, with a wink to the past. Immersing delegates into what attracts thousands of visitors each year is one way to start. But for a class act and to really get delegates’ attention spans a-flutter, try to combine the past with the future.
Québec City tip: Our culture is steeped in tradition and history. It’s something to be proud of. Nevertheless, we are blossoming into a major metropolitan hub. What does this mean? For example, everyone associates Québec City with poutine and maple syrup which is so, well, eons ago for native Quebecers. This is not say you shouldn’t dish up real-deal poutine and maple syrup (many of us even pair it together, we kid you not), but there are so many other delicacies that can be enjoyed. Many of our culinary masters are marrying local deer or fish with the lush vegetation of the Boreal forest.
3. Look for idiosyncrasies. Every destination has them. Those je ne sais quoi facets that are brimming with potential for an event organizer with a creative mindset, sleuthing skills and gusto. A host city’s idiosyncrasies, not readily glaring from the pages of a tourist guide, can be anything from a hip new district that nobody but the locals know, quirky event venues that command attention, or activity that is not quite readily available anywhere else.
Québec City tip: Québec City offers an eclectic mix of venues, activities and neighborhoods for event planners to blend into their programs. Want to hold a cocktail reception in a church, we’ve got that. Want to spend a night in an ice hotel? Done! Aiming for your delegates’ adrenaline rush with dogsledding or white water rafting? Check!
From the venue to the décor to the fare to the entertainment, you need to strike a delicate balance that plays with the local culture and heritage, which enables corporate attendees to discover a location with fun—and class.
Avoid outright clichés, particularly with corporate conventions and conferences, that can negatively impact the credibility of your event. Be open to speaking to locals, even if they are not intimately involved in your event and, when possible, spend a few days during your site inspections to soak in the local vibe. And remember, while all travel experiences are technically authentic, you can definitely up the ante to make them truly one-of-a-kind.
Visit Québec City Business Destination’s blog to read more interesting topics on our industry.