5 Ways to Activate Event Themes in Virtual or Hybrid Settings

1 read
Event Themes

Why can some event organizers put together a theme for an in-person event with the snap of their fingers, but the idea of creating one for a virtual or hybrid event starts with a scratch on the head? Blame repetition.

Repetition is a fundamental brain function that helps form a habit. We adapt to doing something over and over again — to the extent that “the brain non-consciously predicts what is most likely to happen.”

Repetition is safe. Comfortable, even. Just a few years ago, in-person events were the norm so it’s no surprise that running them is well within our comfort zone. Discomfort sometimes sets in with newer formats — like hybrid and virtual events — and figuring out how to apply event themes in these settings is new territory for many.

Luckily, it’s fairly easy to carry themes over from in-person events to virtual and hybrid experiences, helping attendees in any setting feel included.

But, first, what do we mean by “event theme?” Let’s review a few clarifying terms:

  • Theme: the title or tagline of your event (which is covered in this article)
  • Topic: the subject area you cover during your event
  • Idea: the original concept or notion you bring to the stage at your event

For example, you could select a space travel theme for an event about the future of technology (topic). As a result, your event community will walk away excited by the idea that technology can take humankind as far as our imaginations will permit.

Now that we’re speaking the same language, read on for five tactics that will help you bring your event theme to life across virtual and hybrid experiences.

Tactic #1: Go the distance with gift bags and swag

People love walking away with free goodies. That dopamine hit of getting a no-cost bonus gift is just so good.

Themed food, drinks, and sometimes, gifts often stimulate the senses for in-person attendees. But has the art of gifting gotten lost in virtual settings?

Good news: It hasn’t. Organizers now often send on-theme items to attendees before the event begins.

Gifting early increases excitement and anticipation for your event. In fact, many event professionals take it up a notch by asking attendees to hold off opening the goods until the day of –– provided they’re non-perishable, that is. As attendees fight temptation, curiosity builds and it becomes more likely they’ll actually show up to your experience.

Physical items help you accentuate your event theme in any setting. For example, if your theme is the ‘80s, consider sending attendees vintage candy, floppy disk coasters, trivia to play during the event, and famous drinks from that decade.

Want to send your attendees to outer space (figuratively, of course)? Imagine the connection attendees will feel as they open a holographic swag box filled with:

The options and combinations for swag deliveries are boundless. Here are a few of the many companies that help source goods:

Tactic #2: Defy physical boundaries with virtual branding

One of the best ways to extend your theme across any format is through event branding. In person, this is easily done with physical decorations and props associated with the theme.

But, with the right virtual event platform, it’s easy to brand a virtual venue, too –– especially if you read up on best practices in an event branding guide.

For example, Smashing Media wanted to infuse their brand throughout their annual SmashingConf San Francisco. Their virtual event featured playful colors and illustrations that brought the Smashing Media brand to life.


Tactic #3: Lean into apps

By this point, you’ve enticed attendees with fun swag, and impressed them with seamless virtual and in-person branding. These days, organizers are able to extend their brand beyond the obvious and use technology like virtual photo booths and other integrations to add novelty to the event.

Photo booths: Plug-ins like Snapbar, can be customized to amplify the theme. Carry your branding over with a background that attendees will be excited to show their friends.

Another option is WeBooth, which adds some playfulness to the photo booth experience. Your virtual attendees can reunite with their inner child with WeBooth’s:

  • Photo booth
  • Trivia competitions
  • Asteroid Blaster game
  • Sketchy drawing game
  • And interactive coloring pages.

Collaboration tools: For those attendees who miss drawing and writing on dry erase boards, they can use Miro for engaging work sessions where folks can collaborate on projects and ideas. Check out an example from Miro’s panel discussion at their Distributed 2020 event:


Tactic #4: Get into costume

Add a little flair to your event by adding costumes to the mix. It will enhance your theme and will simultaneously loosen the mood for attendees.

The emcee can be decked out in a perfectly themed outfit to help the audience wearing costumes feel comfortable. They can also host a costume contest to incentivise attendees to participate and increase engagement.

Adding costumes also improves the chances that attendees will post pictures of the action on social media and have their network see how well the event came together.

Tactic #5: Use music to transport the audience

Whatever the mood you are trying to set, there's no quicker way to do it than through music, you will see filmmakers constantly do this to create a tone for a scene. You can also easily play music through a virtual platform — whether you embed a Spotify playlist or stream the music directly onto a stage or session.

Many will also share their event playlist with attendees after the event closes so that attendees can relive the fun.

Anything is possible with the right partner

Finally, if you’re feeling the itch to move your next event online, but are uncertain about how to make it feel cohesive and engaging for all attendees, know that you’re not alone.

Coming up with a theme for your virtual or hybrid event is an important and sometimes challenging task. But with the right partner, the possibilities are endless.

With thousands of events being put on each year, Hopin’s Customer Success and Event Services managers are masters at ensuring every detail of one's event is looked after. Whether you need help brainstorm themes for your next event or hosting a world-class experience that wows an audience, give us a call.

Get started with Hopin

Contact sales

Come join the Hopin team

See open positions

Get started with HubSpot

Start now