Even the most imaginative event planners run out of creative steam. This is particularly true if you’re working on simultaneous projects or on tight deadlines—you need great event ideas yesterday!
Thankfully, there are many sources of event inspiration you can tap into when you’re creativity is low. From social media feeds to mood boards to your network of event planners, you can find event planning inspiration when your creativity is running on empty.
It may feel as though you’re completely out of ideas at the moment, but be ready for bursts of inspiration with an ‘Event Ideas’ notebook, and documents on your computer or tablet. You can upload files to your event planning software for reference, or share them with your planning team.
Now explore these tips and valuable sources of inspiration to help spark your latest (and greatest!) event ideas.
Get creative with 7 uncommon ways to find event inspiration
1. Let the event’s goals generate theme ideas
First, define the event goals to get a look at the big picture. The theme and décor should suit the event objectives, so check in and ask your client questions frequently to ensure you’re meeting their needs. Sticking with the established intentions of the event narrows down your options and gets you closer to the mark from the very beginning.
A symposium on green tech, for example, will guide you to explore eco-friendly venues and event suppliers. You can then let the theme guide your brainstorming. Explore websites and magazines with an environmental focus and peruse nature photography books to germinate ideas, such as a ‘living’ plant wall display behind guest speakers or using organic seed packets as place cards.
2. Let your venue dictate the event theme
Sometimes, you find the perfect venue before choosing a theme, and the location can be all the inspiration you need. A Victorian mansion may inspire a Steampunk themed social event, if that aligns with your client’s interests. A Mid-century modern hotel lobby may inspire decor featuring classic, clean lines for a fundraising gala in the ballroom. A venue with wall waterfalls outside the main entrance and inside the lobby may inspire a waterfall party theme.
At dream event venues (think the museums of The Smithsonian), carve out time to absorb the artwork or subject matter—either in person or online. Explore the dramatic imagery, architecture, and history without putting pressure on yourself to generate ideas at first. A few days later, schedule an event-theme brainstorming session and write down all of your ideas without judgment—chances are there will be some keepers in the mix.
If the client’s dream venue isn’t available, or is out of reach financially, bring the feel of their favored location to the venue. Was a couple’s hoped for destination wedding not possible? Project bold images of tropical beaches onto the walls of the ballroom. Perhaps a company couldn’t get Grand Central Terminal for their New York-based annual holiday event. Choose an understated venue and add Beaux-Arts elements to recreate the grandeur of the train station.
3. Tailor your social media feeds for event inspiration
Social media is where we turn for everything: There’s no shortage of product recommendations, vacation destinations, and not-to-miss experiences. It’s also a perfect source for event planning inspo. Infuse your social feeds with event eye-candy when you follow planners, vendors, venues, florists, and more. Keep a running list of your can dos, but don’t forget to dream big with an event bucket list.
Pinterest is the ultimate social media outlet for planners. If you haven’t been poring over this digital bulletin board since it started, now is the time to sign up. Find everything from baby shower and birthday party themes to ideas for designing stunning weddings and corporate events. A friendly word of warning: It’s easy to lose track of time exploring Pinterest, so stay on task with these tips:
- Begin with a basic boards search using a broad term to get started. Event Inspiration offers up plenty of ideas. Find and follow boards with aesthetics that match yours and your current clients.
- Follow events- or planning-specific accounts like Event Manager Blog, Snappening, WeddingWire, The Knot, and Brides, and new ideas will show up in your home feed automatically.
- Use the Pinterest lens to discover ideas based on the real world. Point your camera at a floral arrangement, color combination, tablescape—anything that inspires you—and the visual discovery tool will display related images and ideas.
- Not on the phone? No problem. Click the ‘more ideas’ tab on one of your boards for suggestions that mirror your pins.
- Search visually similar results using the magnifying glass icon in the corner of pinned images.
Explore trending ideas on Twitter when you follow other event professionals and related hashtags. Some top event planning hashtags include: #EventProfs, #EventPros, #MeetingProfs, #MeetingPros, #EventThemes, #EventManagement, #EventPlanning, #WeddingThemes, #Catering, and #EventsChat.
Instagram’s hashtag game is strong, as well. Descriptive hashtags rule when it comes to this photo-centric app. Explore #Bride, #WeddingDay, #PartyThemes, #Tablescapes, #EventPlanning, #EventIdeas, #ColorPalettes, #Pantone, #EventPlanners, #WeddingDecor, #EventStyling, #Celebrate, #EventInspiration, and more for visual inspiration. You can even follow your favorite hashtags on this platform, so tagged photos appear in your feed. Use this discovery tool to keep your feed fresh, and to find follow-worthy accounts.
Follow event planners on YouTube for meeting and event ideas. Curate watch lists and subscribe to relevant channels to keep an eye on the industry. Watch wedding videos, peruse conference promos, and stake out venues to see what has worked well (and spot areas that needed a little work). Follow channels by industry pros, like Event Manager Blog, EventPlanning Blueprint, Social Tables, and Miss Event Planner, for décor ideas, business advice, and organization tips.
Don’t discount the DIYers, either. Explore planning message boards and get inspiration straight from the source—see what people are dreaming up and use them as a launch pad for your own ideas.
4. Network with other event professionals
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 116,700 event planners in the US, and the field is growing at a faster than average pace. Join networking groups on social media, attend industry trade shows, get active on professional message boards, or connect with local planners for a quarterly coffee and ideation session.
Use LinkedIn to make connections with fellow event professionals around the world. See what your event peers are creating on the East Coast or keep in touch with European planners to stay on top of trends outside of your region. Building relationships throughout the country—and around the world—can inspire local versions of far flung events and also comes in handy when planning destination events.
5. Explore ideas on Google Trends
Google Trends gathers, organizes, and shares information—and lots of it. Explore Google data to see what news, search, and video queries are trending, and where they are most popular. Browse top search terms, explore specific keywords, look back to see what was popular two, four, or nine years ago (you can go back to 2001).
Use this user-friendly tool to create event idea lists or strike themes that don’t resonate with the Google-using population anymore. For example, you may run searches for ‘Speakeasies’ and ‘Flappers’ and discover these terms are trending upwards, and the interest in these terms in your state is particularly high. This trend suggests guests in your region would probably appreciate 20s themed company parties.
6. Let the event experience create the theme
Get extra-creative with activities that encourage doing rather than simply attending. Build events around interactive activities and guest engagement, and the experiences become the theme. Okay, maybe we can’t always turn a hotel into an ice cave, but lighting, music, entertainment, and activities can all play a role in event creation. Experiential ideas to run with:
- Skip the usual ‘chicken or beef’ menu and opt for local food trucks, a build-your-own stir fry table, or a waffle bar.
- Create a gaming lounge and encourage guests to take part in friendly Mario Kart battles.
- Hire caricature artists to capture guests in a unique way.
- Set up a giant croquet game with beach balls and hula hoops, or play human chess.
These activities can guide the overall event theme. The croquet game may inspire an ‘Alice In Wonderland’ theme, and the caricature artists may inspire a pop-art theme. If you hire local food trucks for an outdoor networking event, the different trucks can become conversation starters for small groups.
7. Push the creative envelope OR return to the tried and true
When you’re stuck for ideas, let your imagination run wild through an anything-goes brainstorming session. Come up with outlandish or silly event ideas, consider event color palettes you’ve never seen before, and include themes that require an exorbitant budget. Within these unrealistic ideas could be the seed of a great event. Or you could run a Twitter poll to see if any of them resonate with your followers. The responses to the poll could evolve into an impromptu brainstorming session among fellow event planners.
You can also explore trending ideas and create something truly unique with an unusual mash-up. Ideas to inspire your own:
- Fire & Ice: Tropical getaway on one side of the venue, retro ski-themed on the other.
- Land & Sea: Let these two themes inspire your decor and menu.
- Pirates & Knights: For clients interested in cosplay, this theme could include costume pieces for guests.
- Then & Now: Vintage meets modern decor and F&B. Or, take it to another level with vintage & futuristic options.
Finally, when all else fails, you can always return to the greatest hits. There’s a reason these event themes are on repeat: People love them.
- Decades: 20s, 50s, 80s, 90s. Or choose one specific year (i.e. 2005) and play the top hits, wear the hot brands, and explore the top trends for that specific year. (Google trends comes in handy here!)
- Movie themes: Fantasy movies, gangster movies, comedies, cult classics, sci-fi
- Destinations: Beach, rustic log cabin in the mountains, Celtic castle, Paris bistro, tropical rainforest
- Color combos: Black & White, Gold & Black, Silver & Gold
- Seasonal & Holiday themes: Fall, Spring, Halloween, Christmas
The well of event ideas is truly bottomless, but sometimes you can’t seem to draw those ideas to the surface. Give yourself a little mental break, get a few full nights of sleep in a row, and then explore the inspiration sources above. In no time you’ll start filling your ‘Ideas’ folder up again, and have stand-out event themes to pitch to your clients.
Learn more about drawing event inspiration from your surroundings, get new ideas for event design inspiration, and explore corporate event themes. Or find out how easy it is to keep track of your awesome event ideas with Social Tables’ free event planning software.