Birthdays. Some folks dread them, others can’t wait to celebrate. I say, put them to work.
What does another year mean? What can it offer us? The day should feel special— like a re-charged battery, a newly focused, prioritized list of goals. Twenty-nine was a nerveracking age—I couldn’t believe my twenties were over because, what did that mean? Who was I supposed to be once the two was replaced by a three? How quickly life would life now evaporate? The idea of not being able to accomplish what I’d hoped to was a tangible fear. Since the birthday was happening whether I accepted it or not, I decided to have as much fun as possible because fun has a way of moving things forward in the best possible way. Ask yourself, what am I trying to accomplish this year? What are my clients or organization hoping to achieve?
For the past few years I’ve thrown myself a themed birthday party. Not only has it put aging in perspective but it’s also helped fine-tune my skillset. Never underestimate the power of a well-executed theme and the ways it can empower your professional brand. People don’t want to be bored. They don’t want to dread receiving the same run-of-the-mill invite to an event that’s been done a million times. They don’t want to work on the same event they’ve thrown ad nauseum. They crave something interesting and different. Why not be the one to provide that experience? In business, I follow the same line of thought as I did planning that first party. Consider what venues are budget-friendly and offer the space you need for guests and theme. Choose a venue that allows for a private room or a sectioned off area. Take into account whether you can do things yourself, with a team, or if you need outside event coordinator assistance. Think about different aspects you can incorporate: menu, decorations, music, activity, clothing, guest book. The many details, especially when handmade or personalized, inspire your guests to not only have fun but feel part of a memorable gathering.
Theme choice is always key. I choose one that speaks to me, one that can be utilized with details. Bonus points for any theme with a timely component. It can relate to sports, pop-culture, a specific era, etc, and involves bringing that environment alive. Schedule enough time for the planning stages because it’s within brainstorming and outlining that the best ideas emerge. Depending on time and budget, decide whether you’ll be making decorations, purchasing these, or both. The more personal the touch, the more people will feel ensconced in the theme. During my 80’s theme at a roller rink, the 100 guests marveled that they felt like kids again. They waited in line to take photos next to a mini-poster that read, “No One Puts Baby In A Corner,” which I placed in a corner of the rink. Create a world. Follow through with posters, centerpieces, guest books, favors—find creative ways to bring the theme alive. Never forget the photoframe—they are easy to make with white posterboard and decorated with photos or trinkets that represent the theme. Why are photoframes so integral? Because they encourage engagement. Guests enjoy having props to use within photos. Their photos do the work for you: they encourage word of your event and brand to be spread through social media. Be sure to take photos yourself to use on your own website and social media. It’s never a bad idea to create a special hashtag for the event so photos can be easily located if and when needed.
I’ve had a Wizard of Oz theme (based on the books, not the movie) throughout my yard, and at various venues I’ve created a Candyland theme, Under The Sea, the aforementioned 80’s roller rink theme, Miami Vice, gangsters and flappers, superheroes, Breaking Bad, Hot Tub Time Machine, and Stranger Things themes. Use a birthday to practice and get a feel for how long each stage would take you and your team to complete. When a theme is brought to life, guests feel a part of that experience. Why couldn’t this be accomplished on behalf of a client? People enjoy being a part of fun experiences and they remember who and what made them feel that way. I’ve always been a bit of a decade aficianado—I enjoy the minutiae of each decade’s colors, clothing, films, music, events, and how the beginning of a decade often differs from its end in terms of themes and style. I use this knowledge not only with my birthdays but with professional events and marketing. It works because I have a genuine love for sharing it in ways others can engage with and, believe it or not, learn something they didn’t know before walking through the door. Tailor it in ways that incorporate your brand or business but prioritize engagement. Make choices that encourage attendees to feel something. A theme, when created and produced authentically, will bring out lively discussion and lack of self-consciousness, exactly what you need for people to engage with and remember the evening.
Change the meaning of your birthday—throw an event that speaks to your tribe and provides an immersive experience. Don’t forget your brand and organization. Use yourself as a template. Observe how your friends respond to a well-detailed theme party and consider incorporating a theme into your PR, marketing, or event strategies. The devil is always in the details in regards to event promotion. Revitalize the energy of your employees and brand. Allow a sense of fun to permeate the proceedings. No matter what theme you choose, a sense of fun never goes out of style and is a great thing to be remembered for.