by Morton D. Rosenbaum | July 01, 2005

Orient-Express invitations

Finishing Touches
themed one 
event around
the famed globe-
trotting Orient
Express, using
table settings to
delicately conjure
(clockwise, from
top left) Paris,
Cairo, Venice and

“Theme parties have taken on a somewhat different complexion now,” says Andrea Michaels, president of Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Extraordinary Events, “especially in the world of corporate events.” Although themes still are popular, she notes, some of the old favorites are fading. “The reality is that very few major players in high-tech companies right now are old enough to have any clue what a ’20s or even a ’50s party would be about.”
    Whether or not for reasons of generational turnover, a growing number of corporations have retired familiar themes and are leveraging the power of an event to make a clear and unique statement. Following are some colorful examples of what creative planners can do to connote that an organization is growing, setting goals or just plain rewarding its employees.

Picture sphereGoing global
When San Mateo, Calif.-based consulting company Siebel Systems asked Extraordinary Events to organize a party that would boldly declare Siebel’s global presence, Michaels came up with a high-energy evening called World Beat, theming her event around the one language that translates across all borders: music.
    Michaels held the event in an outdoor parking lot near an amphitheater and suspended one enormous white globe 15 feet above attendees’ gawking heads. All evening, as guests milled about buffet stations offering fare from Asia, the Greek Isles, Mexico and other parts of the world (each branded with the evening’s specially designed World Beat logo), projectors from eight different directions were trained on the globe, screening hours of footage (compiled by Michaels and her team) of cultures around the world playing, singing and dancing to music.
    A band specializing in world music was versatile enough to provide sonic backdrop for all the nationalities depicted on screen, especially effective when the music corresponded with the globe’s continually changing footage.
    Michaels dressed the tables in colors conjuring NASA satellite images of Earth from afar, focusing on cobalt blues, rich purples and terra cottas.
Finally, to ensure that no attendee would soon forget the evening or her client’s pan-global identity Michaels ended dinner with a surprise: Two troops of drummers and dancers African and Latin twirled into the room, ushered attendees into a conga line and led them to the adjacent amphitheater, where they were treated to African acrobatics and a Latin salsa performance. Driving the pluralism-through-music message all the way home, the two groups then merged and performed as one, with the enthusiastic help of an amphitheater full of dancing Siebel employees.