Each SPARK Talks event includes a theme. Themes produce a more coherent experience for the audience and push presenters to be more creative. They can get conversations started at the reception and afterwards. Each year’s theme helps give a cohesion to a program which is a series of talks from many different disciplines.

Themed conferences or panels at conferences are common in academia. Proposing a paper or poster on a given theme sometimes requires a researcher to re-focus their research to incorporate a given theme, and sometimes this generates new and surprising insights. Submitting a proposal to a SPARK Talks event is real-world practice in submitting a proposal to a conference. Successful proposals for a SPARK Talks event will relate to the theme, possibly lightly touch on it, but they don't necessarily have to specifically and completely address the theme.

Successful proposals will focus on the theme in stimulating and intriguing ways. Interesting, unexpected interpretations of the theme are welcome.