When it comes to planning theme parties or special events, it's easy to do what's already been done, or stick with what's worked in the past. Don't ho-hum the night away. Our advice: Forget the tried and true, and take a fresh approach. Here are some suggestions:

Out With the Old * Lobsterfest in Maine is out--Forget about basing your theme on a meeting location--for example, a southwestern theme in Arizona or an Everglades theme in Florida.

* Matching meeting goals and party themes is old--Forget about building your event around the overall meeting theme such as a futuristic party for a "moving forward" theme.

In With the New * Plan a movie theme party--Take in this season's hot new movie, bringing along a notepad to jot down important props and set pieces. Your decor will feature the props from your notes. Remember, you have only to create the look of the movie--your attendees will fill in the story line from their own memories. Think of your props and decor as nothing more than memory-joggers. If it is available on video, you can run your theme movie on a giant screen without audio during the event. Movie posters at the entrance enhance the theme. And, of course, look-alikes for the stars of the film are always fun and a great photo op for your guests.

* Create a game show theme--These prime-time shows can provide some great interactive theme ideas. Pick something contemporary or nostalgic.

* Build a party around a newspaper theme-- A "tabloid newspaper" party might have visiting aliens, paparazzi, and perhaps even some absurd stories re-created by hired performers.

* Theme your party around a popular book--What about a Chicken Soup for the Soul party, with heartwarming decor, inspirational entertainment, and perhaps an interactive writing activity where each attendee contributes part of a story to be "published" later?

* Put a new twist on lifestyle trends--Since everyone is into health and fitness, how about an "anti-fitness" event, with couches, lounge chairs, lots of sweets, and some decidedly low-impact games?

* Browse the Internet for theme ideas--You might be able to get an idea from a chat room. Go to www.dejanews.com to search the many newsgroups and chat rooms out there. Or just surf, let ideas hit you from all directions, and you will be inspired.