When you think of adding storytelling to an event, you might imagine booking a TEDtalk-style speaker to stand on a minimalist stage and spout hard-earned life lessons.

The GES/EventMB Storytelling Playbook (download the PDF) will expand your vision of how storytelling can be integrated into events. Some ideas:

  • Rather than publish another lame agenda, you could format your event schedule as a narrative journey: a series of “chapters” that, like a Hollywood script, convey how each session changes those who attend it. (You might also consider pacing the day based on story structure: a leisurely start in the everyday world, an intervention that changes perspective, a series of escalating events that reveal deeper meaning, and a climatic end point, followed by time to reflect on how the experience has changed the participant.)
  • As I note in my own storytelling workshops, don’t hesitate to embrace tension. Lock on to your audience’s challenges. Embrace them. Empathize with them. Present stories that show you understand what the audience is facing. Talk to audiences about how sessions within the event will address, defuse, and transform those tensions. Tell your company’s own story in a way that shows you understand this pain … and why you care.
  • Make your event more memorable by making its messages simple and relatable. Most corporate events (and corporate messages, for that matter) are complex and cold. What simple, beautiful, remarkable truth lies at the heart of the experience you want the audience to have? How can you make the story of that truth (or how you became aware of it) the focus of the event, without slipping into corporate language and marketing jargon?

In other words: rather than let storytelling be a session at your event, expand your definition of storytelling to include the event itself. Let the event be a story; let attendees be characters in that story. By offering a journey of discovery that casts each attendee as a hero, you build stronger bonds with the audience … and win hearts and minds to your way of thinking long after the event concludes.

The free PDF (actually, it does cost you your email address, which will be shared with others, but you can opt out of future mailings by unsubscribing) is a well-designed, simply illustrated SlideDoc deck that lays out these ideas and many others, including some straightforward points about what storytelling is, how it works, and what’s required to tell effective stories. For event planners, it’s an amazing resource. For storytellers, it’s a good reminder that you can put your narrative skills to work (and sell them to others) in ways you might not have imagined.


Mark McElroy: lives in Atlanta | is blogging again | is author of a dozen books | works as a professional storyteller | has a husband | is working on a novel | is an engaging public speaker | lost fifty pounds in 2017 | is a little obsessed with pizza.

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