Your Event Is Telling A Story: 3 Proven Strategies to Create A Narrative Arc
by Romy Alexandra
Our brains are wired for storytelling. It’s how we make sense of the world.
And research has found that weaving storytelling techniques into your event can:
👉 Capture focus and attention
👉 Establish and maintain connection, empathy, and emotions
👉 Engage the long-term memory
And much more!
Whether we are aware of it or not, every gathering is a story of its own.
🤔 What if we not only integrated storytelling into our events, but took a meta approach to harness the power of our event’s story? 🤯
The ability to weave a compelling narrative throughout the entire learning journey can enable engagement, foster a sense of purpose and motivation, and leave a lasting impact.
So, how do we weave meta-level storytelling into your experience design?
Three Strategies for Weaving a Narrative Arc of Your Event
Act 1: Building Excitement and Anticipation for your Event
An invitation to any event is a call to adventure. The moment your participants register for your event, they enter into the story. They are quickly curious about:
- Who are the characters?
- Where are they headed?
- Why are they there?
- What’s the reward?
Navigating the unknowns about the gathering can be either exhilarating or anxiety-inducing. Help participants find the answers to these questions by setting expectations up front, introducing the theme and guidelines of your event, and building excitement to get involved and become the main characters of the story!
For virtual events, you might send people a personalized virtual invitation with paperless post, or a care package with goodies to take on their learning journey with them.
For in-person events, you can gamify the entrance with scavenger hunt tasks or surprise gifts at the check-in table.
Act 2: Designing and Facilitating the Event
We leverage the storytelling pyramid to create a transformational journey for participants which has a distinct beginning, middle and end, that is marked by 5 components:
- the introduction
- rising action
- falling action
- and resolution or conclusion
One key distinction is that in our model, the main characters are not the facilitators, but the participants! The audience is the protagonist and the heroine of the story! By carefully designing the story arc, we help participants to tell their own story and how the content connects with them.
By the end of the event, the audience should leave changed in some way, and feel motivated to apply their learning outcomes in their environment – otherwise we haven’t done our job as experience designers.
Curious to learn more about how to design with the storytelling pyramid in mind? We go deep into this process in our Designing Dynamic Experiences course.
Act 3: Extending the event experience so that their story continues to be told
Crafting the narrative during the event is not enough. As facilitators, we must ensure that the story does not end the moment the audience leaves the (Zoom) room.
Instead, we can support participants to continue writing their own narratives of change in the context of their own environment. Some ways to do this are:
- Invite participants to create artifacts that they bring back with them (for example, sculptures, tokens, mantras, action plans, power poses, etc.)
- Build a supportive community they can keep connecting with and to hold each other accountable. For example, in our Designing Dynamic Experiences course, we have a reunion call to touch base 1 month after our gathering and keep the stories alive through Slack and LinkedIn
💭 What’s the story you will help your participants to tell?
ABOUT THE AUTHORRomy Alexandra is a learning experience designer and experiential learning trainer on a mission to humanize learning spaces.