No matter the channel or medium, storytelling is about engaging your audience’s emotions. There are two principal ways to persuade people – the first is by engaging intellect, the second is to make them feel something.
We achieve the first by presenting statistics and facts and citing authoritative references to build a coherent and logical argument; this works on a certain level, but rarely engages people on an emotional level. We achieve the second by linking personal emotions with the idea we are trying to communicate, and the best way to create this connection is by telling a story.
At its heart, storytelling is about introducing a conflict and then resolving that conflict. Crafting an effective storytelling experience means you must first understand your audience. Statistics and data (which may be ‘dry’) are essential at this stage; they help strategic planners gather insights that audiences will respond to, which then provide a foundation upon which the creative side can build a story. But statistics and data are just the start.
Let’s take the example of an IT conference or hospitality event, which targets an audience of international c-suite executives and seeks to show how Company A’s products can enable the audience’s businesses. If handled incorrectly, this event could be quite ordinary and unexciting. However, through a storytelling approach, the entire event could be changed for the better.
By crafting a story around the c-suite audience’s personal struggles or obstacles on their path to success, suddenly there is much more resonance. You could talk about ‘the failure behind the success’ and the personal triumphs experienced when overcoming problems. Meanwhile, Company A’s brand plays a quiet supporting role in that triumph, driving ownership by the audience and recognition of the brand.
Personal struggles are as old as time, and have many themes. Throughout the story talk about personal and professional issues that, after much trial and error, can be solved with help from Company A’s products and services. The key is to create a protagonist with a clear goal or desire that has a relationship with the audience. Then, weave together a story around antagonists that preclude the protagonist from achieving his/her goal. And, finally, end the story with their triumph.
Through a storytelling approach, we can captivate audiences at each step in the customer journey – pre-event marketing, the venue and event programme, physical and digital takeaways, and even follow-up communication, can all play a role in the story.
The choice of venue, or location, can contribute hugely to your story. Instead of a hotel ballroom, why not consider a venue that is related to our story of triumph, like a baseball stadium where an inspirational moment occurred? A location such as this can speak to your audience’s level of achievement, while evoking memories and providing a backdrop for the story.
Storytelling can also play out during a meal, through specially crafted menus, or during pre or post-event activities. Premium activities like driving an exotic sports car, or deep-sea fishing, can also prove to be inspirational, and make the audience feel good.
Instead of dwelling on fact-based, brand-centric solutions, focus on your protagonist’s achievements and use these as a platform to craft experiences – the emotions created here will be linked to your brand and resonate with the audience.
Storytelling gives us the opportunity to craft an immersive experience that engages audiences at various locations and touch points. This, in turn, creates real connections with the audience and is truly memorable.