Morphing Attendees into Story People Through Narraphors and Frames

Nuns in Blue, Lunch at Zoo

We are wired for stories.

Every person you meet is a story wrapped in a skin says author, futurist and sociologist Dr. Leonard Sweet. As our lives intersect, so do our stories.

We can encourage conference attendees to transition from story listeners to story sharers. Then our attendees become story people participating in a bigger story. The conference with the best narrative and story sharing experiences wins.

Story Driven World

Our brains are hard wired for stories.

When we listen to others’ stories, we can experience what they felt, hear what they heard, see what they saw. When we share our stories, we take others on our own personal journeys.

Then we begin to brain-sync our attendees into a shared metaphoric story experience. We create story sharers and story people.

Developing conference experiences that encourage attendees to move from story listeners to story tellers to story sharers should be one of our primary goals.

Because we are a story driven world!

Creating A Conference Narrative

So what is your conference’s narrative? What’s the bigger story that you are asking your attendees to participate in and share?

Our conferences need a narraphor—a narrative metaphor as Sweet describes them. A story made with metaphors that help us understand the world, ourselves and our relationship to the world.

Providing a story laced with metaphors helps your attendees hook the real issues to their context. Narraphors are better than sharing just facts and figures because they help us grasp and understand the big picture. And what it means to us.

Framing The Narraphor

Think about one of your favorite photos and the frame you might have around it.

What does a frame do?

A frame serves as a focusing device. It helps a viewer:

  • See what’s inside versus what’s outside
  • See the foreground versus background
  • Focus attention while also lighting up peripheral vision

A well defined frame strikes a balance.

General Sessions As Input And Output Frames

A good conference frame uses a few words, catch phrases and metaphors to provide a sticky story that attendees can make their own. They can absorb it. Reflect on it. Provide their personal context. And begin to add to that story. They reframe it for their lives.

The best frames give us a framework for important discussions and decisions. They elevate our conversations around a shared experience and context.

Opening General Sessions As Input Frames

Opening general sessions should frame the purpose, shared experience, story and context that you want to create.

You need an input frame that will enable faster attendee insights. An input frame provides a way for your audience to strategically converse about the same issue. It helps focus attention in the right places. It frames the big issue.

Consider the following questions for your input frame:

  • How you are setting up the experience?
  • How are you framing the purpose?
  • Identifying the context?
  • Providing multiple perspectives of the bigger issue?

Then begin to frame your story and your attendees’ place within that bigger story.

Closing General Sessions As Output Frames

Closing general sessions should help audiences uncover what they should do as they leave the event.

This is where you want to create an output frame: the bridge between what happened at the conference and what needs to happen next. It provides the call to action.

Catalysts For Change

Input and output frames can serve as catalysts that help attendees transition from story listeners to story tellers to story sharers. Ultimately we create a conference of story people that take the conference call to action back to their world and share it with others.

Hap Tips and sources: authors Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, Chris Ertel & Lisa Kay Solomon, Leonard Sweet, and Indi Young.

What makes a great story? How do we provide those story elements to a conference narrative?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  1. Dave Lieber says:

    Love this, Jeff. Great job. Very original stuff.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Thanks for the kind comments. Coming from you–the master story teller and story sharer–that means a lot. Thanks for reading too.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *