Developing Your Conference Story Arc To Activate Participants’ Brains

Collage Play with Crowabout, Week 129

Applying a story arc to the conference can activate participants’ brains. And you want stimulated, motivated engaged brains during your event for sure!

A story arc is an extended, continuous storyline in episodic storytelling media such as television series, comic books, video games, films etc. Each episode follows a dramatic arc with the story unfolding over several episodes.

You can use the story arc concept to carefully craft the messages and issues you want your conference participants to explore, experience and learn. All stories have a beginning, middle and end. And all stories have a challenge that must be resolved. Where the challenge is introduced, explored and resolved is defined in your story arc.

Here’s where the story arc concept gets really cool for your event. Your conference narrative can serve as a call to action for your participants to play a pivotal role in resolving that challenge personally and professionally.

A Unique Difference Between Stories And Narratives

Strategist, author and co-chairman of Deloitte Center for Edge Innovation, John Hagel, denotes a distinct difference between stories and narratives.

Stories are self-contained…Stories are also about the story-teller or about some other people, they’re not about you, the listener. In contrast, for me, narratives are open-ended – there is no resolution, yet. There’s some kind of opportunity or threat out in the future and it’s not clear whether it will materialize or not. The resolution of the narrative hinges on you, the listener – the resolution will depend in part on the choices you make and the actions you take says Hagel.

Your story arc can serve as a conference summons encouraging participants to see themselves as major actors in this narrative. It is an invitational call to action to advance the mission of their profession.

Framing-The Key To Creating Your Story Arc

So exactly how do you use a story arc for your conference? Where do you start?

Start with a frame. Your organization can frame an opportunity-based narrative enticing others to work together and move from me to we.

Effectively framed narratives are designed to inspire and motivate others to come together to accomplish something that none of them could fully accomplish on our own. Narratives frame an opportunity at a high level, with enough specificity to be credible and inspiring…The most inspiring narratives are those that invite exploration of the full richness of the opportunity and co-creation of the opportunity as it emerges and evolves says Hagel.

Your conference narrative should not resolve the story arc challenge on its own. It should leave space and time during its education sessions and networking experiences for participants to process the steps and actions they should take to achieve this opportunity. That way participants learn from each other and contribute ideas and insights together. They collaborate to develop a richer, more meaningful understanding of the challenge and its opportunity.

Ultimately, your conference narrative should be deeply meaningful to many. It’s important for them to share the opportunity and the benefits of the resolution of the challenge. As more people join in the quest to solve the narrative’s challenge, everyone wins.

That way, we’re not just sharing a smaller and smaller piece of a fixed pie, but the pie is growing as participation grows. This provides a powerful sense of shared interest – the more who join us, the bigger and more attractive the opportunity becomes says Hagel.

What’s your biggest resistance to setting up a story arc for your conference? What’s the role of education sessions and networking when creating a narrative frame?

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  1. Julius says:

    Wonderful post as usual. Another great framework to apply is the hero journey with the attendees at the center of the story arc. I am sure you know and have discussed this Jeff. Thanks for making us breath with awesome content in a sea of sad content marketing

  2. Joey says:

    Having stories that are great to tell the audiences in an event is actually the cornerstone of every good event where an engaging, attention grabbing story will make everyone sit tight and listen to you.

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