The power of storytelling through events

Jakub Górnicki
Oct 15, 2018 · 5 min read

I didn’t like most of the presentations at The Power of Storytelling which 8th edition wrapped up last Saturday. Instead I found most of the talks very enriching and thought-provoking. Like a movie which one hates cause the story made us rethink something — pushing us out of comfort zone.

Act 1

When I entered the super fancy hotel where the conference took place I’ve seen very little branding. No roll-ups, big banners, tons of goodies. Despite of what you may think — for me that usually is a sign someone knows what they are doing. MOST of the organisers forgets that the main “product” of the event are presentations. Not packaging.

I understand organisation and logistics, especially during “event heat” overwhelm and constantly derail once-very-good-plan BUT audience will forgive everything if they are served with good talks. Otherwise no matter how much details and fancy stuff is there — it will not cover that the main dish was bad.

Simple.

But it takes experience and a lot of confidence to set up everything this way.

I laughed when I saw Cristian Lupsa (one of the organisers) being on stage and changing laptops. It reminded me of how Wachlarz looks like (travel and reporting festival organised by Ania and myself). No fancy production crew yet instead control of what’s important by those who spent so much time producing the whole thing.

To another event which we recently kicked off — Outriders Summit — TPOS was a great inspiration. I just loved the attention to important details.

So the TPOS conference began.

Stage was empty, room was dark. Windows closely tight. Conference branding only on screens going away the moment presenter started. That maximises focus on the experience for the audience. Good sound and work with lights — means only one thing. Fasten your seat belts.

Act 2

Do you know why organisers decided to invite certain speakers to event? Usually not. We know they are cool, of course they have to be, but — amazing bio does not answer a question — why are they here. Good introduction answers a question “XXX is here because”.

We, as producers, know this — but we have to make sure that this is also understood by audience. And answering “why?” allows us to show if curation was good or not. Cause then we know if we actually know why are they here :)

No one on stage was there by accident. That was very much to be felt in the audience. Even if we didn’t know where are we headed it was sure that direction is set — and when the finale comes it will be revealed to us. That is very comfortable. When event is well curated presentations interlink between each other and each one is needed so other would be better understood. I always tell to our speakers — that they work as a team.

This is sometimes hard as speakers also have big ego ;) — so they prefer individual approach — but their message resonates more if it’s tackled by others as well. And at the end of a day it’s all about serving the audience. Which gather for them, event and the theme.

Themes of events are tricky. Cause usually each has one, but then to have talks going through it — is not as often. This is where proper curation comes in. Explaining to speakers what is the goal, why this, why now — how they fit into the story and what is their role. This takes hours of individual calls, emails and messages. Time which is usually spent by organisers on something else.

But when speakers feel taken care of — they immediately form a relationship with the event thus for example don’t wait it till the last moment to submit their slides. Which is a good sign of possible disaster.

Act 3

This is why every presentation at The Power of Storytelling left me with something. Knowledge, thought, emotion, reflection. I was on the streets of Serbia rewriting history, thinking about diversity in newsroom, using photos as data or shocked by a personal story of someone’s discovering their family.

That’s a lot. And yet there was not many speakers. Which is a final statement that good presentations make everything worthwhile. Frankly event the two hour lunch break was needed cause audience had to unwind and get ready to be provoked again. We cannot just pack everything as sardines and hope that it will work out.

But as I said in the beginning. Good story needs courage. I’m happy organisers of TPOS have and use it. It was my first time at The Power — and hopefully not the last time! As I wrote to Cristian Lupsa after day 2 — impressive.

P.S.1

Two things I will steal from this event:

  • mailboxes for speakers — I hate panel and questions. Panels are usually simply bad (think what was the last panel you enjoyed at an event?) whereas questions are an easy way out providing participants contact with those who present. And exactly that’s the point — I believe that during an event attended by over 500 people you simply cannot allow individual questions. It’s not what 499 people wanted to hear. But organiser should give instead of simple Q&A some way to reach speakers. I find mailboxex a very intimate, nice and effective way to do so,
  • ending before end — how many times have I built a story through event and after last presentations had to thank all sponsors and so on. I could feel this is awkard for everybody. This is not how and when it should happend. Moving it before last session — relaxes everyone in the room and maximises focus on the last speakers after a long day. Simple and works.

P.S. 2

Jennifer Brandel tweeted her summary which is also shorter version of what I tried to say through this article here.

P.S.3

Thank you for all the help with our Meetup!

Outriders

Original reporting. Global perspective. Innovative storytelling.

Jakub Górnicki

Written by

Co-founder at http://outride.rs — organisation dedicated to strengthening journalism and exploring the world

Outriders

Outriders

Original reporting. Global perspective. Innovative storytelling.

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