Experiences Are Stories
5 ways to enhance event design with storytelling
Once upon a time, the events team at RL made it our mission to deliver authentically unique experiences. In setting this objective, our team leveled-up from event planners to brand experience designers. Our secret weapon?Storytelling. Here’s how we conquered mediocrity in a user-group conference for healthcare software using these five literary elements:
- Character Development
A fundamental element to storytelling is narrative and establishing a point-of-view. This is often overlooked when it’s actually just as key in experience design. What is your event’s message and how is it delivered?
We empathize with our clients, who are healthcare workers that dedicate their lives to making hospitals safer. In our eyes, they are rockstars. That is the stance we took with our brand. Every touch point at our user-group conference must deliver that message.
When designing experiences, establish a point-of-view and commit to it when narrating your story.
With plot, I want to highlight the principle of cause-and-effect. This often relates to a series of sentences linked by “and so”. Every single touchpoint must connect to the previous and upcoming ones.
An instance that conflicts with the rest leads to plot holes. Nobody likes plot holes. They devalue the story and sometimes frustrate the audience.
Our attendees register online and submit their t-shirt size on the form. And so, when they check-in their registration bag is pre-packed with the correct sized t-shirt and personalized name badge. And so, they can wear their t-shirt during the conference. And so, they can fully immerse and develop a sense of belonging with other attendees also wearing their shirts.
Your cast includes anyone at the event — attendees, staff, hosts, entertainers. Our favourite characters are the ones who develop in their roles because we identify or empathize with their growth.
Give opportunity for your attendees to leave the event different from when they arrived. Whether it be exploring something unique, meeting new people, rediscovering something they enjoy, gaining knowledge or advancing skills. Don’t let your characters (aka attendees) stagnate in their experience.
Use your venue to your advantage and be comprehensive in designing your space. Don’t attempt to fit square pegs in circle holes.
RL Palooza San Diego was hosted at the Hard Rock Hotel, where they have a strong music theme. Instead of trying to compete by introducing a completely different theme, we played with the music and made it our own. Attendees felt like they’re at RL Palooza first, Hard Rock second.
Setting should elevate your story, not overshadow it.
Irony is a powerful tool in storytelling that defies what is anticipated or expected. This is a great asset when creating authentic and unique experiences.
Our attendee demographic is primarily female healthcare workers, that fall into the . This does not mean our brand has to be what they would expect at an average event. Instead, we branded a rockstar-themed conference with once-in-a-lifetime social events. This included dinner in a jet hanger of Miramar U.S. military airbase.
Irony challenges the status quo. This inspires ingenuity, which paves the path for delivering memorable experiences — the type that people can’t stop talking about. They’ll share their positive experience with their family, friends, colleagues, and post photos on social media. Now, your attendees are doing the storytelling for you.
People often underestimate the value of event planning. It’s associated with boring, menial tasks like booking venues and hiring caterers. But if that’s your mindset, then hey! Good luck with your mediocre event.
I encourage shifting perspective to design experiences as stories. Events we don’t just attend but also participate in and explore. In this digital world, now more than ever it is important to foster real life interactions.
Experiences — such as conferences, social networking events, or workshops — are stories meant to captivate, connect, and inspire. Realize the advantages of that for your brand or objectives. But even more importantly, the benefit of that to us as people.
Thanks for reading! If you create and design events, I would love to hear your stories about how you create amazing experiences.