Event Story Arcs

Attendee Journey-Mapping Using The Storytelling Arc

Whether crafting brand narratives or event experience curves, the traditional storytelling arc is still the most powerful method for planning and communicating a message.

If you ask Howard Schultz, CEO at Starbucks why he went back to Starbucks in 2008 post-retirement, he might say it's because they stopped identifying with customers.

“Starbucks’ coffee is exceptional, yes, but emotional connection is our true value proposition. Starbucks is not a coffee company that serves people. It is a people company that serves coffee.”

Market-leading companies connect through mission statements and collaborate around shared purposes. The same can be said about events. Attendees are on a journey. By mapping everything from registration to airport exodus with a meaningful narrative and story arc, you can better serve your audience.

Narrative arcs can build your brand with customers, and, when used for events, experience curves can fulfill the needs of attendees.

Building Your Narrative

Businesses don't always know how to tell a story. Or, they get stuck using an old story. The one about the award-winning work they've done, the decades of experience, the features and the facts about their service and/or product. But, these are stories most businesses tell. And, they can be pretty boring. People expect more.

A narrative approach is different.

Effective narratives should rally your team and engage influencers and customers alike. Narratives should embody your culture and brand while outlining your mission, vision, and values.

When creating your narrative, start thinking about the following:

  • Look at your business historically. Where did you start? What was unique about the way you built your business?
  • Explore where you are today and what you've learned from past failures.
  • Delve into your vision for the future. Point out what differentiates you from competitors.
  • What problems do you solve and how do you bring value to relationships and partnerships?

Take those answers and craft a story using a narrative arc.

Good storytelling is like a roller coaster ride. It starts slow, builds momentum, and reaches a climax before descending into a conclusion. To visualize this, it will look like Gustav Freytag's pyramid shown here.

The narrative arc explained:

  1. Set the mood, introduce the characters, describe the setting.
  2. The rising actions, inciting incidents, and seeds of conflict.
  3. The Climax. Your moment of truth. The big aha moment.
  4. Falling actions and resolutions. The path forward.
  5. The denouncement. Your story, or event, comes to an end. Wrap it up nicely.

A powerful brand story built using a narrative arc will take your audience on a journey.

Mapping Their Journey

Journey maps are becoming one of the more powerful tools brands use to visualize the end to end customer experience and make decisions based on the value provided to customers at key moments throughout that journey.

This is especially important when designing meetings and events where your "show flow" is essentially a journey map used to increase user engagement, improve conversions, and build more sustainable relationships with attendees.

  1. How will you set the mood for your event? Think environmental, sound, and experience design.
  2. Who are the main characters? Think keynote and breakout speakers.
  3. What are the inciting incidents and rising actions? Throughout the event experience, what have you planned to continue building momentum? Think popups and activations.
  4. What will your climax be? The closing keynote? The big product reveal? Next year's sales plan and the rallying message to align divisions? Think buzz-worthy moments.
  5. Plan your resolutions. After the big moment, how will you reiterate and explain messages and give attendees one aha-moment after the next for how to carry the excitement of the climactic event beyond the conference walls? Think experiential learning.
  6. Where does the story end? Does it? Or is this going to be a cliff-hanger until the next "season" or event? Think communities and retention marketing.

Whether you use a narrative arc and tell a story about your brand or you use an experience curve for an event to guide your attendee journey, there are several ways to map customer journeys with emotionally resonant narratives.

Now go, gather your team. Sit together like you're on the kindergarten classroom carpet and tell stories until you've told your brand story. Then define the experiential elements needed to deliver that message, via moments, to your most important audiences.

Take them on a journey.

Written by

Jonathan Ronzio

Experience Chaser, Writer, Speaker

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