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Going virtual - Storytelling

When livelihoods are threatened and everything we thought was certain crumbles beneath our feet, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t easy. But as fresh as everything still is, it’s no longer too early to decide what we want to do with the cards we’ve been dealt. So let’s take a step back and remember what’s at the core of events. “We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.”* And if our purpose in life as event organisers has always been to promote human connection and to foster powerful bonds, we can’t forget about the importance of storytelling. Storytelling has been a buzzword for years in the scope of marketing. A marketer once wrote, “Storytelling is our obligation to the next generation. If all we are doing is marketing, we are doing a disservice, and not only to our profession, but to our children, and their children. Give something of meaning to your audience by inspiring, engaging, and educating them with a story. Stop marketing. Start storytelling”. And that holds true for the Event Industry. Somewhere along the way, we forgot how to tell stories but it’s never too late to start all over again. Can’t we do better than Zoom? There hasn’t been a better time to tell amazing stories than right now. We’re surrounded by many forms of media and technology that would get us accused of witchcraft not that long ago. That’s how far technology has come! And in spite of the fact that we’ve been using it for personal purposes, it somehow never crossed our mind that it could be harnessed in other powerful ways.

Up until this point, many virtual events that planners put together were nothing more than a quick-fix or logistic add-on. Little to no thought was put into the design of the experience and the storytelling aspect and very quickly, webinar fatigue crept up into the lives of people everywhere. So it’s time that we wonder, with all the tools available, surely we can do better than Zoom? Yes, we most definitely can, but there’s still a lot of learning people in the industry need to do on this front. Misconceptions must be dismissed and creativity has to take the driver’s seat. For instance, the belief that costs will go down with a virtual event shouldn’t be hailed as gospel. Sure, if we’re looking to completely ignore storytelling and the dangers of webinar fatigue, that’s probably the case but if we want to bring broadcasting quality and an immersive environment into the picture, we might have to reconsider that notion. Green screens, pre-recorded videos, interactivity: all of these things can be used to create dynamic, visually engaging sessions and thoughtful content. It’s time to start investing in these tools just like you would invest in a venue. Considering the current paradigm, this might mean leveraging capabilities of local broadcast studios or getting creative with the use of green screens and multiple cameras from your office or local venue. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling

Many event professionals are finding it hard to get out of contracts previously made with venues.Instead of despairing and considering the deposits lost, let your creative bone guide you.Why not re-purpose the space you already have in ingenious ways?

This church organisation has been ‘broadcasting’ its message from its existing venue with no congregation since Lockdown. The production value is absolutely incredible and offers virtual audiences the possibility to be a part of this storytelling experience from the comfort of their homes and there’s no reason you can’t do the same with your own venue!

We can’t predict the future, but we can make educated guesses. We’re willing to bet that not only will virtual events become increasingly popular even after things go back to normal, but also that hybrid events (combination of live and Virtual) are the future. No one wants to be left behind. History has shown us time and time again that the world evolves and with it, the way people seek connection. Storytelling will never die for as long as human beings exist, so remember that this is what we do. We have the luxury to contribute to this magical bonding process and come rain or shine, it’s our responsibility to uphold it, foster it, and protect it against all odds.

The best time to start investing in good quality virtual event production was yesterday. The second best time is now. This blog is edited from a post at by Mariana Fernandes *Jimmy Neil Smith, Founder of the International Storytelling Centre

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