Association Congress

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Why meeting design should harness the power of storytelling

Let me tell you a story. Well, actually, why don’t you tell your audience a story?
Stories have been used to pass down meaning and messages for thousands of years; and for one main reason: the messages contained in them stick in people’s head. People (and remember, delegates are people too) identify with them and they remember them. As conference architects and meeting designers, what more do we really want the content in your programme to do than be remembered?
So here’s a few suggestions to help your delegates remember the key messages from you day:
1.       Tell a story and ask the delegates to come up with the ending
Do you remember those fantasy books where you decided what happened next? Can you visualize the hours spent trying to thread this story together? I bet those memories and those stories stuck. How about getting your speakers to outline the situation they inherited, the problems they faced and rather than telling the end of the story, asking the delegates to discuss among themselves and come up with what they think happened next. Before the speaker reveals all on the last page!
2.       Use a character and take them through a process
An exceptionally powerful way to use the power of storytelling is to take your audience, through your programme, from behind the eyes of one character. Imagine a Criminal Justice conference looking at every aspect of the criminal system, through the eyes of one person charged with a crime? Imagine hearing about the crime in the first session with a statement being taken or read out on stage and then hearing a contradictory witness statement? Then following this person as they are navigated through various parts of the system, with each area telling the story of how they would deal with this ‘criminal’. Just think of the power of this story for your audience, or perhaps you can call them the jury?
3.       At the end of your conference don’t ask for feedback: ask for a story
Before delegates leave, how about asking them to write a story, perhaps a few weeks in the future, where they have used the knowledge in your programme, and the advice from the contacts they have met. How will their working day have changed? What will they be doing that was different following the day or two that you have had with them?
Stories are powerful. The past has taught us that, well, the past, and stories.   


  1. I enjoyed this post on a new way to help keep meetings interesting and fun. I like the idea at the end about not asking for feedback, but ask for a story. That is a great way to connect with people and make them feel connected as well.
    Thanks, Megan Haney

  2. Really great points and great that meeting designs should harness the power of storytelling.