Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, it’s about the stories you tell

– Seth Godin


Storytelling is a powerful tool to amplify the impact of our work as conveners that frequently goes overlooked or underutilized. As conveners, we can get so wrapped up in the logistical and content creation aspects of our work that investing time and resources into storytelling and digital media strategies go by the wayside. But enabling our participants and community to share their experiences before, during, and after our convenings helps create greater connection and impact far beyond the in-person event. This month during our Member Call we had our guest, Paul Lynch of Cage Free Productions, spark a conversation about the power of storytelling to amplify the impact of convening. 

Storytelling is a useful tool to share your voice with the world – beyond the Tweets, shares, and likes on social media, storytelling goes above and beyond sharing what is happening in the moment at your convening. By actively involving your community as a cohesive strategy your story can come to life with many different faces, voices, and perspectives. There are so many ways to activate your attendees to share their stories both before, during, and after your convening. 

  • Empower your attendees from the beginning by letting them know that you want to hear and share their voices and perspectives. Their contributions can amplify the impact of your convening tenfold. 
  • Have your storytelling platforms set up beforehand – you can use a custom convening app, a popular social media platform, or a separate storytelling page on your website. Either way, make sure it is super user-friendly and that someone on your staff is monitoring it as the stories come flowing in. 
  • Have prompts for your community to give them a theme around which to share their stories. This can start as soon as your platform is up and your convening date and venue are announced. This also gets people to share more individual, personal stories that go beyond their experience as an attendee at your convening and can be linked to relevant themes addressed by your convening. 

Storytelling helps you stand out – As we know, the ecosystem is saturated with different conveners all trying to get their voice to stand out to attract sponsorship and attendees. Many of these conveners have very similar or identical business models and convening formats. How can you set yourself apart and showcase those things that are unique to you? Telling your authentic story can help activate the unique potential that you possess and showcase the purpose of driving your community and the change you seek to create in the ecosystem in general.

  • Use your guiding purpose to craft an authentic story – build out your social media strategy and storytelling platforms with the themes and content you want to showcase. You can then compare your voice and themes to others to ensure you are offering something additive and different to your community.
  • Storytelling shapes the culture of your convening – have a clear vision, mission, and values.  These statements shape how you want to showcase the impact you wish to create in your community. Clarity of these statements also models for your participants the culture they are joining and why they should come to your convening.  
  • People are always looking for something new and innovative – very few convenings have a dedicated storytelling strategy and instead opt for mere social media promotion and outreach. Develop a thoughtful narrative for your convening and invest the time and energy to clearly map your narrative to your purpose. This will set you apart from the rest. It also helps give sponsors something concrete with which to connect!

Here are a few questions and recommendations to apply when thinking about how to apply storytelling to your convening.

  1. What is your purpose and how does that purpose speak to your reason for convening?
  2. Craft your narrative arc – what is the beginning of the journey that you want to connect with your community around before your convening?  Is it understanding their experiences? Is it generating new ideas?
  3. During your convening (which will likely be virtual) how are you leveraging the stories from your community to inform your agenda?  What time is provided in your convening for participants to connect or share their authentic stories and experiences?
  4. Following your convening, provide a clear channel for members of your community to share their experiences. You can share social media handles and hashtags, or provide an email address for participants to submit their stories that can be posted on your website or blog.  
  5. Let your participants know that they have been featured – email participants when you have highlighted their stories through one of your channels, tag them on social media posts, and encourage other members of the community to comment by inviting them into a dialog with questions directed to them.

Storytelling is going to be critical now that we are shifting to a more virtual community – In order to maintain a sense of community and mobilize a community to act, storytelling is more relevant now than ever. No longer can the incentive for participation simply be a big name speaker. It is time to think more creatively about how to engage our communities digitally. By giving our participants the time and a medium to share their voices, perspectives, and experiences we can unleash the power of online platforms that mimics what we naturally do when interacting in person – share our stories with one another. 

Additional Resources Virtual Convening Skills Lab Series