A comprehensive and compelling story arc should drive your event at every step. Stories are the main thing—sometimes the only thing—that will engage an audience, change their hearts and minds, truly affect their behavior, and drive specific outcomes.
However, creating a compelling story is often easier said than done. Organizations frequently have a solid idea or outline, but there are countless tasks that distract from creating a moving narrative that will produce the desired results.
When you’re planning your next company event, fundraising campaign, or other communications, consider the following advice for building a compelling story that will resonate with your audience.
Create a Story Arc by Thinking Like a Playwright
Classical plays typically follow a three-act structure—a structure that can easily be adapted to your events and communications. The three elements of storytelling that we employ are:
1. Establishing or Reinforcing Your Purpose
Focus on the “why” to drive engagement. Putting the purpose at the center of your story arc can have a huge impact on resonance with your audience. You could ask yourself “What does my organization exist to do? What’s our driving purpose?” to help you keep purpose at the center.
2. Setting Challenges and Goals
In any engaging play, there is a challenge or obstacle for the protagonist(s) to overcome before achieving their purpose. Whether that challenge is an antagonist looking to stop the hero, a competition they need to win, or some other goal they need to meet, the middle of a play often focuses on the challenge. Consider the audience the protagonist of your story and what challenges you need them to overcome.
For example, if you want to drive employee engagement, it can help to craft an event experience or message that makes the attendees the heroes of the story. You do this by emphasizing their efforts toward company success and how it impacts them, their colleagues, and their customers.
In higher education advancement, driving philanthropic engagement among alumni and donors is key. They need to tangibly see and feel their impact on current and future generations of students, faculty, and staff. Using a moving story or stories will grab their attention and pull at their hearts. How can anyone ignore an articulate, successful student talking about impacts on their college experience?
3. Guiding the Audience to a Resolution
How will you guide your audience to the right resolution? Focus on setting that path forward and the calls to action that will help move them along to your ideal outcome. The story you create is more than just an initiating conflict, climax, and denouement—it’s a journey your audience will take with you. So, be sure to build an engaging journey that will leave them excited to continue onward!
Your story will be communicated within every moment that you engage with your audience. From valet to valet and, most importantly, the within content of the experience you create. Everything will be a factor in presenting your story to your audience.
Storytelling Tip: Keep Your Audience in Mind
Part of creating a great story arc is remembering who your audience is and what they want or what matters to them. Are they Millennials who are pushing 40, Gen Xers welcoming grandchildren and retirement, or Baby Boomers with decades of experience? What are their biggest concerns and what motivates them?
Getting answers to these questions can make it much easier to craft a compelling story. Making the heart of the story you create something that specifically appeals the audience will drive them to take action. Everything springs from the tone and feel of the experience, so it’s vital to spend time getting it right.
We’d like to help. At August Jackson, we specialize in helping you create compelling story arcs for your audience to help you form lasting connections and keep your audience engaged.