Special Event 9/15: How to make your next event sizzle like Broadway on an association budget.
Learn More
Image of a pink clock

An Expert Lesson on Storytelling

Brooke Wilson, CMP

(photo credit: Erin Brethauer 2019)

When was the last time you attended an event that made you laugh, cry, sit on the edge of your seat and give a standing ovation, all in the span of 90 minutes? For me it was two weeks ago when I attended my first Pop-Up Magazine event.

Pop-Up Magazine Productions is a group of creators that tell stories through a mixed multimedia format. The topics vary from historical recounts to personal anecdotes, however the method of delivery is an original and innovative model that can enhance the content of any event.

I'm sharing my key takeaways and how you can apply them to your events in 2022.

Inspiring Language

Although the program was brief—each speaker held the stage for only 20 minutes—the audience was completely captivated by every minute of each story. Because the talks read more like a written article than a traditional talk, they included literary devices that gave each story its own unique tone.

Apply it to your event: As you and your speakers plan content for 2022, consider adding in a metaphor, some imagery or an onomatopoeia or two. It will grab your audience’s attention and keep them listening until the very end.

Appeal to the Senses

What sets Pop-Up Magazine apart from other performances is how it incorporates every creative medium you can imagine. Moreover, each medium was used to activate each of the five senses. Illustrations and film were displayed on screen for the audience to watch, while a four-piece musical set played an accompanying score. Performative dancers got the audience out of their seats and popcorn and drink sponsors provided snacks for purchasers to enjoy and smells to fill the room.

Apply it to your event: As people crave more immersive experiences and you look for ways to enhance your events, consider the five senses and what you can do activate them. Make sure that any experiential elements you add complement each other, as there is a fine line between immersive and overwhelming.

Human Response

There is nothing like hearing the buzz of an audience around you and feeling like you are part of the crowd. Because all of us in the theater experienced these stories as one audience, we had the benefit of surround sound laughter, audible gasps and moments of silence that the organizers could not have created on their own.

Apply it to your event: As we move back to in-person events, highlight the live audience you have and emphasize their reactions, emotions and behaviors to enhance the experience. If you are not able to meet in-person, provide an opportunity for your digital audience to realize the magnitude of everyone watching at once.

Meaningful Surprises

The pinnacle of the night was when one of the speakers revealed that the subjects of their incredibly moving and inspirational talk were there in person and performed on stage. The audience was ecstatic as we just learned their story and struggles they went through. Having this background and time to build empathy made their in-person presence much more powerful and a true delight. Event surprises are not a new concept and can be a great way to boost attendance, add sponsorship opportunities and enhance your marketing content. However, a surprise without context – or audience preparation – can be a big miss.

Apply it to your event: Next year think about how you can strategize your surprise & delight moments and make them more meaningful for your attendees.

Remember that your event is more than just content in a schedule—it’s a collection of stories that make an impact on your audience. How these stories are told is what differentiates an ordinary event from a memorable experience.