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Telling Stories in the Age of Tactics

Think of it a little like building a high-rise. Hopefully, you don't start the building with decisions about which hammer, screwdriver, drill, or nail you'll use to hold things together. No, the ability to build something amazing starts months or even years before with a conversation about the why and the what. Why is this building necessary and what will be done within its walls? Those types of questions are key to making sure that the building you end up with is actually the one you want and need. The same thing rings true for the experiences we create. 

So what happens with our events? Why are so many of them so focused on results and tactics, when we are a people who live and love story? Why do our events always seem to default to the how we're doing things and not a discussion of the why? I'd argue that, somewhere along the way, we started to pay too much attention to the idea of events as business tools, as opposed to them as marketing endeavors. As a business tool, the event has to be all about ROI and you have to directly drive your event back to some sort of metric. Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE metrics, and think that anything worth doing is also worth measuring, but there has to be a middle ground. 

I recently listened to a podcast by Experient, a global events firm working with trade shows and clients around the world. In this particular episode, they talked about an event design lab one of their sister companies runs that brings together all the stakeholders in an event for an open planning session. Everyone from the C-suite to the planners and event managers get together for two half days to discuss they why of the event they're looking to create. Often, they discover that what the executives want, is not what the planners understand the event to be about. This open and honest conversation creates a better event and makes the experience more engaging for everyone in the process- planners, executives, and attendees. 

I think more dialogue like this needs to happen, and more event producers need to be willing to realize that we don't know as much about our clients' motivation as we think. If we sit down with our attendees and understand who they are demographically and psychographically, and learn from top executives (who may not even be the primary contact on an event), I think we'll be amazed at how much better of an experience we're able to deliver to everyone, and most importantly, our return will be one of ROE (Return on Experience) and not just ROI.