What an incredible opportunity it was this past week to have attended the National Congress on Culture in Edmonton, Alberta. This year’s theme was all about Storytelling. As an advocate for public engagement with a practice based on storytelling; I would like to share my top 5 takeaway moments and tips:
1. Stories offer insight & understanding
Guest presenter Todd Hirsh is a Chief Economist. He could have rattled off numbers and jargon that could only make sense to his industry and sound like he was speaking in code to an artist like myself. Instead he told stories about baby-sitting co-ops, farmers who sell apples, and baking recipes. He told relatable stories that I understood with an underlying message that was about monetary theory and the evolution of an economy. He spoke in a way that nurtured his listeners rather than confuse or frustrate them. It is human nature to avoid activities that we are uncertain about or fear. Stories create a shared image in our mind that everyone can relate to regardless of academic training or social status.
2. Shock your system
We are creatures of habit and according to Neuroscientist Gregory Burns, in order to become more innovative we need to shock our perceptual system. This means experiencing new people, places and things. When you are confronted with a situation that is foreign and new, take the opportunity to be present during the situation in order to see the world through new lenses. Attend cultural events outside of your regular preference in order to shock your system and learn key values to become more innovative and creative. It is through new experiences that we are able to think in new ways.
3. It’s about them
We were privileged during the event to be offered insights into local to global brands and businesses. A large topic in the arts and culture sector from individual artists to organizations is where they are going to find their next grant or sponsor. There are two kinds of support. The first is philanthropy; this involves giving with no strings attached. The second is sponsorship; this means creating a relationship that is win/win for both parties involved. This does not mean the relationship ends as soon as the money is given. Many people pitch to sponsors about how great their product or activity is (and many are amazing), but that’s not what the sponsor is interested in. They are focused on their ROI (Return On Investment). Next time pitching to a sponsor, don’t focus on yourself or your company. Instead do the research into your potential sponsor’s key principles and how partnering with you would create more awareness and profit for them while addressing their values. Share a story on how you can help THEM.
Great books on this are Selling the Sizzle by Barry Avrich and Reality Check by Brent Barootes
4. Stories for media
Times are changing, and so is the way we communicate with each other. With the average attention span of a Canadian going from 14 seconds to 8; we have to be concise in our messaging. Especially if we would like to have it picked up by the local or national media streams. Dan Kobe from CTV gave his advice on what will grab a newsrooms attention and makes a good story. When pitching to the media make sure you cover the following points with your story: be clear, affect everyday people, be/have something unique/unusual, have a good personal tale, supply great imagery (video or photos)
If you don’t ask (be specific), others won’t know how they can help you. Everyone has a story to tell. When you open up to listening to others, your knowledge grows exponentially. Others have done the legwork for you; you just need to build the relationship and collaborations. Share with each other your information; it will only make the arts and culture sector stronger. Learn from the challenges that another culture group experienced so you don’t make the same mistakes. There is already proven qualitative and quantitative research available to download. It boils down to asking and the willingness to share stories.
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