It sounds like a cliché, but events have to be authentic. And to achieve that, you as an organization have to know why you exist. In their book, StoryDoing, Jan-Peter Bogers and Ron van Gils take you on a journey to find the primordial story of your company. In this Eventplanner TV episode Jan-Peter explains how you can use these principles in events.
Hi Jan-Peter, welcome to our studio.
You wrote a book with Ron van Gils in Dutch about storydoing, but what is storydoing about?
Storydoing is a holistic view on organizations, and it’s the step that comes after storytelling. Storytelling is very popular at the moment, and very important to tell your story. But as an organization you don’t just have to tell your story, you also have to do it, to act it out.
Do you have some examples of that to make it a little bit more concrete?
A nice example of a StoryDoing organization is the Eye Hospital in Rotterdam, my home town. It is international renowned for the quality of care they provide. But there’s another very important asset they value and that is fear reduction. When you go to have eye surgery, you will probably be very scared, because our eyes are so important and so vulnerable. For example, if people look at the television and a heart operation, it is easier to watch than to watch an eye operation. People go like this.
So when you go for surgery to an eye hospital you have to be comforted. And everything they do in the Rotterdam Eye Hospital is directed to that. For example, if we go to the hospital – you have to go for surgery, and I bring you by car - if I have to park my car, I have to leave you alone in a situation that is not very nice for you because you are going into an operation. So what they do at the hospital is they have valet parking. They borrow that from hotels and airports. So we arrive, the two of us, I give my keys to some person, he parks my car, and I can join you going into the hospital. Other things they do is they let me have a look at the operation through a screen. So when you are being operated on, I can watch along with the operation, so that afterwards we can talk about it. They have art in the hospital, lots of art, to give people a good feeling. Because hospitals are often very clean and white and they don’t have a nice atmosphere. So they do everything to, well, to lower your fear as a patient. That’s an important issue for them.
Do you have another example?
Yeah, another famous brand is Tony’s Chocolonely, Dutch chocolate maker. And what they are trying to do is to make the trade in chocolate, especially in Africa, more honest. The chocolate industry is a very unfair industry. There is a lot of slavery, and they are fighting against that. And in everything they do you can see that. For example, the wrapping of their chocolate contains the story of their company, and the things they want to change in the world. But also the chocolate bar is divided in unfair parts. One is very small, and one is very big, to symbolize the unfair trade in chocolate.
And on top of that it’s just great chocolate.
It’s great chocolate, because you can tell a great story, you can add a great story to your company. But of course the quality has to be OK. The quality of the hospital has to be OK. The taste of the chocolate has to be good. You can’t change the world with terrible chocolate.
No, indeed. I do understand now what the principle of storydoing is about, but how could we use that in the events industry?
Let’s say, that as an event organizer you organize something for a company. And that company also has to tell, but also do its story. So you have to help them in doing their story, not only telling stories on an event but make it more concrete. For example, if you have a convention about sustainability and you keep that at a venue that is hard to reach by public transport, I don’t think the story and the reality match at that point. If you want people to be more sustainable you have to give an opportunity to go to the venue in a sustainable matter.
Yeah, but as an event agency I suppose it is very important to get to know your customer, before you can even organize an event keeping storydoing in mind.
Yes, of course, you have to know your customer, but also you have to know yourself. Your event has to be authentic. It has to come from your core story. What is it you want to bring in the world? What is the significance you want to bring into the world as a company and extra with that event? And in everything you do around that event – which speakers you’re going to invite, the audience you want to invite, but also the venue you choose, the way you dress that up – everything has to be in line with your core story, with your authentic story as an organization.
But does it also mean the underlying ‘why’ of the event agency should match with that of the client, or isn’t that necessary?
That would be a great bonus. The organizer is working for the client, so you have to adjust a bit. But if your client does something that doesn’t match with your principles, your values, I don’t think you’re going to be a good match, I don’t think you want that company as a client. But, well, that would be a very strong… strong case.
Yeah, of course, of course. We were talking about telling the story, but what’s next? What do we have to do after the event for example?
Yeah, events are often about telling stories. A speaker on a stage is telling a story and we leave the venue of congress or symposium very inspired, with lots of great ideas. But then every day, work comes on our road and we forget it. So what you can do as an event organizer to make more impact after the congress as well? If you were Oprah Winfrey it would be very easy. If you have an event about sustainability, you give everybody in the audience a Tesla.
That would be great.
That would be great. But well, we’re not all Oprah Winfrey, and we don’t all have that same budget, so you have to be creative to… But first to think about the impact you want to make after the event. Well, we’re a creative…
Yeah, it’s a creative industry. So we should be able to do it.
OK, Jan-Peter, thank you very much for coming over to our studio.
Thank you very much.
And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.