Meeting Format – High Impact Storytelling

At the recent KMWorld09 conference in San Jose, CA; Nancy Dixon ran a session on the evening before the main conference began.  It was the true essence of “teaching-by-doing” rather than just “teaching-by-telling”.  She calls it, “High Impact Storytelling”.

In contrast, the majority of the sessions at KMWorld are traditional lectures with slides and a few questions at the end if there is time.  My open letter to the KMWorld organizers describes some ways to improve the conference.  I hope they will engage in a discussion to make KMWorld10 a better experience for KMer attendees.  One of my suggestions was to include more sessions like Nancy’s (eg. Buzz Sessions) and increase significant peer to peer interactions.

How the session goes:

After a brief intro, Nancy introduces herself and requests that people move into small groups (4-5 ppl).  Each group consists of chairs facing each other with no table in the middle.

  • Nancy asks each person to take turns telling a story on particular topic.  Ours was what was your best experience ever with KM.
  • Each person has 2 minutes to tell their story before a bell rings and you move onto the next person
  • Once you have made it all the way around the circle, she asks everyone to get up and find a new group
  • Everyone is asked to tell the same story again, but to a new set of people.  Of course, each of the other stories is new to you, even though it is the teller’s second time
  • She repeats this one more time so that everyone moves to a new group and then tells their story a 3rd time

To close out the session:

  • Nancy asks everyone to get up and put a hand on the shoulder of the person who they felt told the best story
  • The person who garners the biggest crowd around them is asked to tell their story one more time for anyone who may not have heard it.  Our winner was “2-5-1 storytelling
  • Then Nancy asks everyone to form one large circle and she facilitates a discussion about what was gained from the exercise

Here are some of my takeaways

  • Telling a story multiple times makes you significantly better at telling it
  • Because you want to get better at telling your story, you are not only listening to the stories of others, but also to HOW they tell their story in order to use their best practices to improve your own
  • There is a significant level of bonding that is gained from a participatory shared experience.  If one of your goals for a conference is to build relationships, this is a far superior format to sitting in a lecture.
  • Tables are useful to put things on, but they are also a psychological barrier between people

If you have other high-impact conference session formats, please share them in the comments below.

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5 responses to “Meeting Format – High Impact Storytelling

  1. Pingback: Buzz Collaboration Format « Future Business

  2. Pingback: 2-5-1 Storytelling « Future Business

  3. Great idea Swan and Nancy! I’m going to put that one in my took kit.

    Yes, all conferences must learn to create more adult white space to allow attendees to talk with each other! Conference organizers need to move from all vertical, one-to-many ballroom presentations to a variety of types of presentations. One of the most important types to include is facilitated or structured horizontal, peer-to-peer, collaborative presentations. We need to find ways to capture the informal and social learning that occurs so naturally in the hallways and over meals.

    Thanks for posting this great concept too.

  4. Pingback: Collaborating in a Fishbowl « Future Business

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