Seems like you can’t swing a cat these days without hearing about the importance of storytelling—in videos, in events and just in general. Well, we’re no exception to that train of thought and I would like to share an example of an event we did where storytelling really worked its magic.
Martin Bastian has had the good fortune of partnering with Children’s Cancer Research Fund for more than 12 years. During that time, we’ve told their story in a variety of ways at their annual Dawn of a Dream gala. But for the most recent event, we took a little bit of a different approach, with spectacular results.
For the 2011 event, we stripped everything away and simply focused on the core: the stories that make up Children’s Cancer Research Fund. No cute themes, no over-the-top decor, no re-lyriced songs—just real-life stories told in compelling ways. The goal was that each attendee would retain a nugget so the next morning they could go up to a neighbor and say, “Children’s Cancer Research Fund is really doing some amazing work! Listen to this story I heard last night at Dawn of a Dream...”
So the theme became simply “Stories that....”, and we completed that sentence over the course of the event with words like “Inspire,” “Engage,” and “Compel.” Those words were introduced in the invitation, which featured black and white images (of survivors, a family who lost a son, researchers), along with their stories, designed like a storybook.
The room decor was simple but powerful, and wrapped the audience in the stories and the reason they were there. Frosted Plexiglas panels carried ghosted images of cancer patients and their families, key words (“inspire,”) and cryptic phrases (“Batman is just some guy who cares. And what is more powerful than that?”). While lovely on its own, the decor played a key part in reinforcing the message of the evening.
Before dinner, we heard from a few audience members who told their stories and shared why they were there, which created a real sense of community and initiated conversation at the tables.
When it came to telling stories during the program, we wanted to step outside the expected elements (like video) and search for the new and surprising. So, we found a photojournalist to follow one family and tell their story through powerful still images (see below). And the images hanging on the wall? Yep, they were hers, both of the featured family and other patients.
Later in the program, a spoken-word poet took the audience on an emotional ride as he performed a series of vignettes about life with cancer he titled, “Hope Is Something You Build," ending in a spontaneous standing ovation (see below). No music, no images, nothing but powerful stories told in a truly engaging, memorable, and unexpected, way. Oh, and the cryptic phrases on the Plexiglas panels? Quotes from our poet.
Mixed into these stories were traditional elements like executive presentations, a live auction and entertainment. Everything was carefully orchestrated to build emotion and tell stories in a way that would move the audience to action that night and stay with them long after the event.
And it worked! We’re proud to say that Children’s Cancer Research Fund exceeded their goal and raised more $1 million that night, which will go a long way toward helping Children’s Cancer Research Fund achieve their goal of eradicating childhood cancer, and ensuring that more stories have happy endings.
[Photos by Dan Norman Photography]
-- Amy Oriani