Reflections on The Story Conference 2016

reflections-dininghall  The Story Conference 2016 was held for the fourth time since founding in 2009 and ran from Wednesday 23rd through to Friday 25th November 2016.

It was held at Queens College at the University of Melbourne, which turned out to be an excellent venue for this conference. With accessible parking, close and easy transport connections to the airport and CBD and staff that provided exceptional service – I’d highly recommend the venue.

Admittedly, one of the elements missing was good coffee – which could easily be solved by a coffee truck me thinks. 😉

The conference saw just over 100 people attend, coming from as far as Singapore to San Francisco with most coming from within Australia.

reflections-bobdick   The evening prior to the conference I had the pleasure of picking Bob Dick up from the airport and driving him home to our house to be our esteemed guest.  For many people in the facilitation community, Bob Dick or his pre-conference workshop on using story for cultural diagnosis was a big reason for coming to the conference.

In our post-conference survey we asked people why they came and other reasons shared were: Interested in story and storytelling. Connecting with others interested in the conference. The unique positioning of the conference focused on story and storytelling and its theme around change.

Bob has been to all four of the Story Conferences and has been a mentor, sage and inspiration to me for more than a decade.

Reflections-registrations  The Story Conference 2016 had a great team behind it and a big thank you goes out to: Anna Rosenfield, Sandra Campos, Ella Cernak, Anthony Osborne, Sascha Rixon, Rachel Taylor, Cathryn Lloyd and Bob Dick.

In the post-conference evaluation we scored a solid 8 out of 10 for the conference overall, the venue and the catering.

What made it score so well?

The core elements shared from participants were: Sense of community at the conference. Diversity of participants and workshops. Well organised.

Over the years we’ve been working on the ‘formula’ of the story conference and I think we’ve been making some progress. The underlying ingredient is that we aim to have as many experiential / facilitated workshops to be part of the program as possible. This way relationship building occurs through the process and duration of the conference. This is effective especially when there are high quality workshop leaders. A big thank you to all the great workshop leaders!

reflections-sessions  I do admit to being highly influenced by the work of Harrison Owen and Open Space Technology.

The elements of self-organisation and long coffee breaks are something which I think is part of the ‘secret sauce’ to helping provide an energising and ‘open’ atmosphere to a conference. This year we incorporated 1 hour long coffee breaks… they were consumed in remarkable time.

This is definitely something we’ll build in to future conferences.

With part of the Story Conference 2016 being about stimulating social entrepreneurship, we were also fortunate to have a fun session lead by the Trash Puppets. They are definitely a fun, hip, and innovative upcoming small business that are doing great things around sustainability education and the environment.

Another element which was new at this years conference was the App. Specifically it was a Whova App. And – from all accounts – this  was a great success. My motivation for the App was primarily for networking and agenda/programming purposes. The picture below shows a snapshot of a report from the App.

Reflections-WhovaAppReportApparently we were above industry averages with a download rate of 78% of participants (usually around 30-40%). There was also a very high number of messages shared between participants with over 500 messages. Even the Whova people were impressed with these indicators of engagement.

reflections-whovapics  As a novelty – we ran a photo and captions contest throughout the conference.

This saw people uploading photo’s taken throughout the conference and then providing the opportunity for others to either like the pic or comment on the pic. The photo uploaded with the most number of likes we awarded a $50 amazon voucher which went to our Singaporean visitor – Elaine Tham who flew in to the conference with a pair of angel wings apparently.

Ivan Chew won the ‘best caption’ category and secured himself a $50 amazon voucher too.

All up – we had just over 130 photo’s collectively uploaded through the App – which I think – made for a great way of ‘documenting’ the sense of community evolving and emerging through the conference.

I’d highly recommend the Whova App. I think it provided a great platform which was easy to use and really suited the purposes of use for the conference.

reflections-ceofishbowlAnother element which was new to the conference was the CEO Fishbowl which ran on the final day of the conference.

My colleague – Viv McWaters and I hosted what I like to call the Open Space Fishbowl which is a deceptively simple yet very effective form for enabling a large group conversation.

The purpose of the CEO Fishbowl was to bring in some external voices – the voices of highly experienced and well seasoned executives to discuss and share their own personal insights around influencing cultural change. This was an inspiring highlight of the conference for many.

And finally, the last honourable mention goes to Melbourne Playback Theatre whose performances are always amazing. They have been at all four story conferences and we look forward to them being part of our conference for years to come too!



 **Blog post written by Andrew Rixon – founder and convenor of the Story Conference

| January 24th, 2017 | Posted in Uncategorized |

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