January 24, 2017 |

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

November 22, 2016 |

Winner of the #storyforchange Competition

JulietSeersWe caught up with Juliet Seers, winner of the #StoryForChange competition with the passion to change the story of masculinity. A topic that differs from her usual field of work, but she had always been interested in.

Juliet is about to graduate from RMIT with a Bachelor of Environment and Society. She also works at RMIT tackling sustainability engagement on campus. This sees her collaborating with students and staff to promote sustainability on campus and assist in creating a university wide cultural shift toward sustainability. For Juliet, feminism is becoming a highly politicised term due to a misunderstanding that the movement only advocates for women’s rights; not gender equality overall. A lot of the issues that oppress women, such as gender based violence can be traced back to cultural understandings of masculinity; males feeling the need to conform to an image of being assertive, competitive and unemotional. This rigid view of masculinity makes men feel inadequate when they don’t naturally ‘fit in’ to the stereotype.. Juliet is in the CFA which she admits is male dominated; being in the emergency services can put a lot of strain on individuals physical and mental health. To manage risks to physical health there are many procedures that are followed strictly, however mental health is very different, it is intangible and she feels that resources to assist those struggling with their mental health are likely not utilized until much later on when the issue is quite dire. Juliet feels that confronting the stereotype of masculinity will open up a new dialogue; allowing both men and women to discuss mental health issues without stigma.

The cultural change that Juliet would like see would require action and understanding from a wide range of stakeholders including educational institutions, media organisations, parents and the broader community to name a few., Creating change would require these stakeholders coming together on a large scale to discuss changing cultural norms and stereotypes (such as masculinity) and how we can change this; eliminate this toxic masculinity that our society had developed. Juliet feels that as the issue is more widely spoken about people will feel more comfortable accepting that men are not all the same, and limiting them to this rigid stereotype does nothing but oppress those whose authentic self is maligned from the expectation of what it means to ‘be a man’.

The Story Conference will help bring people together to discuss Juliet’s topic on masculinity, to help empower men to talk about feminism and shifting away from this notion of toxic masculinity. For Juliet, she is really looking forward to meeting with people that she normally wouldn’t cross paths with to workshop her topic and the discuss it further.

November 18, 2016 |

Andrew Rixon – 100 Story-based Activities to Influence Cultural Change

Workshop Title: 100 Story-based Activities to Influence Cultural ChangeAndrew

Workshop Description: 

An outcome from this years conference will be a book titled “100 Story-based Activities to Influence Cultural Change”. This workshop, will provide participants the opportunity to reflect on the conference as a whole, and bring together ideas for story-based activities that can be contributions to the book.

If people got the best of the session what would they leave with?

  • A new story-based activity
  • Satisfied reflections on the conference as a whole

How is this session connected to the conference theme?

Cultural change is the theme of the conference and this workshop seeks to provide practical story-based tools for addressing this theme.

About the Workshop Presenter:

Andrew Rixon PhD is a Consultant, Coach and Educator. Author of the book Communicating with RESPECT, founder and convenor of The Story Conference. Andrew is also the founding Director of Babel Fish Group, a boutique management consulting company specialising in leadership and change with a keen interest in the application of Action Learning.  Andrew has worked across many different industries and organisations within Australia and internationally across the US, UK and Asia.

November 11, 2016 |

Winner of the #storyforchange Competition

StoryforChangeCompetitionWinner Thanks to everyone who submitted into the #storyforchange competition. You can review all the entries here.

To help choose the winner, we formed a panel of 14 judges and asked them all to go through and review all the entries and in particular we asked them to consider the following questions:

  • Which idea might gain the most traction out of this opportunity?
  • Who sounds the most serious about taking this to the next level?
  • Which idea is the most focused/developed that could best benefit from this kind of brainstorming?
  • Which one touches you most?

Each judge was asked then to submit their top 3.

It was a close run with many great submissions!

And we’re happy to share that the winner of the #storyforchange competition is… *drum roll*

Juliet – Addressing the issue of Masculinity

Congratulations Juliet!

We look forward to seeing you at the conference.

November 7, 2016 |

Christine Hogan- Interactive storytelling- Making myths meaningful and memorable

ChristineHoganWorkshop Title: Interactive storytelling: Making myths meaningful and memorable

Workshop Description: 

In this workshop, participants will be involved interactively with some traditional myths from many different cultures. We will discuss how these may be used and/or adapted to a variety of different contexts and cultural settings. We will engage actively in storytelling and also in:

  • creating a variety of “endings”
  • identifying various ways of using and debriefing myths.

If people got the best of the session what would they leave with?

  • Interactive story telling techniques
  • Myths from Thailand, Bhutan and Brazil
  • De-briefing strategies.

How is this session connected to the conference theme?

In this workshop we will explore how facilitators may use myths to explore transitions and changes which require us to understand differences in attitudes, values and behaviours.

About the Workshop Presenter:

Christine Hogan works in diverse fields from cultural and career transitions and change to climate change adaptation and disaster preparedness. She is the author of six books on facilitation including “Facilitating cultural transitions and change”. Her facilitation work has taken her to Laos, Kiribati, Thailand, Malaysia, The Philippines, Mongolia, Nepal, Senegal, Abu Dhabi, Bhutan and Hong Kong.

This year she has been working in Bhutan on an Institutional Strengthening for Skills Development and Career Guidance Project for the Asian Development Bank.

October 18, 2016 |

Live Twitter Q & A – Monday 24th October 12-12:30pm with – Dr Tom Verghese – Cultural Synergist

Dr Tom Verghese-TwitterQandAJoin us on Monday 24th October from 12-12:30pm AEST for a live Twitter Q&A with Dr Tom Verghese, Cultural Synergist exploring “How does culture influence your story?”

Simply login to twitter at the time of the event and search for #AskDrTomV.

Read more about Dr Tom Verghese’s pre-conference workshop here.


October 18, 2016 |

Richard Lawton – Raise your voice and propel your story

RichardLawtonWorkshop Title:

Raise Your Voice & Propel Your Story

Workshop Description:

It’s time to speak out… do you want to be seen and heard?…a voice and body awareness tune-up and some techniques for raising vocal levels. An intro to making clear bold colourful statements, including pointers towards expanding and enjoying your storytelling identity.

If people got the best of the session what would they leave with?

A strong sense of the power in their voice and how to put their story out in the world. They’d also feel really energised and have raised their oxytocin levels

How is this session connected to the conference theme?

Your story may be terrific, but if people can’t hear you, or if there’s any part of you that is holding back from really telling it like it is, then it’s going to be lost. This is about gaining clarity and certainty in your story telling identity.

About the Workshop Presenter:

Over the last twenty-five years, on three continents, Richard has introduced hundreds of people to the power of their voice, and the flow-on effects; including increased confidence, and presence. As a theatre director and performing arts lecturer, Richard worked with the Sydney Theatre Company, N.I.D.A., V.C.A., and Monash University, where he won the Vice-Chancellor’s award for excellence in teaching.

In the corporate setting he coaches people to tell stories powerfully. He works a lot with executives who need some simple pointers to influence the people in front of them. He is the presentation skills coach for the Victorian Bar Association’s training course, (“lose control of the narrative and you lose the case”) and specialises in helping people find the power in their voice. He runs 2 community choirs and volunteers in a local hospital’s eating disorder unit as a means of facilitating that.

He co-facilitates the seminar; As She Speaks, for the diversity programs of large companies, helping female executives crack the glass ceiling. He is also specialist in body language and his time as a theatre director taught him a special knack of bringing out the best in people, working from the inside to the outer; fast tracking clients in uncovering and re-arranging belief systems. He is interested in the paradox of how autobiographical material intersects with corporate storytelling.

October 2, 2016 |

Story for Change Competition


Have a social issue you’re passionate about?

We believe that solutions to the big challenges of today become possible when people, organisations and communities come together to learn, share and create empowering new stories together.

Enter this year’s Story for Change competition and you’ll get the chance to win a full 3-day pass to our 2016 Story Conference and the opportunity to work on a social issue that matters to you!

To enter, fill in the blanks to the following sentence in the comments section below, referring to a social issue you would like to do something about.

The social issue I’m passionate about is _____ because _____. My vision for a new chapter of this story would be to  _____ .

Then go to twitter and tweet “Change the story of:” your social issue #storyforchange http://tinyurl.com/za7j59n

The winner will receive (valued at over $1000):

  • A full pass to the 2016 Story Conference (Nov 23–25), along with 2 nights accommodation onsite, at Queen’s College
  • Your choice of any pre-conference workshop
  • A VIP seat at the conference dinner and story slam
  • The opportunity to see your social issue pitched, worked on and progressed with a community of social entrepreneurs

The winner will be announced on Friday 11th November at 5pm.

September 27, 2016 |

Free case-study on the use of Story for Diagnosis

BobDick Many people know Bob Dick. With an international reputation for his work with action research and action learning, Bob has also been a significant leader in the area of working with Story and Narrative.  Bob has shared with us a case-study as a taster for his upcoming pre-conference workshop on Exploring below the surface: Using story for cultural diagnosis

Click here to download the case-study on the use of Story for Diagnosis.

September 18, 2016 |

Viv McWaters – Change your story Change your performance

Workshop Title:VivMcWaters

Change your story, Change your performance

Workshop Description:

Who do you want to be? We can all be ourselves, and also perform our way into other roles. We carry our stories of who we are as armour – armour against change, armour against who else we can be. In this workshop we’ll explore active ways of discovering the stories we use that define who we are and how to use the power of story to explore different versions of ourselves.

If people got the best of the session what would they leave with?

They’ll have fun. What else they leave will depends. The workshop will explore the type of stories we hold close and how they influence how we act with others. People will leave with an enhanced understanding of their own stories, and how this influences how they show up in the world.

How is this session connected to the conference theme?

Cultural change requires all of us to step into roles that may not be natural to us. This workshop explores how we can use story to explore those different roles and how cultural change can start with each of us, individually.

About the Workshop Presenter:

I once wanted to be an astronomical photographer but settled for agricultural journalist, which caused quite a hoo-ha as women weren’t supposed to go to agricultural college back then. Rules weren’t going to stop me (I had the rules changed). Now there’s a clue about how I still approach life!

I’ve worked as a journalist, and in communications, and community education, training and strategy development. Now I specialise in group facilitation and participatory evaluation and draw on my background in the natural sciences and arts. I help groups discover new approaches to the work that matters for them. I design workshops, conferences and training to bring them to life. I am excited and enthusiastic about what I do.

I studied agricultural science at Longerenong Agricultural College, and have a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies from RMIT University, and a Masters in Applied Science (Agriculture and Rural Development) from the University of Western Sydney.

Improvisation is a constant source of inspiration, as is nature, play, and the surprising things that people say and do. I’m researching the role of applied improvisation in preparing people to respond in uncertainty, particularly disaster response.

I live by the beach in southern Australia. I have worked in over 30 different countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, which has helped fuel my passion for birdwatching and street art.