We’ve heard a lot lately about “essential” vs. “non-essential” activities. Anything that requires in-person interaction that is not essential to human welfare, is temporarily discouraged or disallowed.
As a live event professional whose industry is one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, I find myself seeking reassurance in my professional roots: the theatre. Surely this ancient form of storytelling is an essential activity? Indeed it is, if thousands of years of history is any indication. So live, in person events will come back – and with vigor. But what to do in the meantime, while people can’t gather in a theatre (“seeing place”) or auditorium (“hearing place”)? Instead, we are standing on non-physical platforms, and telling stories.
Storytelling may not seem “essential” within our current lexicon, but in fact it is, to our welfare and to humanity. We know this from the evidence in 30,000-year-old cave paintings. We know that storytelling is innate because very young children do it naturally, unprompted. We know that stories are essential because, during this time when so many other activities are prohibited, many of us are voraciously consuming them: books, movies, TV series, podcasts etc.; they’re a lifeline.
As live event producers, we know that stories are a lifeline in business too and part of what we do is to help our clients craft stories that help move their businesses forward. Some are for consumer audiences, some for internal audiences. Sometimes a story is meant to inspire and motivate, sometimes it is meant to teach, sometimes to tighten the bonds among team members and with their leadership through shared experience.
Whatever the purpose, stories are a vehicle for human connection that is as essential to business as it is to our human condition. Fortunately, they can carry on safely and unhindered during these trying times; and they will carry on, because we need them to.
So, until we can gather in a theatre or auditorium and watch and listen while standing or sitting next to each other, we’re keeping up our essential practice: telling stories in virtual seeing and hearing places, online.