The Craft of Storytelling

Skift Take

Technology is key to live events, but in order to create the most powerful performances, it should have a supporting role that highlights the storytelling and puts the focus on the audience.

Jonathan Martin is the founder and principal designer of ShowTec, a company that provides design and show technology for agencies, planners and producers. He studied design for television and theater at San Diego State before going on to found ShowTec in 1991. He is not only an experienced showbusiness expert but also a firm believer in the power of storytelling.

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Technology as the Supporting Character in Storytelling

For Martin, the technology at the disposal of event planners and producers should be there to enhance a show or performance and not be the main character. The lighting, sound, scenery, and more should come together in a way that the audience, and even the producers, aren’t inherently thinking about the technology. In these moments, the storytelling should immerse, engage and draw everyone in.  

Focusing on the Audience Creates Powerful Performances

While new and exciting technology is always available to enhance a show, focusing on the audience creates the most powerful performance. Instead of using technology to highlight the speaker or performer, Martin focuses on using it to draw the audience into the story and make it the hero of the performance.

The Magic of Theatricality and the Willing Suspension of Disbelief

Martin thrives on achieving a willing suspension of disbelief in the audience, where they fully focus, with no devices in hand. He believes it requires some theatricality for an audience to embrace what is happening on stage fully. Whatever the goal of a conference or event may be, achieving success requires grabbing the audience’s attention. It requires presenting to them the core message and story in an amplified, visual way that is digestible but also helps create a sense of togetherness. This is better done when using technology selectively. Events come to life with high-impact theatrical moments that leave a lasting impression on audiences. 

Balancing Creating the Show and Running the Business

Executives must be part of creating the show and running the businesses, rather than focusing on just one of these elements. As Martin highlights, the term “show business” is made up of both show and business. This doesn’t mean being heavily involved in all elements of production or business. However, it does require being the leader who guides the team in fulfilling design and business promises made to customers.

Supporting Other Creatives

Creating the best event possible requires better communication and support between all those involved in the planning and execution of an event. Understanding each other’s crafts and needs, whilst understanding and balancing the challenges and needs of both the venue and planners will go a long way in producing the best event. Getting to this goal requires collaboration throughout the event process, and early alignment from everyone involved.

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