Refining, Defining, Divining

Audience expectation is defined by, thus limited to, what audience members believe is possible.

As Creators of Experience the onus is on us, the responsibility is ours, to exceed such expectation and take our audience to unanticipated places, offer unforeseen experiences.

With that in mind, this means we need to be up on the most recently-developed or under-development techniques for projection, movement, sound, staging… We are dealing with new generations of audiences who are far more sophisticated in terms of “show” than most used to be. Between Google, all the entertainment channels, websites, platforms and feeds as well as the myriad other ways in which people absorb information; the understanding, appreciation and expectation of show and show effects has been raised simply in the course of daily life.

This is good; this pushes us to extend our own reach. What it also does is place the burden of surpassing expectation (though, it’s not a “burden,” or we wouldn’t be doing this stuff) back onto the Storytelling…where it should be.

In many cases, our audience will be just as savvy as to what is technologically possible as are we. No problem: we are Storytellers, Creators of Compelling Experience.

In immersive storytelling – experiential messaging – the key to Compelling isn’t the inclusion of technology and effects; rather, it is the nimble and creative use of such things to the point that they become invisible, and it is their contribution to the narrative that brings the gasp to the lips and the heart to the throat.

So…Create, already!

My own first step, as I’ve noted before, is in the exploration of what is wanted: to be communicated, to be seen, heard and experienced. What is the message or call to action; the fable, parable or simple lesson to be articulated and communicated?

What result do we seek?

Second – to choose and then physically immerse oneself in the theatre, stadium, harbor, park, auditorium, ballroom, hall, mountainside or whatever venue is to be the location for this experience being created. Many a time, ideas can spring from the architecture of a space; the placement of a balcony, rock or body of water. Once I’ve stood in that space and ingrained the features and personality of it into my mind, the concept percolation truly begins.

Moving forward; my approach is ignore budget during the first pass at concept development; letting ideas flow freely – in my own mind or in creative conversation – unhindered by any Reality. When working with a team of professional craftsbeings – technicians, artists, talent, musicians, designers – I begin with an Unlimited Blue Sky approach.

Were budget not an issue and we could do anything, what would we do…how best might we tell this story?

Through my own experience, I believe that a far better idea can come from an unrestrained process than might be realized by attempting to develop a concept and physically articulate narrative within a pre-defined “budget box.” Taking a magnificent, insightful storytelling concept and, through the alchemy of collaborative chiseling and massage, bringing it into alignment with one’s budget, can greatly heighten the quality and innovation that comes into play. Unleashed creativity in original concept, studied creativity in shrinking the magnitude while protecting the integrity of the concept.

I find there’s a lot more love and engagement on the part of the entire team and process when everything’s been expressed and explored and the Big Idea has been embraced. The risk of savage dogfights over resources is largely alleviated when the entire team is working to protect a big idea to which each has already contributed…invested. The net result is a more cohesive team and a powerful, compelling experience.

Be prepared for some surprises, though. Even better, prepare your Executives / Clients for this process before you begin sharing the step-by-step process of evaluating concepts coming out of that process.

I once neglected to fully prepare my Client Team for the possibility of ridiculously high numbers attached to concepts as the bid proposals arrived in for a project budgeted at $7 – 12million. When a bid concept priced at $37million hit the table, I thought we were about to lose one of the more fragile members in paroxysms of apoplexy!

Oops. Clue ‘em in. Early.

For some, this may seem a waste of time: I think different.

The net result of this process is that, at the other end, one has the best sense of the principals, ethos, creativity and perspective of the contributing contractors, vendors or teammates from and through the genesis. We end up with a better concept to whittle, and know a lot more about the potential members of the production team.

Eschew shyness and caution; this is an exhilarating tightrope, imagination your net. There is no falling.

We create better Experience from the limb than on the ground.


6 thoughts on “Refining, Defining, Divining

  1. I find a major driver of expectation is the business the client is in.

    What most clients don’t know is that almost any degree of exhilaration can be created for almost any sum of money (witness some of your own work with large numbers of volunteers and a minimum of props and sets). They see a project in terms of what they do, not what you do.

    I think of Renaissance Faires in this regard. Cobbled together with nickels and spit, they still enjoy considerable popularity. It’s not just the beer and turkey legs but the mass illusion of another place and time. Not the Renaissance, usually! More like a Led Zeppelin concert with swords. But still, a billion dollar theme park can find itself competing with a bunch of people in tights and poet shirts.

    Yet I’ve pitched living history concepts to major theme park companies a number of times, and they always complain it’s too expensive. And they’re right. Because they are in the architecture business. Ren Faires are in the theater business. If a restaurant company decided to do it, the restaurant components would cost more than everything else combined.

    Clients (and designers) are least innovative where they’re most expert. That usually translates into less ingenuity and more costs. It’s an interesting dilemma, and one that creators always have to work against — in the clients and in ourselves.

    • although, the turkey legs are pretty great…!

      Thanks, Ben – and that’s a good topic for a future post, actually; do Creatives run the risk of being least effective where they are most expert? They do, I’d offer; we do…

      On the list..

  2. Beautifully put, Kile!

    The same principle applies to direct performer interaction with the guests… Where they might see the characters as a mere ‘Photo Op’ or an ‘Autograph Get’, we have to find creative ways to get them to play, to invest imaginatively in that moment. This leads to greater emotional impact, better photographs and entertainment for those in the area who are waiting for their chance to interact.

  3. I do like the phrases ‘immersive storytelling’ and ‘experiential messaging’. These are the essence of the architect’s organizing vision. Well said

Leave a Reply