Do You Know Who You’re Talking To?

Content Developer, Tricia O’Connor

A successful storyteller knows how to hook an audience, keep their attention and help them connect with the story. At the heart of this is understanding the audience, who they are, what they already know and need to know to make it resonate at a deeper level. It’s the connection an audience feels to the story that engages them and leaves a lasting impression. I first learned this from my father – a successful trial lawyer who was also a great storyteller. His ability to quickly assess his jury and what they wanted to know helped him make a genuine connection with them. He knew how to make them laugh, feel, and connect with his stories in a way that impacted their thinking. 

Connecting audiences to stories is perhaps the most essential component we bring to every client project. It’s why we allocate so much attention to the Story Mapping part of our design process. The goal is to build a foundation for the story that will flow through a space, connect with its observers, and make a lasting impact on everyone who experiences it. 

The first step of Story Mapping is to identify the topic and its target audience. That’s why we always come out of the Strategic Workshop with not only a handle on the client’s overall goals and a sense for how different perspectives view the project, but also a clear picture of who is meant to connect with the experience. 

Then, for me, comes the really fun part: diving into the topic as a team to identify the big idea. If we can center in on the one concept that will wow visitors and resonate with them, we will have found something to hold the whole experience together.

We then create the physical Story Map by putting those high-level concepts and ideas into words on a theoretical map or floor plan of the actual project space. This gives the client their first visual look at the bones and core concepts present in the flow of the experience. It lays a groundwork for the engaging and entertaining content we’ll create together, and the voice we’ll employ to connect the story with their audiences.

Tricia’s Advice:

“Get to know your audience; step into their shoes: Who are they? How would they typically be visiting your experience? How do you want to transform them through your story?

Do some front-end testing to gather data. Bring members of your target audiences into the building at early stages throughout the design process, show them some early drawings, or wrap initial concepts into public presentations or focus groups. If you let them, your audience will help you create an experience that is engaging, entertaining and relevant.”

Tricia O’Connor, Senior Content Developer at Solid Light, has worked in exhibit experience design for over 18 years. When she’s not mapping stories and content for clients, you can find her dancing with her grandson or hiking the hills with her husband and dogs.