Recently I attended a conference in Nashville called Story. I have about a million blog posts in me about this, from the way I felt driving through the mountains (like coming home) to how amazing the barbecue was at a gas station in Tennessee, to how pissed I am at myself for having lost the skill of how to survive now that I have a husband to do all my heavy life lifting like, oh, putting air in the car tires when the air pressure light comes on. I have thoughts about hot chicken, hot yoga, publishing, introverts, bourbon, public parking, hipsters and business ideas. But right now I want to talk about Story itself.
Story is not the same kind of conference I usually go to. After many – maybe too many – years of digital marketing conferences, I thought this year I might focus my events calendar on bigger picture kinds of stuff. Creative Mornings, Hopscotch Design Festival, that sort of thing. Story ranked right up there in that its description was vague but inspiring, the graphics were cool and the speaker list was on point (at least the folks I’d heard of.) It sounded like a conference about stories with a variety of storytellers. Makes sense, right? Once I registered I started noticing that a lot of the speakers and attendees I was finding on Twitter mentioned their faith in their bios, or worked for churches.
I’m not particularly driven by any one religion, and as long as it isn’t hurting anyone then I’m going to respect your expression of your own faith because I hope you respect mine (or lack thereof.) So it wasn’t a big deal, only that I started to wonder if maybe the conference itself might have a Christian bent to it. Looking back the signs were probably pretty obvious to anyone who spends a lot of time in church, but to someone who doesn’t… yeah, I had no idea.
By the end of day 1 I was *definitely* sure it did – nearly everyone had mentioned the glory of God or Jesus Christ in their talks, a lot of Bible verses were used as reference, and at least half of the people I met worked at churches (which in itself was fascinating – in all of New England’s rich puritanical roots there aren’t a whole lot of full-time church Sound Engineers.) I guess this is well-known to people who’ve attended in the past, or who heard about it through their church/employer, but I didn’t fit into either of those molds.
I felt even more out of place when, the next morning, I walked smack into the middle of praise and worship.
I didn’t see any mention of it on the schedule, or on the website. Had I known, not a big deal, but I probably would have taken my time over a leisurely breakfast at the coffee shop instead of rushing out. And there were folks lingering at the coffee shop I’m pretty sure that would have liked to have participated in praise and worship, but they didn’t know it was happening.
The very first speaker, Blaine Hogan, had a powerful takeaway from his keynote: Tell the whole story. Even the ugly bits, the broken pieces – your art should tell your whole story, because that’s the art that moves us and that changes the world.
So Story conference: tell your whole story. Embrace it, speak it, live it. Tell it plainly, especially to people who don’t yet know you. There was plenty of valuable content even for those of us who aren’t capital-B Believers, just like there’s plenty of takeaways from INBOUND even if you don’t use Hubspot. For instance, one of the speakers touched briefly on the idea of risk, and how for Christians that risk isn’t there because of the trust in Jesus. Not my bag, but something I was interested in talking more about for sure – how does that change us as marketers? Where do we, or do we, draw lines between ourselves and our work? There’s so much yet to learn, so much to discuss, but to get to it, the whole story has to be told.