Getting Back to Basics through Storytelling
Dr. Harrison, the author’s mother, at her desk at Harrison’s Proprietary School in Spanish Town, Jamaica.

Getting Back to Basics through Storytelling

Creativity, innovation, and good storytelling may be the best path forward for events pros.
Dr. Harrison, the author’s mother, at her desk at Harrison’s Proprietary School in Spanish Town, Jamaica.

A couple of years ago, I was home visiting my mom in Jamaica and decided to stop by her school— Harrison’s Proprietary School—an early education private school in Spanish Town. As you walk through the school gates, huge trees shade a large part of the courtyard that leads directly to the principal’s office belonging to Dr. Harrison, or as the students call my mom, “Mrs. Harrison.”

I was especially looking forward to this trip. My parents had sacrificed and invested in me so I could come to the U.S. I was coming back to show what I had learned and to give back. My goal was to help my mom learn how to grow her already successful business through my expertise and understanding of digital marketing, and how to leverage technology to create seamless experiences.

During the course of an afternoon, a number of people streamed in and out of the office. Each time, I couldn’t help but notice that she would connect with them by weaving story into story, from one person to the next. These stories about the school and her work included everything from tales of student successes to congratulatory messages for teachers. What they all had in common was that my mom celebrated each of their wins—as a team.

I always knew my mom ran the school. What I didn’t realize was that she was a storyteller. And without reading a marketing manual, she was already marketing her school by telling stories to anyone, and everyone, who walked through her door.

It was one of the first times I was really able to see my mom as a businesswoman. A small business owner passionate about her product, serving her customers and being a good steward of the organization’s resources. I realized she was able to run her business by getting people to do what needed to be done—all through stories.

As the pandemic hit, small businesses have had to make difficult decisions. Now that many of the traditional ways of doing business were gone, they asked: What does this moment make possible?

Some assumed that since everything was going to have to be done online, they should invest their money and resources into figuring how to reach their clients’ ideal audience. I suggest getting back to basics and looking at where they got started.

In my mom’s case, she has gotten this far without any digital marketing, so I wanted to see what was driving her success. Part of that was storytelling, part of it is the experience she creates for the partners and students. Ask yourself to think back to what originally made you so successful. And then, scale that story. Build on the success clients already have, instead of trying to replace their strategy with a bunch of random acts of marketing, digital tools, or automated technology.

I challenge those of us at the intersection of experience design and event planning to ask ourselves to return to our roots and ask the same questions. What does this moment make possible? We are in the business of seamlessly creating memorable experiences. The pandemic can either be the elephant in the room we hope goes away, or it can be the constraint we need to usher in a new wave of innovation and creativity. Personally, I vote for innovation and creativity.

Adding more of a human touch, just like mom does, may be the best way to get back to what’s most important and help rebuild organizations that truly deliver value. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get back to work, safely.

About the Author
Garrio Harrison is an entrepreneur who has spent his career at the intersection of sales and marketing. He has helped both small-to-medium-sized businesses and high-growth startups put the marketing systems in place needed to fuel their growth. Today, he is a partner at Curious, where he helps founders and small business owners focus their available marketing resources on the revenue goals they’ve set for their organizations. He is also a partner in Closers Media, a sales training firm and organization behind the award-winning “Coffee & Closers” sales show.

About ILEA
The International Live Events Association (ILEA) represents and supports more than 5,000 members globally—event professionals who do business together, share knowledge, nurture talent and progress the live events industry. For more information on how an ILEA professional can help you with your event, please contact