Celebrating its fourth year running, the STORY Conference in Nashville, TN occupies a unique space in the educational conference world. STORY, which transforms its themes and creative approaches each year, caters to Storytellers in all mediums—videographers, film makers, writers, directors, marketers, musicians, and everything in-between. If you are seeking inspiration and an array of incredible speakers who do real-life creative work, STORY is the place to be. Around their consistently fantastic event, the conference has built a strong and supportive community of creative workers who share encouragement, advice, and a thirst for great storytelling.
This year, STORY’s theme was Liminal Space: the space between “no longer” and “not yet.” And what is “liminal space?” (It’s okay—we didn’t know either.) A liminal space is the time between “Before” and “After.” It’s a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing; the cocoon between caterpillar and butterfly.
With such an abstract and unusual concept at its center, we were curious to see how the different STORY speakers and sessions would tie into the concept. We were delighted to see that each element of the event—from the opening session involving a live demonstration of 1800s style “tin type photography” (like in the photo below) to the closing session, where speaker and illustrator Brad Montague expertly wove together the story of how Louis Armstrong recorded the song “What A Wonderful World” before introducing a children’s choir to sing the song—were intentional, impactful, and deeply moving.
Process: Embracing the “Messy Middle”
Our social media-loving culture may have an obsession with Before and After photos, but the truth is that the real transformation occurs in the time between Instagram posts. Embracing the “messy middle” requires learning to love the process of growth and change—the space where we spend the majority of our time.
In August Jackson’s world of event production, we spend A LOT of our time in this messy middle space. Between the very first input session with our clients, where we define objectives for the meeting, and the final moments of the meeting itself, we are mired in process. Writing, defining, planning, and reworking—the process of planning an event is time-consuming, requiring months of creative development, strategy, detail-oriented planning, and dedication.
Vulnerability: Self-Awareness and Growth
STORY did not shy away from tough topics during the conference, and openness and vulnerability were key themes in many of the sessions. It is often when we are at our most vulnerable that we’re also experiencing the most growth and change.
“You’re not encouraged to tell the story while you’re still in the middle of it.”
Several speakers dove into the liminal space that goes hand-in-hand with mental illness. Speaker Thaniya Keereepart spoke elegantly about her initial diagnosis with Major Depressive Disorder and her decision to combine Eastern and Western treatments, including an intensive 10-day meditation retreat during which she was not allowed to speak. She pushed the audience to consider who they are: “We talk a lot about Togetherness, but who are we when we are truly alone?”
Her emergence from the liminal space of her meditative retreat left her with a much more profound sense of herself and what she needed to be happy in life.
What Lies Beyond the Liminal?
So what happens when your “guided drift” ends and you plant your feet firmly on solid ground again? Liminal space often ends with some kind of milestone, a marker of growth or transformation. Often for August Jackson, the liminal space culminates in the execution of an event we’ve spent months preparing for. And while it’s important to embrace the process, the messy middle space of planning and strategizing, it’s equally important to cherish and celebrate the milestone at the end. Taking a moment to take stock of what you learned and how you changed as you navigated liminal space can help you better prepare for your next voyage into the unknown.
Stay tuned for more takeaways from this content-rich event – along with an inside look into how AJ embraces process.