Storytelling Events and Experiences: Luxembourg National Day

Updated: Jul 12, 2019

Millennials love “experiences.” That’s all the buzz these days. It’s not enough to just host an event now. You need to create something immersive, where all the pieces of the event operate in harmony with one another. From AirBnB’s new “experiences” feature to the popular app Meetup’s Experiences category, where “the curious are in good company,” top businesses are taking advantage of the experience economy. Sounds intimidating, right? Why do you think that is?

First of all, what exactly *is* an experience? We like to think of it as an event where your guests are completely immersed in what you’re giving them and play an active role in participating. And how do you best immerse people? Bet you can guess what we’re going to say next. A story— but not just any story. An emotional story with some engrossing conflict.

The most compelling way to lead a client through an experience is by giving them a story to work through and combining all of your elements inside the story. That means instead of just hiring a caterer and serving food at an event, you make the food part of the story. Instead of just designing the rooms to look nice, you make them work to guide your audience through the storytelling.

Here is a case study:

IT MOVES IT hosted an experience for Luxembourg National Day at the Luxembourg General Consulate in New York City. National Day is the official birthday of the Grand Duke of the small but proud country, celebrated every year on June 23 with parades and fireworks. The New York consulate hosts an event each year around National Day for the tiny yet proud Luxembourgish and Luxembourgish-descendant population in New York City, but wanted to create something a little different this year. And IT MOVES IT was enlisted to help.

We started with a story of a larger-than-life figure. A medieval king of Luxembourg, Jean L’Aveugle (John the Blind), surprised the audience by coming down the central staircase and introducing (or reacquainting) them with the history of the country. IT MOVES IT scripted and cast a performance where an actor gave the audience 700 years of Luxembourgish history in about 7 minutes. Far from a dry school lesson, Jean described the hardships of famine, his country’s success in the steel industry, the progress of Luxembourg’s space program and then departed, as he had a Broadway show to catch.

As he spoke, he swiped a gromperekichelcher (a potato fritter), from an unsuspecting audience member’s plate while he praised the “blessed crop” of his people and their journey “from the potatoes to the stars.”

Following Jean’s performance and a brief speech by the Consular General, the doors to the buffet were opened and guests could help themselves to signature dishes of Luxembourg that also represented Luxembourg’s journey from the potatoes to the stars, and even reflected Luxembourg landscapes. Guests had their choice of Luxembourgish wines to pair with their food.

On the walls of the consulate was artwork from a local Luxembourgish artist who crafted pieces out of metal, which tied in nicely to Luxembourg’s history with steel and metalworking.

It would have been simple to put together a cocktail hour to celebrate the National Day of their shared heritage. But instead, the guests got to experience some of that heritage firsthand. From the performance to the food to the decor, each aspect of the event was carefully crafted around John the Blind’s story.

The story was emotional, showing how this tiny country had resisted multiple invaders and hardships, never giving up who they are, re-inventing their future through intrepid observation and smart execution. This is where their national motto comes from: “We want to remain what we are”. They were first farmers, until they found steel and coal in their lands, then when resources became scarce, moved onto finance. But they learned their lesson and no longer wanted to rely on one single industry. Instead, they have never stopped seeking out promising new developments: logistics, fintech, the maritime world, movies and entertainment, a huge satellite network, and now space mining…

There was overwhelming positive feedback from the event, with many guests saying it was the best National Day celebration they’d been to at the consulate. Native Luxembourgers were delighted to share their history and Americans with ties to Luxembourg felt connected to their roots. The emotion and the impact of the story brought people together and created a way to break bread with people of a shared heritage.

All of the elements worked together to create a night that the guests would not forget. And that is the value of the “experience:” the power of memory. Instead of a perfectly nice cocktail hour, the guests laughed, learned, and got to share their common ancestry with each other. The “experience” is a sure way to create something meaningful and lasting for your clients. And once you have the central story, everything else falls into place.