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“Tell me more…. you can’t say that much and not tell me the rest… I want to know the full picture… I don’t really understand what that means.

We are likely to have heard these sayings or a version of them in our social circles and daily interactions. We can relate to the curiosity and desire to understand the full context when given only a small teaser. Perhaps a skittish child playfully telling us half their story or our best friend at the coffee shop only sharing a glimpse of their weekend story.

In community engagement world – project stories can be difficult to articulate whilst encouraging the masses to connect and share their thoughts and opinions. When we don’t understand something, we may often experience one or more feelings of fear, disinterest, doubt, and avoidance. Ultimately many of us in a broader community will ride with the unknown or the status quo hoping for the best outcome rather than seek out the full picture.

When you stop and think there are similarities between community engagement and superannuation where much of the population has a set and forget mindset without truly understanding the impact until it is real and happening to us personally – which evidently is too late. In super this impact hits as retirement looms and in terms of engagement for example infrastructure – we feel the impact when the disruption or construction begins. We’re aiming to empower audiences to understand the full picture, interact and share the vision of their future – but how?

We understand from our personal lives how much information overload we experience, and our audiences are time poor with attention spans getting shorter. In addition, legislative requirements, budget constraints and time pressures are known challenges we can’t avoid. When we turn our mind to a project’s internal stakeholder engagement and approval processes – shaking up the current way of storytelling can seem too difficult and best left untouched. It would be hasty to assume we discard our proven past engagement methods altogether and the ideas shared below are to add to our diverse engagement methodology. Be bold and brave considering new ways of thinking for an upcoming project or take the time to learn more about emerging technologies shaping storytelling going forward.

10 Ideas for Storytelling done Differently

As IAP2 Practitioners can we challenge and rethink how we are telling the project story to better relate to our community and engage them with their future. New technology evolves every day and the time for considering alternative ways of storytelling and communicating your next project is now.

Here’s ten ideas to kick-start and inspire storytelling engagement and we encourage you to follow your curiosity and share your powerful storytelling tips:

  1. Encourage project leaders or subject matter experts to speak to camera. Budgets don’t always permit professional video productions but phone cameras these days can do an adequate job capturing video content that adds colour, tone and connects with more people than wordy webpages ever will.
  2. Connect the dots between your photo gallery and accompanying PDF technical design plans with accurate before and after realistic visualisations. Visual learners love these easy to use tools – check out M6 utilising this technique.
  3. Look at animation options to introduce context of the project and enable you to explain the technical elements in a visually and eye-catching manner. NSW used animation video to SES highlight the very real danger of flooding.
  4. Create a simple infographic image or video example. Data and numbers are powerful but equally overwhelming. There are many free web tools available that don’t take a lot of time or effort to be eye-catching such as Canva.
  5. Immerse your audience to discovery more about a project through use of a 360 tour as Transurban did here. Enabling audiences to choose their own adventure path exploring the project behind the scenes is great engagement hook.
  6. Transform your existing design data into 3D modelling or interactive mapping to immerse the everyday user and enable them to explore the project like the Victorian Murray Floodplain Restoration Project.
  7. Bring to life that powerful project machinery, new playground slide or town facility upgrade via augmented reality. You can introduce an element of play with QR codes placed at project key areas users can scan to reveal the project right in front of their eyes or at a community event this is a memorable ice-breaker and one they will tell their kids about.
  8. Immerse audiences in the project space and enable them to engage asynchronously with the various project information and tools beyond a basic webpage. This could be through use of a Virtual Engagement Room or storytelling.
  9. Incorporate a playful element to your next project with gaming to educate audiences and diversify your reach across the community as did Brisbane City Council with their engagement on the Metro.
  10. Evolve your face-to-face community engagement beyond brochures and basic webpages to include 3D modelling of the proposal via your web browser as did the Sydney Metro West team here.


By Nicole Vaughan, Projects and Account Manager, Spatial Media