Building a mythology through storytelling


Like many conferences, Y’all Connect relies on a small army of volunteers. They staff the registration table, run errands, answer questions, guide speakers, set up and tear down gear, snap pictures, soothe stressed guests and more.

Having served as a volunteer and recruited many over the years, I have some insight into the experience, both as a newbie and a veteran. I’m glad to have our Volunteer Coordinator James Brown running our volunteer program, because he knows well the ins and outs of recruiting, training and retaining the best volunteers.

Our combined experience isn’t worth much if we can’t bring in people focused on customer service. And speaking for myself, I fail often in imparting my vision for the “Y’all Connect experience.”

Which is why we have stories.

A few days before our annual event, we gather the volunteers together for introductions and training. And we tell stories. (By “we,” I mean me.)

The stories I share give real-life examples from our event about how I have screwed up the most basic customer service tasks. A guest (our hero) wants something; I (our villain) don’t give it to them. The end.

It can be humbling to tell these stories year after year. After all, aren’t we usually the heroes of our own stories?

I want even the most seasoned volunteers to learn two lessons from my tales of humiliation: 1. It’s OK to fail, as long as we build on that experience. 2. Strive to be creative in solving guests’ problems.

Our repertoire of stories grows each year, slowly becoming a mythology around our event. We want people invested in that narrative, adding their own stories to ours. We want that culture to win hearts and transform how each of us handles customer service.

Good stories do all those things. They put us in someone’s shoes and add perspectives different from our own. They are remembered far longer than any routine training dos and don’ts.

And they remind us that each new day is an opportunity to become the hero, whether in our own story or someone else’s.

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About Wade Kwon

Wade Kwon is conference director for Y'all Connect. See his full bio.

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