Storytelling: To Connect, Engage, Entertain

The following post was written by Sarah Elkins – writer, storyteller, professional speaker, and 2016 ITMI Symposium and Reunion keynote speaker. It originally appeared on her website,

I had a great time speaking at the International Tour Management Institute’s 2016 Annual Symposium. It was in Ontario, California, so I was particularly happy to arrive a couple of days early to enjoy the warm weather. Living in Montana, I take every opportunity to travel to warm weather between November and April.

The weekend began with a brief introduction to the team when I registered as a speaker for the event. My mother had driven down from Sacramento to spend some time with me, so I introduced her as well. She was immediately ushered to the operations center of the conference and issued a name badge and tickets to events. The graciousness with which we were treated was beyond my expectations.

Sunday was spent on a well-appointed coach, touring the California Science Center, and cruising on a whale watching tour hosted by Harbor Breeze Cruises from the Long Beach Pier. I met and visited with nearly all of the 50 people on the coach through the day, getting to know the people who would be attending my session the next morning to open the symposium’s events. As always, I collected stories through the day, drawing information from people and learning what made them tick. It was beautiful weather; the energy in the group was high and optimistic.

After a long day exploring the area with our new friends, my mother and I were delivered to the hotel. Back in the room for the night, I spent some time reviewing my presentation for the next morning and absorbing the experiences since I arrived in Ontario. I’ve attended a variety of industry conferences in my life; this one was unique.

Every person I met had one thing in common, one thing that made this group extraordinary.


Consistent, deeply optimistic curiosity.

It was the first time I presented in a room that size with this kind of energy. Not only were they all curious, each of them had their own story of reinvention. Many came from teaching careers, some from healthcare; I met a rocket scientist, real estate agents, musicians, photographers, and the youngest graduate of ITMI’s program – he was 17 when he was certified. The age-range was early 20s to mid 80s; I could have spent days listening to their stories.

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