For the past 10 years, I've been both a fan and supporter of Charity Water, but this month I fell in love all over again. If you saw my previous article about Virtual Reality Being the Next Big Disrupter that Changes the Very Fabric of Your Business, then you know just how important it is to experience virtual reality.

If you live in or happen to be in New York City during the month of August, there's no better place to experience virtual reality than at Brookfield Place's Winter Garden where Charity Water has set up multiple viewing stations where you will instantly be transported to Ethiopia. There, you will experience the story of Selam in virtual reality. Moreover, through an incredible anonymous donation, every viewing unlocks a $30 donation and gives one person clean water. There's over $308,000 just waiting to be unlocked.

Applying Charity Water's VR Success To Your Business
Mark my words, Scott Harrison has already changed the very fabric of charitable giving and while every non-profit should take note, I want to appeal to the entrepreneurial spirit in your for-profit business. The reason this is such a big deal is because of the nature of the emotion you feel when you are immersed in someone else's world. Given that most people buy on emotion and back-fill with logic, you are about the experience the most powerful storytelling vehicle available to you today.

"Imagine your audience being completely immersed in your story," says Jamie Pent filmmaker at Charity Water who worked on the Selam project. "No one is distracted by their mobile device or any other outside world distractions for that matter. Any storyteller would love this. It's amazing to get someone's full attention in this day and age."

Having watched (experienced?) Charity Water's virtual reality story a few times, I can tell you that you really are fully immersed in the story. It's the difference between watching a movie and being part of the story. You really feel like you've just been transported to Ethiopia and are being guided through this story of transformation. What if you were able to tug at the emotional heartstrings of your best customers and prospects?

Telling Great Stories with Virtual Reality
In debriefing with Jamie Pent, the Charity Water team has come up with 4 important lessons that will help you maximize your impact using virtual reality storytelling:

1.    Don't get distracted by the medium itself. As with any new technology, it's easy to get lost in the "what's possible" aspects and lose sight of the story you're telling. Think about all the "in your face" nonsense that occurred during the first 3D films. None of this added to the story and in fact most of it distracted from it (just so you could be impressed with 3D technology). Avoid that trap. Instead stick to the story you're telling and cut out the distractions.

2.     Know what you want the story to look like. From the start, it's important to have a vision of what you want your audience to experience. You're taking your viewer on a journey and it's important to know where you want them to end up when you're done telling that story.

3.     Put yourself in the position of your viewer. Even when you love specific shots, you must put yourself in the viewer's shoes. What kind of emotions you want to convey? Where do you want them to look? When you have a full 360 experience, you need to think about audible and visual cues about where you want your audience to focus their attention; otherwise they will miss important parts of your story because they were looking away.

4.     Know what you want people to see and walk away with. What's the key message you want to convey? Do you want people to feel a specific emotion? If so, don't get wrapped up in the technology, the logistical challenges, or the newness of virtual reality. It's always about the story. So be clear on your purpose and the outcome you want your audience to experience and feel.

These lessons will help you get to the heart of your message and how best to tell your story inside the context of virtual reality. For Charity Water, this is the dawn of a new era. For the past 10 years, Scott Harrison, CEO of Charity Water has helped fund 20,062 projects in 24 countries, benefiting over 6.3 million people. He is an incredible person and I feel proud to both know him and support his cause. You can too just by visiting the Brookfield Place Winter Garden this month. You'll be glad you did on many levels.

Published on: Aug 9, 2016