Storytelling in learning

Can you see why this might appeal to the Learning Mutt’s sensibilities?

Last week, I attended a great Webinar by Roger Courville of the 1080 group on incorporating stories into training.



His tips (in brief):

  • Keep it short and sweet;
  • Keep it relevant;
  • Keep it entertaining; and
  • Bring it back to your topic effectively.

In the past, I have also attended a Webinar by Nancy Duarte regarding her particular angle on storytelling.  Her focus is more on presentation, which, as Roger pointed out, has a different purpose to training.

She looked at the three act story/play structure and saw a “shape” that could apply to verbal discourse.  She analyzed Martin Luther King and Steve Jobs to see if her theory worked, and it did.  She offered critical insights to presentation, and you can look up her TEDxEast lecture on the topic here.

I’ve also attended a Webinar by Terrence Garguilo of  His point: stories beget stories.  Tell an effective story, and your participants will begin to create stories of their own going forward.

Overall, storytelling in training is a powerful tool.  It’s one of the oldest social networking strategies in existence.

I would encourage you to look up, follow, and/or attend Webinars by these fine people.

How I have used story in training:

  • In design, I use a metaphor to ties things together.  It could be a knightly quest, or planning a road trip, but tying your material into a metaphorical frame work will help to keep everything on track.  This can (and should) extend to the visuals you use/create for the course.
  • In written materials, to link to external resources that are “nice to know,” or might set learners off on a learning tangent.  A lot of blog posts utilize this technique to connect the reader to useful information.  There have been times when I’ve spent upwards of an hour following links from a single post I’ve subscribed to, discovering and learning, connecting the dots.
  • In-class, I’ve used practical stories of my own or other’s experiences to engage participants.

Do you use stories in your training?  In what ways?  Are there opportunities in your training to adopt storytelling as a tool?