Three Tips On How To Use Storytelling In Training

Three Tips On How To Use Storytelling in Training

Storytelling plays an important role in corporate training. It engages people very easily and its messages are usually better remembered. Stories can emotionally connect with trainees and thereby take them to a different level.

The impact of stories in training is far more profound than the impact of slide presentations, or mere folders filled with written notes. That does not mean that we should discard presentations and notes – they do have their place in training. However, engaging storytelling can be used to introduce certain aspects, it can clarify issues by giving practical examples, and it can submerge the trainees in a simulation to give them a taste of experience.

In training, a story can be likened to a coat rack. From it various coats are hung to expand on during the training session. The coat rack represents the basics that are needed to be conveyed to the trainees. Then, different coats are added, in various layers, to expand on essential information introduced in the story. As such the story engages the learner before additional essential information is shared with the trainee.

Practical Advice

When using storytelling in training, take the traditional approach - make use of the dramatic arc

The most effective storytelling approach in corporate training is the traditional approach!
1. Keep the story simple with a beginning that sets the scene. The beginning may place the trainee in the workplace, or give him / her a glimpse of their work environment.
2. Next comes a middle that is reached as the protagonist faces some challenges. The middle should introduce the trainee to possible difficulties that he / she may encounter in the workplace.
3. Finally, there is an end that resolves the dilemma. The resolution provides the trainee with food for thought and with possible answers as how to conduct himself / herself in the workplace.

Think carefully which story will best give more understanding to the trainees. They must be able to relate to the story. It is often a good starting place to think of real-life examples that can be conveyed in the form of a short anecdote. Keep the story interesting! Use the story to reinforce what you want the trainees to learn and use it as a coat rack from which further essential information is shared.

Personal stories also work well as the trainee then not only connects with the situation, but also with you as facilitator. It creates an additional layer of trust and thereby engages the trainee as he / she feels more familiar with you. Stories with you, yourself, as the protagonist also needs to show vulnerability – do not portray yourself as the ultimate hero, as the trainees may not be able to relate to that (yet!). Rather paint a picture that a new and perhaps uncertain employee can fully identify with. Allow the trainees to learn from the lessons that you learnt from.

Adult Learning

Storytelling works very well in adult training as adults learn differently to children due to the mere facts that they have 1) life experience and 2) minds that have already developed a good level of critical thinking.

When adults learn they need to be given a clear sense of purpose. If there are not clear objectives they may feel that they are wasting their time. This will get in the way of them getting fully engaged in the learning process.

In addition, adults naturally rely on their experiences during the learning process. So, trainers need to keep this in mind when devising stories for training purposes and should carefully consider what will resonate well with the prior experiences of the trainees.

It also appears that adults prefer practical learning over theory. Adults have a greater sense of time than children and seem to be far more aware of time being wasted. Stories and practical activities move adults forward as quickly as possible.

Take storytelling to the next level

Take your storytelling in training to the next level by using role-play

Stories can also be used very effectively to introduce a case study or a role-play. These provide simulations that can train an adult optimally. It requires quick decision making, as would be required in the real situation.

Use a story to introduce the role-play. Then place trainees in a scenario from where they can explore possible actions in specific situations. The trainee becomes the protagonist in the story that develops as he / she acts out the scenario.

So, for optimal effect, use a story to set a scenario that employees can expect to face and develop that into a role-play where the trainees take part in the story. The trainee is no longer a mere listener or spectator but becomes actively involved in the story. As such storytelling immerses the trainees in a potentially real scenario which requires them to deal with the situation that they find themselves in. Afterwards trainees can discuss the experience and get feedback from the trainer.

The ultimate goal of training is to ensure certain actions and behaviours so that employees instinctively know how to operate in various scenarios. One of the most profound impacts of storytelling is that it immerses the listener into an imagined world and thereby gives the listener experience prior to being placed in the real situation.