My sister is a professional storyteller. Mary can get into character and affect age, voice, and mannerisms to invite the audience into the world she is creating. She also uses storytelling as a tool to train on leadership and teambuilding – with great results.
The use of stories in the learning environment can be one of the most powerful instructional techniques in your arsenal. It can help you get the learners’ attention and aid with the retention of course information. You can use storytelling at the beginning of, during, or at the end of training. Yet, in order to have the greatest impact, you need to know your purpose in telling a story and keep some purpose-related guidelines in mind.
At the beginning of a course, use stories to:
1. Help set the tone for the course.
2. Establish rapport.
3. Help create a comfortable /safe environment.
During the course, use stories to:
4. Help make a connection between the old and the new.
5. Create a link between complex concepts/ideas.
6. Increase learners’ attention.
7. Appeal to different learning styles.
8. Aid in the retention of information.
At the end of the course, use stories to:
9. Aid in the retention of the information.
10. Illustrate what has been learned.
Guidelines for Storytelling
- Know your audience and select stories that are appropriate to that group.
- Check your story for anything that may make someone uncomfortable. Even true stories can embarrass someone if they were around when it happened. For example, telling a story about an associate who made a foolish mistake that cost the company a lot of money may be very risky if the incident is relatively recent, the name of the associate who made the mistake is known, or if s/he has a friend, colleague, or relative in the class.
- Be especially wary of stories that accidently make fun of a culture or belief.
- Make sure the story makes sense and is relevant to the course content. If not, why tell it? Make sure the connection between the story and the course content is clear for the learners.
- Make the story short and to the point. Even a good story that goes on too long loses steam.
- Find a way to get the learner involved in the storytelling. For example, give them the beginning of the story and let them finish it. Provide them with clear instructions on what you would like them to produce as it relates to the course.
Regardless of when you tell a story, there are several other delivery guidelines to keep in mind:
- Be real; tell stories that fit who you are.
- Pay attention to your tone, pace, volume, and non-verbal cues.
- Use the story to teach, not preach. This can be a turn-off for the adult learner.
- Practice, practice, practice your delivery beforehand.
With thought and planning storytelling can be a powerful tool to grab learners’ attention and help with the retention of course information. So go ahead, enhance your presentation skills by telling a story!
What other storytelling tips would you like to share with our readers?