Storytelling An Effective Training Method!

Story-telling methods, if used for training, can ensure a captive audience. It is a wonderful means to establish rapport with a group. Real-life experiences narrated in story form can help forge better relationships in a team and build credibility with the team members. Stories are an effective method to communicate important messages to people as they can be fun and interesting.

Stories can be used to teach ideas and impart complex concepts. Trainers who have successfully used story-telling techniques in their training sessions will vouch for their effectiveness as a teaching or training tool.

There are a lot of aspects of learning that are concrete or measurable, while others are abstract or those that cannot be measured, but only imagined and understood. Stories can be used to explain both concrete and abstract concepts. A story, when used as a study or learning technique, is a chain or thread that can be used to link different facts, whether related or unrelated.

The story doesn’t really have to make a lot of sense by itself as much as it needs to be the medium that links different facts that we know. This kind of linking is what makes it easy to study or remember and use it later. Stories can be used to introduce new ideas and reinforce old concepts. Existing stories can be modified and reused to accommodate newer ideas.

Story-telling techniques, when incorporated into training sessions, make the session effective and engaging. It also increases the listeners’ enjoyment quotient tremendously. Research has shown that the efficacy of stories is not due to the story itself, but more because, people generally relate the story to an incident they may have experienced at some time. Thus, they can actualize the message and internalize the essence of the story.

A calculated use of story-telling can include reflections of past experiences, understanding and conveying the meaning embedded in those instances and using them to channelize key messages in a host of contexts. These can be used to guide values and priorities, promote desired behaviors and share learning. Using one’s life experiences can be a sure-shot success strategy for your training session purely because you can convey its inherent integrity, credibility and passion first-hand. A story should ideally create a timeline, proceed to focus on a related task or event and end with a focus on the acquired learning. The stories used in the session can then be used to elaborate on the meaning it holds for you, the influence it has on your thinking or approach to work and the value it can provide that makes a difference to others.

Do share your thoughts on the same.

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Written By

Asma Zaineb is a Marketing Manager at CommLab India. She is responsible for generating quality leads for sales via inbound marketing.

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26 comments on “Storytelling An Effective Training Method!
  1. Yogi Anand says:

    Hi Asma:

    A Story Well Told … enjoyed reading it and found it to be informational.

    Thanks For The Story.

  2. Excellent article!
    If I may add, storytelling as an effective communication and marketing technique in pharma industry is making its way up, as well. Through storytelling you engage and inspire people more than if you would just transfer data, and facts, figures and features, which people won’t remember after some time …

    Great to see that storytelling is applied in so many domains, like in yours, education!. If you’d be interested in what storytelling means in marketing terms, I would be happy to share with you through :
    http://www.slideshare.net/DeVeeWee/ive-got-nothing-totell-about-my-brand

  3. Hello Asma,

    Storytelling is a powerful communication tool. I help my clients learn this technique to persuade, motivate and influence others. It works!

    During training, teaching, presentations or simply interacting with colleagues it can transform rational, logical facts into an interesting depiction of information. It attracts attention and engages the ‘left and right brains’ stimulating individuals both intellectually and emotionally.

    Listeners lower their defensive barriers, open their ears and mind to a story as it’s delivered in a comfortable, safe and indirect style.

    In my new leadership book “Multiple Leadership Intelligence” (view at http://www.paradigm21.com/book2/book2.html) there is a chapter entitled “Persuasive Intelligence” that provides a simple, straightforward roadmap of how to use the power of storytelling to influence, motivate and building relationships.

    I hope my brief comments have provided additional insights.

    Cheers,
    Robert

    Robert

  4. Excellent, thanks. Story telling was the way “wisdom” was transferred by Native Americans and other social groups to younger generations.

    To give advice requires focus and listening skills on the part of recepients, but through a story we share wisdom, action, reaction, cause and effect… and every participant walks away with an interpretation of the outcome…

    My mother, as a teacher, would always CLOSE the story telling with a session on “lessons learned” because she wanted feedback on interpretation and guided… carefully… the group of students to true understanding of the lessons she wanted students to receive so they would acquire the skills necessary for a healthy life…

    Again, thanks for an excellent article…

  5. Marc Zazeela says:

    I remember my Grandfather telling me the most wonderful stories, when I was young. The content was almost irrelevant and, as I recall, they were pretty nonsensical. However, my brother, sister, and I would gather around him when he said he was going to tell a story. He would prepare himself slowly, keeping us in suspense. We were dying to hear whatever he was going to say. He was a great story teller and his use of voice inflection and strategic pauses, kept us on the edge of our seats.

    Fast forward 40 years. I still enjoy hearing a good story. I still respond to the voice inflection and strategic pauses. While my taste in subject matter is somewhat different than it used to be, a good story can still have magical effect.

    In the context of our LI group, there is no reason why direct mail can’t tell a riveting story. And, I can easily see how story telling can be used as an effective training tool if done correctly.

  6. Having a teachable point of view and the stories to back it up are important. Stories provide legitimacy to your views by showing proof that they work and have value. Each of us have a teachable point of view. I have three…
    1. Goal setting is magical
    2. Repetition is the Mother of Skill
    3. Any Success not Duplicated is Not a True success.
    These seem pretty simple but have always worked for me. Telling versus sharing is the key.

  7. Very good points. Completely agree.

    But this article lacks on thing: a story to illustrate and make the point.

    :-)

    Henry Stewart
    Happy

  8. Bruce Decker says:

    Storytelling is one of the most effective methods for teaching, even as adults. Music, art, drama, and movement are too. IMO, the reason is because it engages both sides of the brain, and it allows the listener to remember the material as pictures, which is our brain’s normal storage mechanism. Add a strong emotion about the story, associated with the picture, and sticks in the brain – although it is vital to repeat the image mentally to stick long-term. This is why children (my wife teaches kindergarten) love to hear the stories over and over – and they remember them for the rest of their lives. The stronger the emotion, the easier to remember – which is why you probably can still tell everyone where you were, and what you were doing when you heard about 9/11. The memory comes as a picture, not a series of words.

    “Facts tell, stories sell”

  9. Susan Price says:

    I too want to reiterate that this is an excellent article! I lived in China and my Chinese friends would teach me more about their culture through their stories than I could possible learn from reading a boring textbook. I find it ironic that both my comment and the previous comment both tell stories to “teach” the impact of learning by stories as we both told stories. Thank you so much for this reminder!

  10. Anil Saxena says:

    It is my belief that learning comes through the emotional link to it. Stories can connect the learner to the knowledge. It is the bridge between the rational and the emotional. Research has shown us that knowledge is retained longer and accessed more readily if it is attached to a particular emotion. Stories link knowledge with emotion. It enables that quick recall. The problem is that, as Wendy stated, not everyone is a good storyteller. The way to get better at it is tell them more often and be prepared. I spend an immense amount of time preparing for classes and ensuring that I have a story or example to explain each key concept from a course. As the facilitator, I must internalize the material and make it real for me. This makes it real for the participants.

  11. Vanya Loroch says:

    Emotions. I am convinced it is that simple (and that complex). People learn through emotions. Take emotions out and learning vanishes.
    It’s certainly true for learning by heart (heart… emotions :-) ? ): memorizing 2 pages of a patient information leaflet is infinitely harder than 2 pages of any great classic. I am convinced it is also true for learning.
    I train non-biologists in Molecular Biology/Biotech in 2 days. My courses are aimed at all professionals active in different industries that integrate life sciences (pharma, biotech, medtech, etc. etc.). In 2 days I cover what a University covers in 2 years (the objective is literacy… not becoming an expert, of course). It’s pretty crazy, but it works. It works because it is all story telling: stories about life, death, disease, health, sexuality, food. Good stories make people laugh, cry, scare them, reassure them…
    Emotions help us mobilize the necessary ressources for learning. Any emotion… even fear ( fear of failing an exam is quite a driver, no?). Of course positive emotions are better :-)
    Emotions are hard to convey via computers…This is probably one of the reasons why it is so much more difficult to design computer-based trainings as opposed to live, face-to-face courses…

  12. Dilip says:

    Training programs are a structured way of getting across some skill across the audience.Being structured in nature , people tend to look forward to introduction to methodologies, theories , statistics and expect an evaluation immediately after the program , during the program or on the job.

    Story telling breaks the structured approach myth of a typical training program.People tend to unwind and let down their initial inhibitions.

    Stories and experience sharing differ slightly, in my opinion.Stories may not be true but experience sharing is truthful. Both the styles of sharing concepts and learnings is very effective since it puts the concept in the right perspective.

    Take the simple example of vocabulary learning which seems to be so dry and the initial perception is that you have to cram words from the dictionary.But take a peek at the approach of Norman Lewis in Vocabulary Made Easy – the use of roots behind the words , the mythology behind language etc easily relates to any common man and the speed of learning is much faster.Also , the understanding level is much better.

    Maybe , experts in the area of training could give a more detailed insight!

  13. Didier says:

    Story telling can allow the trainee to actually relate to the substance of what’s being taught. It becomes somehow the “acid test” that will bring a practical aspect to what otherwise would be mere theories.

    That’s why in many disciplines, renowned professionals are brought in as lecturers, as they have this unique ability of being able to substantiate course material by telling a related story.

  14. Sandi says:

    Asma,
    Storytelling would have proved much more interesting in high school geography, history, American Literature. All seemed dry and uninteresting until now. The History Channel is so facinating with it’s rich storytelling and I can’t tell you how much more and reinforced history (The Story About US),geography (How the Earth was Made). Since I am a visual person (graphic arts) storytelling invites my mind to participate in the storytelling and that conjures up more visions. I encourage you to continue storytelling in all aspects.

  15. Mary Chase says:

    Stories connect to our inner schema for making sense of information. In general, stories are much like images in that they can be remembered and processed in their entirety. For example, we don’t remember the Mona Lisa or Snow White in discrete parts. The various data sets, processes, etc . we may introduce during training don’t have this benefit; in many cases the documents or slides that convey information must be referenced throughout the training. Stories provide both a touchstone and a shortcut to whole group understanding. Attaching the information we wish to convey to a story provides powerful instructional support.

  16. Christine Christianson says:

    When I was a student, I was always very interested in the professors’ stories that were sprinkled in with lessons. It not only made the lessons more memorable and relatable, it also made me understand a bit more about the human condition–we all have so much in common.

  17. Richard Kain says:

    Story Telling is linear and changing. It is not stagnant. The unknown is kept in context and leads to the enhancement of wonderment. Which in turns stimulates the curiosity of our being. If told right the key elements of every story is what leads to the retention by the participant.

  18. Not sure if we undertake storytelling in the traditional sense when we are training but we do use examples of events from real life and anecdotes from business instances to make or emphasise a point. These are loosely all stories and work better than quoting text books at people or lecturing them in a dry academic way. The storytelling approach enables and allows comment and connection; promotes discussion. One person’s take on a story being different from the next persons.

    There is something powerful about stories; our responses to them is deep and primal. In Marrakesh, North Africa, storytelling is an entertainment. People gather around in the market square at night to listen to the storyteller; the listener responds with deep concentration, enthralled by the experience. There is something in this that tells you that there is a business application to storytelling. The way we receive language stimulates our imagination, inspires us to think outside of the box. As someone once said ‘the best pictures are on the radio’.

  19. Mr. Newson-Ray
    Jon:

    - Your write up brought up some memories of when we were children and listened to the radio. My mother did not permit us to have TV because she said it “removed” imagination.

    - Sherlock Holmes adventures were on every night at 8 PM and “The Hound of the Baskervilles” started with this very deep voice reading the title and in the background the howlin of wolves.

    - Still to today, we can recite the start of the show… we can immitate the sounds of the hounds and as we tell stories to children, we use that powerful means of communications…

    - Just the other night, a group of 10 kids were gathered for a birthday party and we asked them to close their eyes and told a story… filled with sounds… that they had to identify for us. These children were in the living room and from the kitchen, behind a wall so they could not see us, we would touch certain pots, knives, cutlery, glasses, etc. producing noises that they had to identify…

    - The children had a blast! Now they want us to repeat the experience and told us that it was more fun than watching a movie…

    - Story telling, prompting the imagination to take flight, eliminating all “noise” and allowing the senses to work… that is the magic of our most incredible gift… our minds!

  20. Jeffrey A. Bernstein PD MS says:

    I taught for 12 years at Kent State (Math and Computer Science/Technology) and the students definitely enjoy a story, as long as you are not reading to them directly from the textbook. The interpretation is (by some) that Math is difficult enough and anything you can do you can do to make it better is a welcome relief.

    For example, I would work “pharmacy” things into my lectures. Solving an equation, I would get to the step where 10x = 85, which I would read to them as, “10x (which is for blood pressure) equal 85″ and continue on like nothing happened. On a quiz or exam (for extra credit), I would ask them for the mathematical equivalent of a medication used for blood pressure; you would be surprised the number of students that received the extra credit.

    Creating a computer program is really no different; you are telling the software a story to make the program accomplish a task. “Once upon a time…” is how some stories begin; so at the beginning of your program you haveq a section to declare variables, once. Functions and subroutines are chapters that tell a tale while performing work. The “end” of the story comes when the user gets whatever it is they want from the application.

    Thanks!

    Jeffrey

  21. gandhini says:

    I have impressed!! Really informative blog post here my friend. I just wanted to comment & say keep up the quality work.

  22. Hi I have been Reading your post , I really enjoyed it I will bookmark your page. thank you.

  23. Marjee Righeimer says:

    Thanks for the great article. I am in the process of collecting stories about the mentoring experiences of thousands of people who have worked with us. One book I found really helpful was “Stories Trainers Tell” by Mary Wacker.

  24. selva lakshmi says:

    As rightly said in this article, storytelling method will really cause a paradigm shift in the T & D effectiveness,as the traditional method of training create boredom for the employees.

  25. sylvia says:

    what are the disadvantages of storytelling

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