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  • Writer's pictureIrina Ketkin

How To Tell Stories That Get People Talking & Actively Participating in Training

Give them facts, numbers, and charts if you want to "kill" your training audience quickly! But if you're going to make your training sessions engaging and memorable for learners, then for the love of all that is good in this world, TELL A STORY!
You might wonder “What’s the big deal about stories?“ But they are a BIG deal!
Our brains are naturally wired to pay attention to stories. Humanity survived for the longest time in history because of the stories it would pass from generation to generation — way before we decided to create alphabets and write them down for posterity.

Benefits of storytelling for adult learners

Storytelling can be instrumental in helping learners:

  • Gain knowledge through practical examples

  • Discuss and reflect on complex topics

  • Surface their emotions

  • Think differently

  • Experience the world through another person's perspective

  • Get a sense of identity by comparing to others

  • Motivate them to take action

The structure of a story

Telling stories is easy, especially if you know how to do it. Here is a simple process you can use to tell stories in your training session.

  1. Set the scene. This describes where and when the story took place and what circumstances were at play.

  2. Identify the goal. Begin the journey by explaining the end goal and the tasks that must be accomplished.

  3. Introduce the characters. These are the critical connection points for your audience. To help learners relate to the character(s), describe their personalities and traits that are important to the story.

  4. Describe the obstacle. What happens that impedes the progress of our hero and their mission to accomplish the task? Obstacles are the "soul of a story". If our character doesn't have a struggle tied to an emotion, a barrier, a catastrophe, or a dilemma, then there is nothing there to talk about.

  5. Overcome the obstacle. What did the hero do (or not do) to rise to the occasion?

  6. Make your point. What did the hero learn, how did their world change, and on and on? You can easily turn this into a discussion for your learners to figure out on their own instead of spelling it out for them.

  7. Conclusion. Conclude the story by giving specific calls for action that learners can apply right away. Again, these can come from the learners themselves.

You don't have to follow each step if it doesn't enrich your story. Sometimes the hero won't be a single person, but a whole team or even an entire organization. And sometimes, the task won't be clear-cut, and it would have to be implied in the context. For example, if the company is going through a cultural transformation and a manager doesn't want to change their behaviors, the task isn't for them to change; it's for the organization to evolve without him.

Story examples

One of my favorite short stories I like to tell (when applicable) is about a wealthy man who fell madly in love with a village girl. He went to ask for her hand in marriage and said that if she rejected him, he would die. She did reject him, and he did die… some 60 years later. What does that story mean to you? What is the point of the story? And how can you apply it to your personal or professional life?

Try it yourself

Choose a training topic you are familiar with and think about what relevant stories you can tell that will enrich the learning experience.

Download our storytelling template to help you develop a story that will enrich your training session.

We would love to hear your stories and their effect on your learners. Share your successes on Social Media, and remember to tag us!


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