Those in the training industry have long known the power of stories and insightful narratives. Using anecdotes and memorable stories can help connect with learners, but are they “fruitful”? Fruitful communication follows a consistent methodology and practice to get the story across and provide something to take along. This is not a magic wand that makes your learners listen, or even a recipe with guaranteed results. However, once you get your learners’ attention, it’s important to keep it using fruitful storytelling.
There are five basic principles to follow with your narratives. They are as follows:
Focused stories “keep it tight.” Narratives should be laser-focused and have a clear beginning, middle and end, hopefully within about three to five minutes. Attention spans being what they are today, concise messages are most quickly and completely accepted.
Do not ramble about “Well, it was 1974, and I was just entering the prime of my youth…” Keep it brief, keep it concise and most importantly, keep it focused!
A focused message is important, but your narratives should also be relevant.
Relevant stories are one that connect with your audience. Your stories should not separate you from your learners.
Your stories are not meant to be self-aggrandizing. On the contrary, slightly embarrassing but relatable stories create connections to the audience, to the story and, hopefully, the message within.
Connecting with your stories allows your learners to experience your stories as if they were there.
Equally important is that, within that connection, you have a message your learners can understand. This can be summarized as, “It’s not what you know — it’s what you can communicate.” I can know the secret of the universe, but if I don’t speak your language, it doesn’t help you out at all.
To misquote Dr. Seuss “Oh, the distractions you’ll have!” Our world is full of so many things to see and places to go, learners’ minds are a battlefield for attention. Using the previous methods can help get their attention, but once you have it, you need to keep it.
Make your narrative interesting. Have a hook, a laugh, a surprise, something that brings the message home and will be memorable to your learners. It doesn’t have to be fantastical — in fact the more real, the better. Try to tell a story that the learner will think about on their way home.
Speaking of leaving for home:
Give your learners something they can keep. A book, handout, link to a website, an email, something that your learner can reference after the fact, so they do not forget your training material. It doesn’t have to be a huge book or volumes of text. Just something they can have, use and that helps them reconnect with your message. Try to make your takeaway concise and portable, hopefully no longer than a single page. If you are unsure if your handouts are useful, check the trashcan at the back of the room. If it is full, their memory will be empty.
I believe in takeaways. In fact, this article can be a takeaway for my session at the 2022 TICE event in June. I hope to see you there.
Register for the June Training Industry Conference & Expo (TICE) to hear Dr. Belcher’s session, “Story Time Corner: Using Positional Narratives to Increase Learner Engagement and Outcomes.”