Stories have been around for millennia. Ancient cultures used them to pass on traditions and wisdom to subsequent generations. Their influence has not waned, and stories still awaken a world of imagination, adventure and fantasy. Storytelling is no longer limited to the theater, movies, literature and television; today, organizations are rekindling this ancient art to provide immersive and engaging learning experiences.

In corporate training, storytelling is a medium that can be used in:

  • New hire training (introducing new employees to the company’s history, goals and visions)
  • Product training (the story behind the creation of a certain product and its uses, including testimonials)
  • Application training (the steps involved to move from point A to point B)
  • Soft skills training (e.g., the consequences of poor time management and how to rectify it)

More important than the story itself is the role of the storyteller, because the extent to which a story influences learning depends on how well it is told. While storytelling is not rocket science, there is an art to it.

Here are some storytelling best practices for corporate training:

1. Use storytelling as a part of a course or as the course itself.

Storytelling can be the prime mode of conducting training, or it can be used as one of the many mediums incorporated in a course. You can use stories in case studies, branching scenarios, games and videos.

2. Follow the traditional storytelling method.

There is a common thread in all stories. They begin with an exposition that sets the stage and introduces the characters and a conflict (problem), followed by a series of events leading to the resolution (solution), and finally the outcome.

3. Include a learning objective.

Without a learning objective, storytelling is merely a narration, with nothing to learn. Start with a business story, and then sneak in an objective that learners must accomplish.

4. Create mystery and suspense.

As a training tool, stories gratify our instinctive curiosity to know how an event unfolds, a problem is solved, or steps are taken to complete a task successfully. Storytelling must create interest, anticipation and expectation that will in turn trigger engagement and participation in the learning process. This leads to meaningful learning, greater retention and immediate recall of information.

5. Make it count.

Every story you tell must be relevant to learners and resonate with them. Adults learn only when information is aligned with, and can provide a solution to, a pressing business problem or information they are expected to know.

6. Don’t make them wait.

While mystery and suspense are an important part of storytelling, present the problem early in the story. Knowing the context will help the learner stay focused and gather the information and knowledge required to solve the problem, indirectly helping the learner accomplish the learning objective.

7. Use detailed imagery.

Imagery adds an interesting dimension to an otherwise bland description. The more imagery the story uses, the easier it is for learners to identify with the characters and the plot. In works of fiction and nonfiction, writers use visuals, colors and senses – auditory, tactile and kinesthetic imagery. You can use the same tools for storytelling in corporate training.

In conclusion, it’s important to remember that we are first driven by emotion and then by rationality. Create stories that hit that sweet spot that stimulates emotion in your learners, and they will follow your story to the very end.