From an early age, storytelling has played an important part in our personal development. Think back to your childhood. Many of the lessons you learned, or values you developed, were the result of stories shared with you by your parents or teachers. These stories helped us understand the lessons in a way we could relate and connect, and that connection is what made those lessons stick. The same concept is true of adult learners. To make your training programs more impactful and increase the retention of the message, find ways to weave storytelling into your delivery.

Be Purposeful

As you look to include storytelling, identify which topic will resonate best with your audience through a relatable story. Consider how you can impact the understanding of your audience by sharing a story in which they can relate, sympathize and connect. Think of real-life examples that you can share, which will reinforce what you want the audience to learn and take away. Keep in mind, it is very important that you make sure these stories are interesting and as succinct as possible.

I recall being in a training session when the facilitator was discussing goal alignment. He launched into a story regarding his family, speaking about the wants of his wife and children. As he progressed, we learned about each of their lives, challenges, hobbies, clothing preferences, and more than I care to include here. By the time he got to the point, the entire audience was confused and unsure as to the point of the story.

Much of this rambling was due to lack of planning. The facilitator did not thoughtfully consider how to tell the story to ensure the message landed. Had the instructor taken time in advance to think the story through, minimize unnecessary details and practice, the impact would have been much more effective and better for the audience.

Be Vulnerable

The best stories you can share are those that you have personally experienced or witnessed. When you share, however, do not solely tell stories about what you have done correctly. Use too many of those examples and you will come across as a “know-it-all,” as opposed to an expert. In fact, the more you can share stories where you learned a lesson from a mistake or wrong decision, the better the audience will relate to you and the learning point you want to convey. Demonstrating vulnerability allows the audience to build an emotional connection to the story. That connection makes it more memorable and, as a result, more impactful. Leverage your facilitation tools, such as voice inflection and modulation, to help make this emotional connection even stronger.

Facilitate Participant Stories

Depending on the size of your audience, look for opportunities to leverage the experiences of your group. Have them share their experiences as it relates to the topic. Doing so will require very active listening on your part to ensure that the story stays on point. While you do not want to shut someone down completely, you may need to redirect them or help draw them toward a conclusion. Although this may test your facilitation skills, the value of peer stories to reinforce learning is immense. Look for and leverage this opportunity whenever it presents itself. You will likely be asking others to share at first, but as the class continues, participants will become more willing to volunteer a story themselves.

The best training classes are those that are memorable and impactful. To maximize your participants’ experience, leverage every tool in your training delivery toolbox. Include storytelling as a regular part of your plan. When you plan and deliver effectively, your audience will be more engaged with the overall content and more likely to retain those key learning points.