Storytelling as a Learning Device

Humankind has been using storytelling to pass knowledge from person to person for a very, very long time.

Rance Greene, who spent time earlier in his career earning experience in live theater, recently wrote a book entitled Instructional Story Design: Develop Stories that Train, in which he translates his experience to help readers write and develop stories for training.

Recently, I had an opportunity to spend some time with Rance to get his thoughts on why stories are such a powerful training device, whether stories are appropriate for every topic and how to rein in the desire to share every detail in a story.

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The STORY model for storytelling

Sometimes the simplest way to bring your content to life is to tell a story. Storytelling is a means of educating people that has been around for millennia.

Just because you have a story to tell, however, doesn’t mean you know how to tell a story in an engaging, effective way. The S.T.O.R.Y. model can help give structure to the way in which you plan for, and ultimately tell, your story.

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How can your storytelling be more effective?

On Saturday, I attended a memorial service for my 101-year-old grandfather. The stories that my aunts and uncles and cousins shared were phenomenal. Storytelling is such a powerful means of communication, especially when you can picture what’s happening in the story.

But what happens when you aren’t quite as familiar with the subject matter or situation in the story?

In his book Brain Rules, John Medina writes: “Vision trumps all other senses… we learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoken words.” So how do we add the sense of sight to our storytelling?   Continue reading

Telling a Training Story

Last week I had the opportunity to present at Learning Solutions on controlling your narrative. Did you miss it? Well then, let me tell you a story…

Driving down the highway last winter, I saw a message board that said there had been 190 fatalities on the Montana highways that year. I asked my husband what I am supposed to do with that information. Continue reading

Storytelling: Structuring a Training Story

Storytelling in training is an effective way to relay facts and give your participant the information they need in a context they can understand. Unfortunately, crafting a story that resonates with participants isn’t always easy.

Stories need structure, something that keeps participants involved until the end. To make storytelling a bit easier, I pulled together the framework I generally use when creating a story. This simple formula aims to help you build a good story without giving too much information away too soon. Continue reading

Innovating on Storytelling

Cave Drawings

The temperatures in Seattle this past week hit 70 degrees, which meant that we, along with everyone else across the city, headed to our neighborhood pools in order to seek relief from this oppressive and dangerous heat wave.

As I was waiting for my children’s turn to jump off the diving board, I watched child after child try to do something a little different than the person before them. Cannonball. Backwards cannonball. Cannonball-turned-belly-flop at the last minute. Front flip. Back flip. Front-flip-turned-belly-flop.

Observing someone ahead of you while waiting in line, then figuring out a better variation of it… it was innovation in action! And of course it had me thinking about presentation skills.

As I reflected on these thoughts over the weekend, I came across a 3-minute TED Talk about innovations in storytelling that could prove interesting for anyone looking to prepare a better presentation.   Continue reading

Want to be creative in your next presentation? Try Pecha Kucha-style!

Pecha Kucha-style presentations involve 20 slides that advance every 20 seconds (automatically). There’s no chance for a presenter to dilly dally. It’s fast-paced, visual, and the best ones capture the audience’s attention.

I wrote about Pecha Kucha-style presentations in the past, but when looking over the agenda for an upcoming retreat for a client recently, I noticed they had Pecha Kucha presentations on the agenda! It’s reignited my interest in the style.

Are you looking to do something a little different with your next presentation? Here are a few Pecha Kucha presentations that can offer some inspiration…   Continue reading

You Can Only Change The World If People Pay Attention To You

Introducing yourself can be such a routine, mundane task.  But it doesn’t have to be.  In fact, it can be a way to capture your audience’s attention for the rest of your presentation.

To which of the following introductions would you be more likely to pay attention?

Example 1:

Example 2 (go ahead and check it out – even though the cover slide is the same, I promise there is different content underneath that cover slide):

In the second example, you’ll notice two strategies designed to hold the audience’s attention:

  1. Don’t just tell.  Tell a story.  It’s too easy to simply speak mindlessly about your topic, especially if you know it well. It’s more engaging if you can create a storyline for your audience to follow. In this example I teased my topic by dressing it up in three secrets. When I actually gave this talk, I was hoping to cash in on most people’s innate desire to be let in on another person’s secrets.
  2. Make the audience feel special. In this example, I was willing to share something with my audience that not even my wife knew about. I could actually see the audience’s eyes get bigger when they unexpectedly found that they were going to hear something so unique that not even my wife had heard before.

In his very entertaining book How To Be A Presentation God, Scott Schwertly repeatedly says that a presentation can change the world. I believe this to be true… as long as you’re able to get your audience to pay attention to your world changing thoughts.

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Say It, Don’t Display It

A skilled facilitator can strike a balance between the tasks that need to be accomplished in a session and the process it takes for learners to really “get it.” There are many ways to illustrate the task/process dynamic.  Here are two of them.  If you were in a training session, which of them would you prefer?

Option #1: Painting a Picture through Storytelling

A couple of years ago, I took a walk to our neighborhood park with my daughter.  We’d walked this route dozens of times since moving into the neighborhood, with one exception.  Normally, when “we” walked, I was actually doing the walking and my daughter hitched a ride in my backpack.  But on this day, my one and a half year old daughter seemed ready to try this on her own.

Normally, it would take about 15 minutes to walk to the park.  On this day, it took us 15 minutes to go three blocks.  Every time we saw a flower, she stopped.  Every time we saw a leaf, she stooped to pick it up.  Every time she found a rock that looked a little different, she put it in her pocket.  Or my pocket.  When she found a dandelion that had gone to seed, she gently brushed her hand over it and watched on with joy as the seeds floated away.

For the first several blocks, I tried to keep her moving along so that we could get to the park and have fun.  Once I even picked her up to keep her moving.  She screamed.  I put her back down.  As I watched her, I saw someone exploring a neighborhood full of flowers and leaves and rocks and dandelions for the first time in her life.  While I had long-since taken all of these things for granted, she was experiencing this walk under her own power for the first time.  I stopped trying to hurry her up and get to the park so we could have fun.  I was a bit nauseated to realize that the old cliché about it actually being about the journey, not necessarily the destination was actually more than a cliché.

It hit me all at once.  Watching my daughter, I learned a very important lesson about group facilitation.  Even though I may have talked about the topic many times and it’s long-since lost its novelty for me, when I train groups I need to keep in mind that they’re often experiencing the subject and content for the first time.  I need not hurry from point to point in order to tell them everything they need to know.  Rather, I need to give my learners adequate time to explore and play with the content.  I had a whole new respect for the task/process dynamic.

Option #2: PowerPoint

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Next slide please…

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Next slide please…

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Next slide please…

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Oops.  I think you went backwards.  Can you advance the slide, please…

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Next slide please…

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Next slide please…

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Next slide please…

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Why do presenters insist on burying some amazing stories underneath a pile of slides, generic templates, graphs and clipart?

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow” at the top of the page!