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.

I like to think of building a story like building a set of stairs that lead to the lesson or objective of the story. A graphical representation of the stair analogy looks something like this.

storytelling structure

Let’s take a look at each step in the storytelling structure in more detail.

1. Protagonist Background

Start the story with the background of the protagonist where people have the opportunity to find a connection by eliciting emotions. We care about the characters in the story if we understand what brought them to the place where we start the story. It is important not to give too much away early in the story. A good story builds.

2. Set the Hook

Setting the hook early in a story is a technique that draws us in and usually involves the flaw of the character. The best characters are flawed in some way. Achilles is much more interesting because of his vulnerable heel.

3. Inciting Incident

All good stories have an action that triggers the events that follow. During the inciting incident, your protagonist ends up in a sticky situation and most stories follow linearly from this point.

4. Barrier

As the protagonist works towards his or her goal, they should encounter conflict. Stories need conflict to keep our attention.

5. Another Barrier

The more drama, the more we care about the outcome. A minimum of two barriers should happen in every good story.

6. Moment of Truth

The moment where the lesson is learned. This is best if it is an unpredictable moment. Everyone loves a good twist.

7. Closing

What did the protagonist learn during the story? The closing drives home the point of the story.

Do you use storytelling as a part of your training? How do you structure a story? I’d love to hear about it in the chat below.

4 thoughts on “Storytelling: Structuring a Training Story

  1. Hi Brian: Thanks for the detailed recap how to craft an effective story.

    I like to do the following: Be Brief. Be Specific. Be Relevant.

    Make the story no more than 2 minutes. This will keep the audience engaged.

    Start by placing yourself in the middle of the action. Tell the audience where you were and what were you doing. This makes the story real.

    End with a call to action. Tell the audience what the point of the story is. This makes the story relevant.

    • Thanks Theresa,
      Yes, being brief and relevant is important. Like video, keeping it under two minutes to avoid engagement decay really helps participants.

  2. I often open trainings with 2 – 3 true, topic-related stories that I tell right up to their crisis points. Then I ask if my audience can relate. This usually gets their attention and I get lots of head nodding, smiles or call outs. Then I share the intended outcome of the training and ask them to set a goal for the day related to their own scary, topic-related story for which they’d like to create a better ending. Next I promise to share the story endings throughout the day as we explore the strategies that helped to resolve the crises in these stories. Folks always enjoy hearing the story endings and are able to identify the strategies from training that show up in their resolution. Finally I invite them to create a plan for how they might use these strategies to resolve the issue and change the ending in their own related stories.

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