Skillsoft Blog

The Art of Storytelling

By Kevin Young

Once upon a time there was a disgruntled employee who fell asleep for 100 years during a PowerPoint training session. Sound familiar? Remarkably so if you’re the one trying to teach your workforce new skills using the same tired methods.

Sadly, this type of training experience isn’t unusual for many of today’s workers, who often leave a session feeling drained and having retained very little. When choosing a training provider, business leaders often get caught up in thinking about what is included in the course, rather than the delivery of the information itself, which is just as important.

So when looking for options to refresh your training programme, why not consider the age-old concept of storytelling? Here are my top tips for a happily ever after…

Don’t bombard your employees

Storytelling is a proven way for information to be remembered and easily absorbed by employees, who realistically may already be on the verge of an overload. Whether it’s through a role-play, an executive sharing their experiences on video or animated videos depicting a situation, providing story-based elements in a training programme is both appealing and impactful.

Create the perfect story

There are five key elements involved in telling an engaging story. Firstly, the style of the overall story should be taken into consideration. Keep speech casual, as if you were speaking to a friend. Learners are more keen to listen to someone speak if their style of speech is friendly and upbeat. Prepare, but don’t sound too rehearsed. Aim to keep speech light-hearted and make it sound spontaneous and free-flowing. Lastly, keep it simple; be short, sweet and impactful. Choose a single message, phrase or theme that you are trying to convey and reinforce it.

The personal touch

Learners are more inclined to remember anecdotes, personal histories and analogies than charts, statistics and line graphs. It is easier for staff to become overwhelmed with facts and figures on every slide than during an engaging or even exciting story. Make your story stand out with a touch of personality in a bite-sized form. Training your employees is an important part of business and it doesn’t have to be a hassle. If done correctly, many of the students will enjoy the experience, and more importantly, apply what they have learnt to their personal role.

Practice makes perfect

The art of storytelling is just that, an art. It requires practice and the ability to paint a picture for an audience using words alone. Some may find that this skill comes naturally, but it is possible to practice and transform yourself into a seasoned storyteller.  It is a skill worth acquiring that will ultimately be beneficial to your employees and company as a whole.

The right mix of training

As a business owner, you should be aware that employees will have different, preferred ways of learning. While storytelling can rejuvenate a face-to-face training session, other learners may benefit from a blended learning solution. A mix of traditional classroom training, which allows for interaction between students and includes the social aspect of learning, might be beneficial alongside a tailored e-learning solution.

There is a reason why storytelling has been around for centuries – it works. If your training programme is looking for a boost, then try incorporating storytelling into your blended learning solution.

Kevin Young is SkillSoft managing director, EMEA, based in the UK.

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