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How to Use the Power of Stories in Training

Posted by Linda Carole Pierce on 7/1/13 4:00 AM
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Stories seep into our lives daily. I recently had dinner with friends and we found ourselves riveted by the story of one of our friends’ recent trip to Russia and how she reconnected to her roots. But it was not just the content that was profound; it was her ability to tell the story. I was so consumed by her story, that I realized how we all are impacted by stories on a daily basis.


There is no news without a story, no TV and film without good stories, and no fairy tales without the story. Upon reflection I realized how much I love to tell stories in my training programs and how it adds to the success of my classes. Some of my favorite memories as a learner were the insightful stories shared in the classroom from either the instructor or participants. Therefore, it is my belief that good training should consist of good storytelling!


Novice trainers often feel they lack experience and do not have any stories to share. I believe we all have life experiences that we can weave into a story and connect it to the content. I have different stories for different courses. One of my favorite stories is about my grandmother trying to encourage me to eat okra when I was a young child. If you have ever seen okra you know that, when cooked, it has a slimy appearance which isn’t very appealing. One day after some bribery, I took the bait and tried it. I remember being pleasantly surprised and to this day I love okra, particularly my grandmother’s recipe which includes tomatoes. Now you may be wondering, “What does okra have to do with training?” I use this story when I anticipate push back from the participants. I use it to highlight the benefits and to encourage participants to keep an open mind and to think outside the box. This three-minute story allows me to have a positive eight-hour day.


Training should not just be about delivering facts. Storytelling in training allows us to connect to the learner on an emotional level. Studies have shown that learners comprehend and retain more through stories. Therefore, we should weave stories into the instructional design and delivery of all of our courses. In an upcoming blog, I will discuss some tips on how to tell a story effectively, considering that most trainers are operating under tight time constraints.


In the meantime, I would love to hear how you use stories in your training!

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Linda has been a course leader with Langevin since 2005. She graduated from New York University with a degree in Organizational Behavior and Communication. She’s also had the privilege of teaching at NYU’s Gallatin Division in the area of Theatre and Education. Linda began her career facilitating conflict resolution and coexistence workshops for diverse groups, and running workshops in the Middle East and South Africa, as well as facilitating social issues workshops for young people in the NYC school system. Linda believes learning works best when it is student-centered, experiential, interactive, and fun. Outside of the classroom, you’ll find Linda at the theatre, either as an audience member or actor, or spending quality time with her family and friends.

Topics: tips-for-trainers, instructional design

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