At the recent American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) 2014 International Conference and Exposition—at which the Society changed its name to the “Association for Talent Development” (ATD)—father and son team, Gerry Beamish of Beamish Associates and Jonathan Beamish of Accenture, presented an informative program, “Cave Wall to Internet: Storytelling, the Ancient Learning Art.”
They listed several objectives that storytelling can achieve. For example, stories can:
- Expand awareness
- Pose questions
- Set out visions
- Illustrate values in action
- Convey empathy
- Ease or resolve conflict
When you design your training, therefore, consider what your objectives are. If you’re trying to achieve any of the above goals, using a story at that point in your training might be a good idea.
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Craft Your Story
In order for stories to be effective in training they must be carefully chosen and specifically crafted. Three points are key here:
- Know your audience.
- Tell stories that are relevant—to your audience and the topic.
- Short stories are better than long stories.
Common sense explains the first two points. As to the last point, realize that today’s Internet- and social media-connected employees have short attention spans. It’s not just the younger generation either.
Largely because of technology, our culture as a whole moves faster and is less patient than even a few decades ago. Watch movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age in the 30s, 40s, and 50s or shows from TV’s Golden Age in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and compare them to today’s fast-paced movies and TV shows.
Another reason to keep your stories short, in addition to relating to modern sensibilities, is that long stories may end up distracting employees from the actual training topic, and you may lose their attention and engagement if they lose the relevance of the story to the training.
Here are three practical criteria to apply to any story you are considering using in your training. Do your stories:
- Engage the audience?
- Relate to the training situation?
- Connect to your learning objectives?
Storytelling is a useful training technique when used appropriately in a targeted way. By developing the ability to craft well-tuned stories, you can ensure that your training programs will live happily ever after.
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