Learning & Development

Ask the Trainer: Storytelling During Training

A:  Stories help learners remember key points from training sessions, reinforce the content, and help new trainers feel more poised and comfortable, says Mark Satterfield, founder and CEO of Gentle Rain Marketing, LLC (www.GentleRainMarketing.com), and author of Unique Sales Stories: How to Persuade Others Through the Power of Stories.

“People remember stories,” he says. “People are not necessarily going to remember the five key characteristics of great leaders, but they are likely to remember a story about how Sam turned around a manufacturing organization by motivating his employees through various means.”

However, to be effective, a story must be connected to the training topic and be told well. A poorly told story will either “bore the audience or leave them scratching their heads,” Satterfield says.

“Storytelling is a skill, and I think that virtually anybody can learn to tell stories,” he continues. “You know you have a good one when someone can repeat it.”

Satterfield advises against developing stories “on the fly.” Instead, he recommends creating a repertoire of stories related to your topic.

He identifies five components of an effective story: (1) introduction of the character(s) and discussions of (2) the problem, (3) the consequences (i.e., why the problem is important), (4) available options, and (5) solutions/results. It is important to develop all components, but you might have time to share only certain ones during training.

“Preparation is key,” Satterfield says. Verbalizing your stories in advance will help you present them better and help you catch yourself if you stray from your main points during training. You do not have to practice verbalizing your stories in front of a group, but if you do and “if you get feedback, that’s a bonus.”

Using stories at the two most important moments in training—the beginning and end—helps learners remember training content, he says. Leading off with a story helps engage learners. “You will visually see your audience become attentive and relaxed.” Ending with a story provides an opportunity to summarize the main takeaways.