Crucial Skills®

A Blog by Crucial Learning

Trainer Insights

The Gift of Stories: How to Enhance Your Training with Storytelling

Imagine you have been presented with the opportunity to choose between two gifts. Both are in a box of the same shape and size. The first gift is perfectly wrapped with your favorite color of wrapping paper. The ends are joined precisely, creating square and clean edges. And it is finished with a threaded gold ribbon that has been tied into an evenly trimmed bow. Much thought, care, and attention has been offered to wrap this gift.

The second gift, on the other hand, is wrapped with crinkled newspaper. The edges are uneven, and there appears to be more tape than paper. Which gift will you choose? Psychologically, you may be torn. What does the effort of wrapping suggest about the contents of the gift? What does it say about the giver? Does presentation matter?

I recently read a University of Nevada study which reported that when presenting a gift to close friends or loved ones, presentation does not matter. The strength of the relationship allows the receiver to see beyond the wrapping and focus on the gift itself and the intention of the giver. With acquaintances, however, the wrapping is a cue to how the gift giver sees the relationship. A neatly wrapped present sends a powerful message.

As a facilitator, one of the greatest gifts you can give learners is the gift of stories. Inserting storytelling into training design adds interest and relevancy. It offers learners the opportunity to see the principles and skills taught in a real-world setting. Keep in mind that your learners are acquaintances, so how you package a story will determine its effectiveness and impact.

Consider the stories you share as gifts to help make learning real. The content of the gift is the actual story itself. It’s what you want to share. Make sure it matches the content of the learning. Make sure it fits and is in line with what you are teaching in your course.

The box is the context or background to the story. Often when telling a story, we may give too little background or context, and this makes it difficult for the learner to follow.  On the flipside, we are often tempted to share too much, adding unnecessary and frivolous detail to set up the story. Like a box too big for the gift itself, this can overwhelm the learners and cause the purpose of the story to be lost. As a rule, the more content you are sharing, the bigger the box that is required. Be careful not to make the box too big.

Remember that presentation matters through to the end. The wrapping paper and bow represent the big idea or lesson learned. It’s important that we wrap up stories and complete the gift by clearly connecting the story to what we want them to learn. Make sure you finish the gift in a way that allows the learners to connect lessons to their lives and realities.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Robert McKee: “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas in the world today.” Storytellers offer gifts that enhance training and foster learning application. As you add stories to your training, strive to present them well, use them intentionally and sparingly, and offer them freely.

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