We are curious people, primed for stories – it’s in our DNA. A good story grabs us at the very beginning and holds us. They begin with a punch, create a sense that things are not as they seem, and that consequences are imminent. We crave anticipation; it keeps us invested. The reason? Dopamine. Our pleasure/reward system is activated. It is exhilarating. And, it creates an investment in what happens next.
So, we know we love stories and that there’s some brain science behind it. Additionally, stories are more easily remembered than other forms of information. It makes sense that there is growing interest (and research) in how best to apply story-telling techniques in a learning context.
How to Apply Storytelling Techniques in Learning
1. Begin with Gusto and Get to the Point
It doesn’t take us long to quickly assess whether we want to invest our time in something. When flipping channels, TV remote in hand, we may only pause a moment. A split second decision is made about whether we’re in or we’re moving on. If your courses is mandatory, your Learners likely have no choice in whether they ‘tune in’ to ‘the program’. But, they will apply the same discriminatory technique – scanning for what is relevant, important, and engaging. To grab their immediate attention, cut the clutter. Keep the content minimal and specific to only what is necessary. Then, present it with interest.
2. Give it Some Consequence
Stories…, well they make great stories. They are wonderful opportunities to experience what could happen if we did the opposite of what we should do. We accompany the protagonist facing his or her challenges as if they are our own, sharing in the experience, and learning from the consequences. Through story, we make sense of our world.
As Writer Lisa Cron explains: “Stories allow us to simulate intense experiences without actually having to live through them.”
3. Surprise Them
We like to push buttons – not literally, but we find that people enjoy and respond to training when we elicit an emotional reaction. Especially in eLearning, it’s important to ‘humanize’ the experience. Unexpected humour, showing multiple perspectives on the same issue, presenting a situation from an opposing view – there are many ways to break the monotony and shake things up; chances are your Learners will appreciate it.
Bonus Tip: Once you’ve got the Learner’s attention – don’t lose them with excess. But, don’t give it all away either… at least not all at once. Provide enough interest to compel them to continue through to the end.
Create bite-size learning. Those who want to binge, will do so. Others may prefer to return again and as a result find it more palatable.