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7 storytelling tips to make your course impactful
Mar 29, 2023
Stories help the human brain connect with concepts that are otherwise difficult to unravel and retain. Is it any wonder that we turn to stories when trying to connect with a learner?
Stories to grab your learner’s attention.
Scene 1: A woman with silver streaked hair is busy typing at her desk. Suddenly the office door is pushed open by a young man.
The young man (Bjorn): Jessica! We need your help. I know you wanted to launch our product globally this quarter but we have a bottleneck.
Jessica: What! Bjorn, our investors and stakeholders expect us to go global this quarter. What’s the roadblock?
Bjorn: We did not consider a vital piece in our project plan. When we go global we will need to address currency conversion on a real-time basis. It looks like we’ll need to factor in the time to evaluate and enter into an agreement with a currency converter agency.
Think this is the beginning of a drama or an advertisement? Not exactly. This is the introductory script to a 45-minute course we developed for a large payment gateway company. The course and many like this are being developed to help sales, marketing and other related teams become well-versed in the company’s products.
Nothing grabs attention more than a narrative that plunges the audience right into a situation where the characters they empathise with are facing challenges and obstacles. The audience tends to live each step of the hero’s and heroine’s journey along with them. This in turn doubles the impact of the information embedded in the story and also increases retention. That’s why we use storytelling in more and more of the courses we build. From building an entire universe of characters embroiled in creating a social media analytics engine (that was for a 32-hour course in Data Science) to a 15-minute conversation between a merry mentor-mentee duo about the basics of time management, the courses we’ve built with stories interwoven into their fabric have been very impactful.
Here are a few tips if you are thinking of incorporating storytelling into your courses.
Identify the learning objectives and map out the learner persona
The first step before you sit down to craft your central storyline is to identify the learning objectives and learner persona. Imagine creating a storyline about the trials and tribulations a data engineer faces at work to then realise that the learning objectives are more suited for the trials and tribulations of an HR manager.
Create a universe of characters that are relatable
Make sure that the characters you create are relatable to your audience. If your course is designed for grass root level NGO workers in North Africa, the characters should live and breathe in the same environment. This makes the story more relatable. It becomes more impactful while increasing retention.
Refer to real examples
Learners relate better to examples from the real world. Make sure to weave many such references into your course. For example, you could point to the US subprime mortgage crisis to show how the financial crisis of a country could affect the whole world.
Pay attention to the tone and language used
Make sure that the scripts or voiceovers are conversational. Try to use language as close to that of your intended audience as possible. This becomes tricky when you are designing a course for an international audience. How we get around this is to use characters from around the world while incorporating as much of a local flavour as possible.
Mix and match multimedia elements
Your story need not be limited to videos. You can weave the narrative into other multimedia elements like infographics, audio bytes etc
Use sensory details
Make sure to add sensory details like sights, sounds and even smell when building the story. A description of the environment and characters makes it more tangible for the learner
Pepper the story with emotion
Emotions like surprise, humour and even angst evoke the empathy of the learner. As human beings, our brain registers events and facts that evoke an emotion. So the use of emotion helps the learner connect with the topic being discussed and helps them retain the information.
Embedding your course with a story that the learner can relate to makes creating the course a satisfying and enjoyable effort. It also significantly enhances the entire learning experience with increased engagement and retention.
Ready to take your learner on an immersive experience with your storytelling chops? Don’t forget to load the story with interesting twists and turns peppered with emotion and sensory details.