Saturday, January 28, 2017

Content That Lives Within a Story Lasts Forever - Tip #118

Stories can touch our whole being—our thoughts, imagination, emotions, and spirit. Emotionally gripping stories have a way of sticking to our memories for a long, long time. Jennifer Aaker, a professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, says that people remember stories “up to 22 times more than facts alone.”

Read: Weaving Stories and Factual Content for Seamless Lessons

While a story per se is a powerful instructional tool, its power to move the listener emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally largely depends on how the storyteller narrates it. The following tips are helpful.

1. Choose details that reflect your listeners’ emotions and experiences

Excite the emotions of the listeners, whether this be love, anger or grief. Why are children obsessed with the movie “Frozen”? It’s the intense emotional impact. “The message that ‘Frozen’ sends about love, and love being such a strong kind of "conquering all" message resonates with all ages,” said Amy Susman-Stillman, a mother of three and co-director of the Center for Early Education and Development at the University of Minnesota.

Show a story that has relevance to your listeners. What specific concepts do you want to drive home? Are your listeners factory workers, organizational leaders, health personnel or government employees? Contextualizing the story makes it more meaningful.

2. Hook your listeners

Start your elearning lessons or online session with a story to grab your listeners' attention. Ask them questions, even if these are hypothetical ones.

Examples would be:
  • What would you do to get that promotion?
  • What if you consistently didn’t reach your sales quota?
  • What would you do to improve your production?

3. Activate as many senses as possible

Our brains “work better when more than one sensory channel is activated by incoming stimuli” (Tom Reamy, 2002). Let your story come alive and awaken learners’ imagination so that they can feel, smell, taste, and hear the things around them as if they are the characters themselves. Digital media can capture the richness of stories but don’t forget that your voice, words, eyes, and actions are all integral elements that can make the story fascinating and understandable.

4. Invite learners to interact and share

Encourage learners to offer solutions to the problem. Provoke critical thinking by asking questions such as: 
  • How will you resolve the conflict between characters A and B?
  • Which part of the story affects you most? Why?
  • Which character do you admire most? Why?


Because we see ourselves in the characters of stories, we get emotionally and intellectually involved in the events and the knowledge that the story intends to transmit persists in our memories forever.


Brown, Heather. Good Question: Why Are Our Kids Obsessed With ‘Frozen’? CBS Minnesota, May 20, 2014
Reamy, Tom. Imparting knowledge through storytelling, Part 2. KMWorld, July/Aug 2002 [Volume 11, Issue 7]

Related Tips

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

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