L&D Best Practices

Learner Marketing: how storytelling can boost learner engagement

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Storytelling and learner engagement

In our previous article about learner marketing, we explained how you can create a 360° communications strategy that puts learners at the heart of the learning process. Continuing this theme, we’re now going to look at storytelling and how it helps learners recall useful information. Mastering narrative is key if you want to grab your team members’ attention and engage them with inspiring learner experiences. Find out what storytelling is all about and how to use it effectively in your training programs.

Storytelling: Using marketing techniques in training

As children, we all loved stories by Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Perrault, and the Brothers Grimm. These stories never leave us. The authors skillfully employed narrative techniques that ingrained these tales into our memories forevermore. In learner marketing, storytelling taps into the same creative ideals. Communications and marketing professionals have long adapted these techniques to their industries for two purposes: First, they pique audience interest and capture attention (in this case, of learners), and secondly, they create a narrative thread that the human mind uses to weave together information.

In training, the use of storytelling to structure courses significantly increases learner engagement, attendance, and memory retention. Storytelling is a great mnemonic device. We all learned the order of the five lines on a musical treble stave in order from the bottom to the top: E, G, B, D, and F, by remembering this mnemonic phrase: “Every good boy deserves fudge”. Memory tricks like these help us remember words in the right order so that they stick in our minds because our childhood teachers presented them to us in fun and vivid ways. The same technique can be applied to adult learning, too!

Why do we use storytelling in training?

Grabbing people’s attention with meaningful stories

Storytelling is a way of anchoring lessons learned through training. Inspiration can come from real histories, people’s imaginations, or fictional stories. Don’t feel that you can’t use superheroes or dragons in your project, provided that you create a link between them and your training course. No matter the inspiration, the story you tell must follow a particular logic and narrative arc, as both essential to create suspense and spark desire and expectation. When your team members can imagine themselves in the story and identify with it, content becomes more playful and appealing, while still giving learners direction and consistency. Whether in face-to-face training or distance learning, instructors who combine theory with storytelling hold learners’ attention more successfully. Interestingly, it’s the story that sticks in learners’ mind, with the brain then pulling together the pieces of knowledge connected to the narrative.

Stirring emotion to prompt and encourage memory recall

The use of storytelling in your training sessions can also help to keep your staff engaged. The average adult attention span can plummet 80% in 10 minutes. Strive to cut disengagement by regularly stimulating learners during the course.

We now know that the brain remembers ideas better if they’re part of a narrative process, rather than presented as isolated facts. With storytelling, you can pair key points with seemingly trivial details to boost your team members’ memories. By using stories to draw on positive emotions, you can greatly increase learner memory recall.

Find out how to boost memorization through the use of blended learning combined with emotional anchors for maximum learner impact.

Storytelling checklist

If you know how to tell a story and contextualize your training, you can spark learner interest and boost engagement. Take a look at our learner marketing techniques to find out how to create successful training programs.