EventBuilder webinar strategies blog

10 tips for storytelling in the virtual classroom - part two

April 26 2012 / by Roger Courville

Guest-poster Angi Courville shares tips six through ten in this second of a two part series (part one is here). All the books consulted for these tips (and the webinar I delivered yesterday to 1000 people on story in the virtual classroom) are at the end.

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Familiarize yourself with some aspects unique to the virtual classroom

We’ve already touched on one aspect (length), but there are a couple of other considerations to keep in mind.

Does the story lend itself to graphic representation? You don’t necessarily have to use pictures, but you do want to make sure your story can be translated onto a slide or two.

Does the story suggest ways you can interact with attendees? If one of the cardinal rules of successful virtual training is audience interaction, look for stories, and places to insert stories, that seem naturally to invite participation. Can you associate it with a poll? Does it generate a helpful open-ended question? Be creative!

A few specifics on how - maybe you’ve heard this one:

“Tell them what you’re going to tell them; tell them; tell them what you told them.”

Let’s re-tool this for our purposes:

  • “Tell them what you’re going to tell them.”  When using story in your training, skip “And now I’d like to share a story about how this new widget has made my life easier” = audience nodding off. It IS useful to make a point and then deliver the story to illustrate that point. Lose the filler words.
  • “Tell them.” Try this: Pause, take a breath, and glide into the beginning of your story. You’ll build drama – and interest – even for a story as short as a simple example.
  • “Tell them what you told them.” Speakers and trainers usually believe the point of their story is crystal clear; the audience often does not. The best way to handle the dilemma is by what Wacker and Silverman call “debriefing.” Immediately follow your story with interactivity or discussion to draw out the point, or simply (re-)state the point yourself.

Write out stories ahead of time, then practice effectively

Have you ever sat through a bungled joke or anecdote? Spare yourself and your audience the embarrassment and write out your stories ahead of time.

Most of us write using a different “voice” than when we speak. Since you’ll be telling the story, write it out in conversational tone. Then practice. Record yourself, listen, learn…and practice some more. (W/S: 46-47)

Another tip: Wacker and Silverman recommend memorizing the beginning and ending lines of the story, and all dialogue.

Story is performance art. Choose one or two aspects of the art storytelling to master rather than trying to become an instant expert

Even in the virtual classroom, there are numerous skills involved in performing a story well. You might not have to worry about physical body language, but there are plenty of other writing and delivery techniques to consider.

Rather than overwhelming yourself by trying to learn them all at once, choose one or two at a time to master. Some of these include:

  • Word choice (selecting vocabulary that paints a picture)
  • Tone of voice
  • Volume
  • Inflection
  • Rhythm
  • Pacing (and the use of the pregnant pause)
  • Spontaneity (or the appearance thereof)

As you work to master the art of storytelling, you begin to develop your own unique voice…which eventually becomes an integral piece of your online identity.

“The best storytellers do not try to master story, but rather drink from the river of story and encourage others to drink” (Simmons)

Your goal as a trainer is to excite and inspire, not to off-load data. Help your audience internalize – and act on – your information by tying it to emotion. Story bridges that gap between fact and experience.

Story resources consulted for these tips and my webinar:

Crossley, Michele; Introducing Narrative Psychology; 2000

Denning, Stephen; The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative; 2005

Duarte, Nancy; Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences; 2010

Frank, Milo O.; How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less; 1986

Haven, Kendall; Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story; 2007

Haven, Kendall & Ducey, MaryGay; Crash Course in Storytelling; 2007

Heath, Chip & Heath, Dan; Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die; 2007

McKee, Robert; Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting; 1997

Parkin, Margaret; Tales for Change: Using Storytelling to Develop People and Organizations; 2010

Pink, Daniel H.; Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us; 2009

Silverman, Lori; Wake Me Up When the Data Is Over: How Organizations Use Stories to Drive Results; 2006

Simmons, Annette; The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling; 2006

Wacker, Mary B. & Silverman, Lori L.; Stories Trainers Tell: 55 Ready-to-Use Stories to Make Training Stick; 2003

Topics: Content

Roger Courville

Written by Roger Courville

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