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

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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.
Read: Discover the Secrets that Make the Story-Based Lesson Tick
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 Use 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?
Read: Provoking Learners with Story Questions
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.
Read: The Brain and The Stories We Tell: Top Reasons Why Stories Change Our Behavior
3 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?
Read: Create Memorable Story-based Test Questions


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.

Related Tips

Tip #20 – Weaving Stories and Factual Content for Seamless Lessons
Tip #28 – Create Memorable Story-based Test Questions
Tip #42 – Provoking Learners with Story Questions
Tip #55 – Discover the Secrets that Make the Story-Based Lesson Tick
Tip #59 – The Brain and The Stories We Tell: Top Reasons Why Stories Change Our Behavior


Aaker, Jennifer. Harnessing the Power of Stories
Tip #3 – Are you a Master Storyteller Trainer and Designer?
Brown, Heather. Good Question: Why Are Our Kids Obsessed With ‘Frozen’? CBS Minnesota, May 20, 2014
Tip #86 – Is your content out of context or in context?
Reamy, Tom. Imparting knowledge through storytelling, Part 2. KMWorld, July/Aug 2002 [Volume 11, Issue 7]

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”