Technology has transformed the ancient art of storytelling into a new form with even greater impact. Aside from traditional storytelling, narratives are also woven into digitalized and self-directed experiences, merging the roles between storytellers and their audience.
Lance Weiler — a pioneer in mixing storytelling and technology — pointed out that constructing modern-age storytelling is “to build upon the foundation of arts, humanities, and technology, but to never lose sight of the power of a good story.” While the core elements that make storytelling impactful aren’t changing, they certainly evolve along with humans.
In the novel East of Eden, John Steinbeck wrote: “If a story is not about the hearer, [they] will not listen. The strange and foreign is not interesting, only the deeply personal and familiar.” In a world full of information, every story you tell must resonate with the learners and create an emotional connection. To identify your learners and their underlying needs, you need to welcome the empathetic mindset. Start by seeking the answers to what motivates them, what changes their behaviors, and what urges them to act. Then, leverage data and analytics to amplify the power of your learner research. Whatever the story, learners need to see themselves in it to believe its value.
Once you know the learners’ identities, the next step is to brainstorm your big idea — the hook, the goal, and the purpose of your story. Discover the impact you’re trying to achieve and make it a common thread throughout. Inspiring people toward change means you need to share a clear and consistent call to action. The modern learner is “overwhelmed, distracted, and impatient,” so stick with one memorable message. Bombarding them with too much information won’t drive them toward the desired behaviors and outcomes.
Map out the learning journey and the best approach to bring in storytelling. Is the journey built entirely on a quest plot or is it a series of voyages and returns, each time with new knowledge and skills? Do you consider a seamless end-to-end simulation or a collaborative capstone project with different heroes and villains? The first step is to plan your story's start, middle, and end. Then, determine the conflict and how your learning events can inform or drive the story forward.
When setting up the story, allow learners room for decision-making and learning from the consequences of their decisions. Think of Netflix interactive specials — a form of immersive digital storytelling—as an example of learners writing their own stories.
With all the storytelling elements laid out, it’s time to experiment with the media. Tell your story in different formats. Does it work best with digital platforms such as slide presentations, vILT, or eLearning? How about physical spaces like in-person training or field trips? Will you push boundaries and morph your story into the world of extended reality? With the eruption of venues in which stories can be told, forms can make or break an experience.
Modern storytelling utilizes integrated media as a tool of expression and allows our stories to be experienced not only through traditional but also disruptive channels. Prototyping ideas is a sure way to get your story out of your head and into the hands of others for feedback and buy-in. Remember to experiment, build, share, and reflect.
The final step is to embrace the ‘be inspiring’ mindset. Use a creative and appropriate tone to motivate your audience toward action. Urge them to get out there and change the world. When it comes to effective communication, the tone is everything. Speak thoughtfully from your heart to theirs.
Impactful storytelling, in any age, is both an art and a science of inspiring people and changing their behaviors. “While the story remains the same, the telling is shifting.” As L&D professionals, you have the ability to harness the power of storytelling, modernize it, and turn it into a force for change.
Interested in learning more about storytelling as a learning strategy? Reach out to one of our Ardent experts today.