Storytelling – Part 4

The goal of stories is to connect with an audience emotionally in order to entertain, build personal relationships, illustrate a point, relay information, or move someone to action.

Rance Greene

In my previous post in this series on storytelling, I attempted to simplify the process of writing a story that could potentially be powerful in the context of training by looking at the structure of a story. As I was looking further into this, I started to think about novels or movies that don’t seem to flow and it makes sense to me that this may be because they didn’t get the story structure quite right.


How you build a narrative and what you include will determine how effective your story will be at accomplishing its goal. There seems to be a lot of conflicting information out there about the difference between plot, structure and story. Basically, from what I can determine:

  • Plot is what happens
  • Structure is the strategic sequence
  • Story combines plot and structure with artistry and is how you influence your audience’s experience

At its most basic level, a story is a transformation of a situation or a character unveiled. The beginning, middle and end of a story that I talked about in my previous post in this series can be further defined as being an origination, an escalation of conflict, and a resolution.

The beginning – the emotionally engaging originating event
The middle – the natural and causally related consequence
The end – the inevitable conclusive event

But is there more to designing truly effective training using storytelling?

Is it enough to understand the goal of storytelling, how to build a narrative, and what elements to include to make sure storytelling is effective in the context of training – or is there more to designing truly effective training using storytelling?

I’m going to leave you with that question for the time being, and digress slightly to cover briefly the different types of storytelling.

Oral Storytelling

Telling a story through voice and gestures is one of the oldest forms of storytelling. It’s a way for real people to tell stories from their own lives. In the context of learning, oral storytelling continues to flourish worldwide as a powerful pedagogical tool that enhances recall, retention, application of concepts into new situations, understanding and learner enthusiasm for the subject matter.

Visual Storytelling

From ancient cave drawings to the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt, visual storytelling has evolved through modern mediums that offer powerful ways for storytellers to communicate.

Written Storytelling

Originating thousands of years ago, writing changed the course of storytelling and has become indispensable within modern society.

Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling combines the art of storytelling with digital technology and is the most recent and fast-evolving form of storytelling. It has the ability to more fully enrich the experience of informing, enlightening and entertaining using multimedia tools to help an audience connect to a narrative emotionally, which makes digital stories ideal for training purposes.

With the increase in digital story creation and sharing using modern technology, there seems to be some confusion around what digital storytelling is, or more precisely, is not. In this context, I recently came across this list, written by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano which I found to be very enlightening:

Digital storytelling:

  • is NOT about the tools… but IS about the skills…
  • is NOT about creating media, but IS about creating meaning…
  • is NOT only about telling a story, but IS about contributing and collaborating with others…
  • is NOT about telling an isolated story… but IS about sharing and connecting experiences and perspectives to a community…
  • is NOT only about the transfer of knowledge… but IS about the amplification of our voices…
  • is NOT about substituting analogue stories… but IS about transforming stories…
  • is NOT just a story told, created or published on a digital platform.

I’ve always believed that we should be developing digital content ‘worthy of engagement’. In my quest to develop engaging learning experiences for an audience, this list of Silvia’s really resonated with me and will be a useful reference as I continue to explore why we should be using digital storytelling for training.

In my next post in this series, I’m going to look at why employee training is so important, and how I believe we can use digital storytelling to truly engage, influence and inspire an audience.

Published by Dianne Hope

Making e-Learning a better experience

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