How creative storytelling can increase learner retention

Title image - How creative storytelling can increase user interest and retention

How creative storytelling can increase learner retention

Matt Archer

March 25, 2021

Storytelling quote

Tell a Story, Inspire an Idea

Storytelling ideasSome people love to learn, but for others it’s a struggle they endure because they’re required to. Those who struggle may not gain nearly the same benefit of the learning as those who are enjoying themselves. What if there was a way to help inspire more people to enjoy the training and gain a deeper understanding of the subject-matter being taught? Storytelling is one of the best methods to do just that.

Many people experience stories every day, from reading a news article, to watching their favorite TV show, to hearing about their friend’s day, to diving into their favorite novel. The reason people engage with those stories is often because they’re interested in being entertained, educated, or both.

“Magnetic resonance images (MRIs) of the brain show that stories light up regions of the brain associated with motion and action.”[1] This means that people become more engaged and want to do something when they hear stories. This in turn can help people stay focused on the story instead of tuning out. If we carry that logic forward, it makes sense to introduce stories into training design, where the ultimate goal is to educate learner, which requires them to pay attention to and understand the desired subject-matter.

Why is Storytelling Important?

Storytelling rouletteA lot of training is dry and boring. It’s often stuffed full of facts, statistics, bullet points, buzzwords and clichés. People generally don’t find that type of presentation entertaining, and often start to tune out what is being said, even if it’s very important to know.

But what if the narrative shifts to someone talking about John from Finance winning big at the casino after betting all his money on Red? Suddenly people’s ears perk up because it’s something interesting and they want to know more. It’s the beginning of the story.

The goal of incorporating storytelling into training design is to combine the educational portions required by the training together with a story that is relevant and interesting. If it’s an entertaining story, you’re likely to increase learner interest because they want to know what happens next, so they’ll pay more attention to the content. If the story is relevant to the topic at hand, learners may find it easier to understand to the process being taught as well.

Recommended Storytelling Mediums

There are many ways to tell a story, and some may work better for your team than others. Below are some popular mediums to tell a story while still focusing on training on your processes.


Most people consume video content via TV, movies or streams on a regular basis. They’re used to watching this medium but usually choose to watch in order to be entertained. Videos can be a great way to tell a story and provide useful training, but it’s important to find a balance of both.

We recommend creating videos of 3-5 minutes in length that provide examples of the concept you’re teaching in a story format. If possible, find a real life example of the concept and walk through the scenario someone might actually encounter, using overlays or other callouts as needed to provide useful context to the story you’re telling.


Storytelling narration

Audio narration can be a great way to tell stories and educate learners. Stories have been relayed over the radio for decades, and many people listen to podcasts, which by design are supposed to be part educational and part entertaining.

We recommend sprinkling in shorter audio clips that contain enough information to tell a story while educating the learner. This format tends to work better for general concepts instead of step-by-step instructions, as it allows the learner’s creative side and imagination to take over.

The big difference between audio and video storytelling is the need to be more cognizant about how you describe the scene, due to lack of visual aids.  This can be beneficial, as the learner can envision the scene as it makes the most sense to them, without needing to be constrained by your own vision of the scenario that would be presented via video.


Choosing the right images can evoke all kinds of reactions from people. Images that hold a commonly understood meaning, such as those often focused in memes allow you to say a lot with a single picture.

There are many ways to use images in your training, but one powerful method is to provide an image that evokes the type of feeling you wish an audience to experience as you tell your story, which can help get them in the right frame of mind for when you deliver the educational content.

Interactive Elements

Interactive content by definition requires the learner to do something more than sit back and watch. It may be as simple as answering a quiz question, or more complex like solving a puzzle. It keeps the learner engaged with the training in order to move forward.

This medium can allow you to weave the content into a journey where the learner chooses their own path, and the story will unfold differently depending on their choices, but always provides the appropriate education on the subject-matter.


Telling a story through text is usually a great idea, but when you’re training around a process, especially in a corporate world that is already inundated text communication, it’s often best to use it sparingly as a complement to other mediums. Choose your text wisely and sprinkle in only what’s needed to provide a quick summary or overview of the content.


Final Thoughts

Positive Results™ is a training development and cloud solutions company that helps organizations analyze their business processes and solve for any gaps we find through training development and tools implementation. We believe in the power of storytelling because great stories generate interest, and when you can channel that interest into your learning, your results are going to improve.


If you have additional questions or need support, contact us at:


Positive Results™ Custom Business Solutions




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