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Purposeful storytelling or artful engagement?

I recently received the March issue of Inc. magazine. In it, there were many examples of engaging the audience with a story. I enjoyed reading Jason Fried’s article entitled “How to Get Good at Making Money.”

Of course, I was drawn to his article on the title alone; however, I was immediately hooked by his story about learning to play drums. Not because I want to play drums, but because it was a story about learning something new and I was able to relate.

Later in the article, Fried continued by describing his entrance into the work force at age 14. Again, as an Avon lady at age 13, I could connect with him and wanted to read more. Now, I am not Jason Fried, but because of the engaging way he started his Get Real column, I was ready to read and learn.

Also in this issue was the March 2011: Spotlight on Communication in which Peter Buber wrote about the power of purposeful storytelling. Peter, a Hollywood producer and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, was talking about his new book, Tell To Win.

In this short Q&A section, Peter describes how successful business people use storytelling to engage their audience. Depending on your objectives and your audience, storytelling gives you the ability to connect and engage. If this occurs, changed behavior can follow.

No, I am not a marketer of Inc. magazine, but these stories are helping me to enunciate the importance of purposeful storytelling and the impact storytelling has on our business at Maestro. At Maestro, we want to engage our learners—make that, our customers’ learners.

We engage them in a variety of ways, including great-looking design that provides greater learner buy-in, solid learning checks that test learners’ knowledge in a meaningful way and opportunities for application so learners have the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned. But before all of this occurs, a strong foundation of instructional design must be laid.

In this process, our very talented instructional designers digest client materials, making sure they account for all of the facts. After corralling this data in an outline and assessing the assets, they begin to craft the story.

For example, in a new safety module series that we are currently working on with one of our client partners, we had to make an important choice. Option one was to take the safety facts and compile them in a module so learners could be checked off the list as having completed their required annual safety module.

Option two? Tell a compelling story (or series of them) that would evoke an emotional response and lead learners to make better choices. (See case study.) We wanted our client, in this case Dannon, to have the best results possible with these modules. Therefore, we took the time to create compelling stories and engage the learners.

“What’s the objective?” is often heard around our office. And although such sharing may not be appropriate for every learning experience, maybe we should get used to also asking, “What’s the story?”

Jen Randall

There’s no one better at anticipating and meeting needs. Words like driven, thoughtful, genuine, loving and empathic give you an id…

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