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The Power Of Story Telling In Business

President Of TrainSmart, Inc.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

After several days of sitting through leadership workshops, many participants will tell you their brains are on information overload.  So many new facts! Unfortunately, participants rarely remember those facts once they go back to work.

While there is debate about the validity of the popular quote, “ You remember 10% of what you read, 20 % of what you hear…” there is no debate whether people remember emotional events.

Ask anyone who was alive in 1963 and they can tell you in great detail what they were doing and feeling when they heard that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. For students in 1986 who were glued to the TV as the Challenger launched, they too can tell you what they were doing as the spaceship exploded. And just saying September 11, 2001 evokes detailed memories for a nation.

Why do we remember emotional events more than facts and figures? It has to do with the way our brains are wired.

When we listen to a PowerPoint presentation with the standard bullet points, a certain part of our brain – the language processing part – activates.  The job of that part of the brain is to decode the words we hear, to see and give them meaning. Unfortunately, that’s all that happens. As a result, that information is not retained.

On the other hand, when we hear a story, not only are the language processing parts of the brain activated, another part of the brain is activated. In fact, when we hear a story our brain processes the information as if we, not the storyteller, were experiencing the events in the story.

When this happens our entire brain is activated and engaged, creating a conducive learning environment.

What kinds of stories are appropriate in a workshop/training setting? Start with ones that demonstrate a Universal truth – something that is widely understood regardless of age, gender, or culture. Success. Failure. Fear. Happiness.

Universal truth stories are widely understood because they share widely understood beliefs, values or situations.  A Universal Truth story creates a successful learning experience because it can connect the dots between the facts that participants need and their emotions.

Stories do not have to take a lot of time. After all, Ernest Hemmingway six word story remains a classic, evoking haunting emotion and sadness. “For sale Baby shoes, never worn.”

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Leslie has over 25 years experience in the training industry. Her responsibilities have included sales, hands on management and software training, curriculum development, needs analysis, usability testing, and project management. Her strong training background, organizational skills, and exceptional development expertise, augment her extensive sales and marketing abilities.