instructional storytelling
ATD Blog

Ask a Trainer: How Do I Connect Stories to Training?

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

In this week’s Ask a Trainer guest post, Rance Greene, author of Instructional Story Design: Develop Stories That Train, explains how trainers can choose instructional stories.

Dear Rance,

I work in a role where I am responsible for designing and delivering training. Often I tell stories when I’m training—usually off-the-cuff ones based on my experiences. The stories usually go over well and seem to help the learners feel engaged and connected to the content. I would like to expand on this storytelling by developing longer stories at the design stage of the training. I’m now training on subjects I don’t have much direct experience with, so these would need to be fictional stories, not ones based on my own life. I’m not sure where to start. How do I choose a good story, and how do I connect it to what I’m training on?

Stories in and of themselves are tools of self-discovery that can be so powerful for training professionals. There are many types of stories: they can be fictional or nonfictional, and they can include case studies and even metaphors, which are wonderful when you’re explaining a concept that is entirely fresh and new and that people have no context for. Using a metaphor makes a connection by relating something they are familiar with to something they are unfamiliar with.

My best advice in selecting a story is to have a solid knowledge of who your audience is. If I’m designing training for customer service, it’s completely different than the training I would do for a board of directors. They may be produced differently—for example, perhaps one is made with video and one is using more sophisticated graphics. You need to know your audience so you can craft that story, but you need to know that anyway so you can craft the best instruction. The beauty of story design is that you don’t need to collect any new information; instead, you are using what you already collect as a good instructional designer to craft these stories.

Stories are really a way to respect the learner as humans. We use stories all the time in our day-to-day interactions. We’re engaged in fiction, we’re reading nonfiction, we’re communicating through metaphors all the time. It’s a natural and sophisticated way of communicating with one another as humans to help us respect each other and open up doors for training that may otherwise be undiscovered.


Learn more of Rance’s tips for instructional story design on the ATD Accidental Trainer podcast. His episode will air on June 3, 2020.


If you have a question for Ask a Trainer, send it to [email protected]. You can find answers to previous questions by visiting the Ask a Trainer hub. Tim will be back next week to tackle a new question.

We welcome your comments and engagement on these posts. All posts are reviewed to ensure appropriateness based on ATD’s requirements for postings in our online communities.

Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

About the Author

Rance Greene is a story designer. He is a master of connecting stories to learning. He works for Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), where he transformed compliance training to an action-based story platform. His eLearning solutions have won awards from the eLearning Guild, ATD Dallas, Health Ethics Trust and even a Telly Award. Rance believes that story designing is not reserved for only great story-tellers. His Story Design workshops are lauded for their practicality and personal feedback on assignments. His presentations demonstrate story design technique and give his audiences the opportunity to experience the power of stories in learning for themselves. Rance is a also a playwright, song-writer and frequent speaker. In 2017, he served ATD Dallas as the VP of Special Interest Groups. In 2018, he serves as the Executive Board member overseeing Professional Development for ATD Dallas.

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