Storytelling Tips for E-Learning: 3 Tips

Functional storytelling is both an art and a science

Story telling A skill that can be learned and used to teach others. In his book Leader’s guide to storytelling, Stephen Denning says, “Storytelling is more than a necessary tool for accomplishing things: it’s a way for leaders – no matter where they sit – to embody the change they want.” TED talks are great examples of storytelling. Memorable TED talks are the epitome of storytelling: they are short in length (a TED talk can be 18 minutes or less), stimulating, believable and inspiring. Although provides training guidelines for branding guards and TEDx speakers, the responsibility rests with the organizers.

Over the past decade, I have designed a 10-week boot camp to train a total of 47 men and women for winning TED discussions at 5 different TEDx events (TEDxNicosia and TEDxDAU). In this article, I’m sharing three storytelling tips that you can use to make your e-learning modules more engaging, memorable, and inspiring for your students.

Although there are many ways to construct the story arc of your e-learning module, I try to teach speakers to use them in TED discussions and the tested structure is simple and consists of three parts: first, introductory, consisting of big ideas; The next, middle, consists of three auxiliary elements; And finally call for termination, or action. To build this structure, I borrowed from Simon Sinek and his “why, how, what” foundation and the teachings of Aristotle and his principles, logos and pathos. [1].

Opening: Big Idea

First, let’s examine the opening. This is the “why” of TED talk or learning modules. The big idea answers the question “So what” and “What’s in it for me”. What are you proposing to your audience through your speech and why should they listen? Do they have time to listen to you? The same question applies to your e-learning module: What are you teaching students and why is it important? How will learning modules add value to learning? Will it help them change behavior, solve problems, or reduce risk? You just have to be more discriminating with the help you render toward other people. You just have to be more discriminating with the help you render toward other people. If you are persuaded, your audience will ultimately focus on your speech or your e-learning module, when you say your call to action.

Medium: Three supporting pillars

This section will support large concepts with three supporting columns. In his book Design is storytelling, Ellen Lupton discusses how the “rules of threes” are widely used in life, literature, product marketing and learning. Each of the three pillars must be compelling, credible and crisp in order to strengthen your big idea. Your goal is to reach your audience, whether you are delivering a TED talk or designing an e-learning module. I teach my speaker to construct each column so that the discussion principles, logos and pathos can be displayed. I borrowed these tips from Aristotle’s 2,500-year-old teaching, the influential philosopher and polymath who lived in ancient Greece, and who was Alexander the Great’s teacher and mentor. Aristotle’s three most important tips for persuasion are principles, logos, and pathos.

1. Policy

The first column should show both the value and character of the speaker and your big idea. “Ethos” is the Greek word for “character”. No matter how good your big idea is, it can’t stand on its own two feet without credibility. Does the e-learning module you are designing promise? Module value-added, mandatory, and meaningful? Is the purpose of learning clear? Are the learnings significant and add value for the student? Reputation has something to do with Warren Buffett’s joke: “It takes a lifetime to create, and it only takes a few seconds to break”. So protect your organization’s policies and the e-learning modules you design for your students and customers.

The second column presents the reasoning behind your big idea. “Logos” is the Greek word for “cause” or “word”. The word “argument” comes from the logo. So, for this column you need to have reliable information and research from reliable sources to show your big idea. Can you cite similar examples and show graphs, pictures or videos to illustrate the points that support your big idea? All supporting resources you use, including any data, images, videos and research, must be reliable, accurate and verifiable; Otherwise, you are compromising the credibility and principles of your learning module.

3. Pathos

The third pillar represents the emotion behind your foundation. “Paths” is the Greek word for “passion.” Here, you want to make an emotional connection with your audience. You want to inspire them to think differently and join you on the journey to explore your big idea. Pathos is about the ups and downs of the emotional journey. As Nancy Duarte showed in her legendary TED talk, successful discussions are based on excitement and the distance between low and high, which is and what can be. Here, I recommend that my speakers share a personal story that reinforces the big idea. For example, the speaker can shepherd the strength and emotion of the listener by feeling the curiosity, wonder and determination of the listener. Personal stories are more relevant and can help you build empathy with your audience. A more sympathetic listener is a more persuasive audience.

Closing: A call to action

For the third and final part of the TED discussion, the big idea backed by the three pillars turned into a call to action. Here, I teach the TED speaker to ask a clear and compelling question. The speaker must decide what they want to do differently to the audience as a result of their big ideas. The same idea applies to designing e-learning modules. Will the e-learning module you are designing inspire implementation to change the behavior of each audience member?

In my experience with storytelling, the goal of the TED discussion is to inspire us to think differently, to learn something new, or to change our behavior in small or large ways. Similarly, e-learning modules also aim to teach so that students can think differently and change their behavior to improve personal and professional outcomes. Well done storytelling can be a powerful process for learning, organizational change and culture change.


[1] Decorated triangles: Understanding and using logos, principles and pathos