Attention span is defined as the amount of concentrated time a person can spend on a task without becoming distracted.
When we are interested in what we are doing, we renew our attention frequently and stay focused for longer periods of time. When something does not interest us, we check out. Since attention is necessary for memory and learning, if you don’t have your employees attention, you are wasting both time and money.
It’s pretty common today to hear storytelling offered up as an important key to learner engagement–and it is. Another key is the use of visual imagery, color and interactivity. But, you’re likely doing story wrong–if you’re even using it at all.
Here’s why storytelling bypasses the attention deficit barrier:
* The human brain thrives on cause and effect. We are wired to look for connection. Stories are cause and effect connectors at their most basic level.
* Stories create experiences. We readily remember experiences, not facts. That’s why stories stick with us.
* Stories are virtual simulators. They enable us to play out scenarios in our minds. Since the brain doesn’t know the difference between what we’ve actually experienced and what we’ve imagined, stories have the same learning impact as situations we’ve lived through.
And, here’s where companies get story wrong:
“Bob works for ABC Corp and is a good employee. His wife recently lost her job and he’s worried about how they will pay their children’s college tuition…” is not the setup for an engaging story. And yet, much of what passes as story-based learning is just that bland. It’s like adding points and flat graphics to an online course and calling it a game. That’s not a game.
Stories needs to be vivid, contain rich detail and evoke emotion. When it comes to training, real stories work best. Fictionalized stories have a higher barrier to cross because it’s training and employees are already starting from a negative place because they’d rather not be doing it.
The story matters
Here’s an example of an engaging and effective story. First, the learner gets pulled into the story. Then, after the story is done, they complete a visually rich, interactive learning module that dissects the story and the key learning points in a way that reinforces what is already sticking with them from the story. Click on the image to watch the story below. If you’re interested in seeing the learning module, that goes with it, let me know! (BTW–this story won three Telly Awards in 2017. Companies like Disney, HBO and Warner Brothers won Telly’s this year. Great company for a storyteller to be in, no?)
Happy content creating!