Opening Stories that Hook Your Learners

What’s an opening story?

An Opening Story first sketches a problem that your learners recognise.  Next, the story promises a solution if the learner continues to listen to the following training.

An Opening Story works great as an introduction for any tutorial or eLearning.

Let me show you the Opening Story I wrote for a Modlette on “How to Write so Vividly that Learners Fall in Love with your ideas.”

Example:   How to hook learners

The opening sentences invite us into the story.  It tells us who and what the story is about; With a low grumble, Justin Williams switches on his computer.  Another Monday.  Another Modlette to create in a series about leadership for a very picky client.  How many times will this be reviewed and changed.

Hasn’t everything been written already.

Most instructional designers will recognise this feeling of despair when they don’t know what to write about as it feels like everything has been written already.  So, they empathise with Justin and may wonder what happens next.

Next the action is described:

Justin checks his X stream and answers a couple of emails.  He doesn’t feel like writing.  Not yet.  He googles the word leadership.  756 million articles.  Ouch!  But still …  Justin knows he can help, encourage, and inspire his learners.

Another coffee and he leafs through his notebook with article ideas.  Nothing feels right.  Nothing fits this client.  Everything feels bland and doesn’t fit.

He doesn’t want to write a humdrum introduction that doesn’t hook his learners.

He wants to wake up his learners and jump-start them to want to reach their learning objectives.  And to change the world.

Why write if you can’t inspire change?  Why write if learners only skim your sub-heads before clicking through.

Observe that the actions (above) include what Justin is doing as well as the thoughts that are popping up in his mind … how he wants to wake up his learners and inspire change.  Again, most instructional designers will recognise Justin’s actions and thoughts.  They probably have experienced a variation of this story, and they might have experienced a variation of this story, and they might have felt a similar sense of despair as well as a strong desire to inspire their learners.

Lastly, the story transitions to the training:

Let me show you how to write more vividly so learners not only remember but also follow your ideas…

An Opening Story is an unfinished story … it’s the first half of a Transformation Story.  You only learn about someone’s problems but you don’t hear the solution.  The solution is described in the training.

The story about Justin Williams is made up but it’s based on a situation that I know myself and have heard others talk about.  The details I use make the story feel realistic.  We can easily imagine Justin switching on his PC with a low grumble, checking his X system and googling the word leadership, anything but starting to write.

A story is always specific, but the problems and challenges in stories are universal.  This is the beauty of storytelling.  We recognise ourselves in stories, even if the details of our own story are different.