Speakers Carmen Julia Castellon of US Cellular and Jorge Otalora of Hoar Construction, LLC discussed Tuesday how storytelling can benefit safety training. 

Storytelling is a great way to get the attention of trainees while getting important safety information across, they said. This session discussed what makes good stories and how to use them to convey lessons learned. 

The basics of storytelling in safety are:

  • Why and when to use stories in the workplace
  • The parts of a story
  • What can stories do for learners
  • Strategies for storytelling to train, not entertain
  • How to develop stories of your own
  • How to find other stories to use
  • How to determine if your stories are effective

You might ask, why storytelling? Castellon and Otalora said the art of storytelling can be used in today’s workplace to make safety training classes more effective and memorable. Stories can also help to make complex ideas more easily understood, and they can keep the interest of the attendees better than hard facts and figures.

Stories can be a powerful tool to engage learners, help them internalize content and influence behavioral change when the audience might be apathetic and disengaged. Learners can then become active participants in the story as they try to anticipate events and consequences.

There are times, however, when stories should be used, Castellon and Otalora said. They shouldn’t be used if they aren’t relevant or not related to the training topic, the story reveals personal or confidential information about someone or your audience can’t connect with the story.

The speakers highlighted some strategies for storytelling that trains, rather than entertains: connect your learning outcomes, include your audience and keep stories simple.

Developing stories of your own by providing a link between facts and emotions, and actions should be made memorable by an interesting character. That character must achieve a goal through a sequence of events that engages the listeners and creates emotional experiences for them.

Finding and creating stories doesn’t need to difficult, they said. You should have a clear purpose for every story and highlight the message you want to get across. You can use your own personal stories or use other people’s stories. Develop the story as three acts: situation, complication and resolution. The story structure should translate in simple terms ‑ likeable hero; encounters roadblocks; emerges transformed.

Find stories to use by reading OSHA’s fatal facts and checking out news websites for relevant stories. Also take a look at professional speakers who have based their presentations on tragedies they’ve gone through. These stories are often available to read on their websites or in essays or books.