Eldon Primary School were working towards improving the speaking and writing skills of the pupils (for whom most had English as a second language) by reading and telling stories. The Head Teacher asked us to create workshop to help her staff of 28 to tell stories to best effect.
Our Lifting the Story off the Page workshop would provide a process for teachers to firstly explore and interpret any written story, then using practical exercises develop the content of the story while improving their own style of delivery and confidence to perform. The first half of the workshop explored and deconstructed Little Red Riding Hood, through a combination of individual thinking and writing and interactive discussion. Once the foundation and essential elements of the story were found we moved in to the hall for the practical work. Each teacher developed their own interpretation of the story, taking inspiration from what they were interested in or enjoyed and sharing this enthusiasm through their delivery to their audience.
The teachers left happy and confident, with a set of techniques to invigorate and colour how they both read and tell stories. Less confident storytellers were noticeably louder, more expressive and comfortable by the end of the workshop. Teachers were excited to have a way to make stories their own, to interpret them (without losing the plot) so stories could be more relevant, interactive, fun and thought provoking.
To celebrate their Book Week, the school brought in TheWholeStory to help get the children excited about the magic of reading and as a special way to inspire them to create there own writing.
The school chose to have storytelling performance and follow – on literacy work suitable for each year group. Through discussions with the school, we determined the best schedule considering : their timetable, the type of sessions required, which Key Stages could take part and the number of sessions to take place. We selected the best stories for each group, to ensure the children would get the most from our visit.
The children were treated to professional storytelling performances, bringing characters and events from around the world to life in front of their eyes. They experienced the great depth of detail and description that can be used to enhance a narrative, and considered how they might use this within their own responses, whether written or drawn, to what they heard. The children were left with a greater hunger for more stories; to make there own and discover them within the school’s collection of books.
“Josh is the most laid back, unfussy performer it has ever been my pleasure to book. And the work he got out of our top set, but behaviorally challenged, Year 7 boys was superb. I always recommend him without hesitation.”
Caroline Roche, Resource Centre Manager/Support Staff Training Manager,
Holmesdale Technology College
This stunning National Trust property in Wales had been doing things the same way for the past thirty-five years. It was proving quite a challenge to get the over 100 volunteers, who kept Erddig afloat, into a more storytelling frame of mind and practice. We were asked to create and deliver training to develop how the volunteers interacted and communicated with visitors, which would result in an improvement in Visitor Experience scores, especially within the ‘warm and friendly’ category.
We created two workshops, the first trained up a number of pop up storytellers who could appear anywhere across the property, gather some visitors, and tell them an impromptu, site specific (to that spot) story. The second workshop would improve how all room guides communicated with visitors, so as to become more engaging and conversational with visitors. A number of volunteers were trained up to continue delivering the training after our week-long residency came to an end, ensuring all volunteers current and future had these extra skills available to them.
The volunteers appreciated the freedom they had to create their own stories, incorporating their interests and specialist knowledge. And the visitors appreciated that this freedom was set within specific parameters: being visitor led/focussed, adapting to their interests, and sharing information within engaging conversations. Erddig staff were also pleased. Their Visitor Experience scores rose and there was a waiting list of volunteers to get on to future delivery of the course.
“The Whole Story made a daunting task simple – retraining a cohort of experienced volunteers in a way that had them chomping to try new things and let their inner storyteller loose! Josh was great at establishing the experience of a diverse audience of trainees, then channelling their enthusiasm and historical knowledge of the property into communicating in a new way. In training some volunteers to be trainers themselves, Josh showed patience, understanding and great encouragement. We had laughs, smiles, a few questions, a good dose of living outside our comfort zone and plenty of cake – all the ingredients for a successful transition from ‘Room Guide’ to ‘Storyteller’! Thank you Josh and Lily, go forth, spread The Whole Story!”
House and Collections Manager – Erddig The National TrustBack to museums
The Science Museum’s donations team have an extremely short amount of time as the public enter, to encourage a donation whilst also sharing the practical information needed at the start of a visit. Under a minute. It was felt that storytelling techniques could help bring that pitch to life, as well as helping to prevent the teams from getting too bored or formulaic.
During our half day workshop staff came together from all the Science Museum’s sister sites: National Media Museum, Museum of Science and Technology and the National Railway Museum to learn storytelling techniques. Their experience showed, allowing us to push them to refine what they were already good at and to experiment and take a risk with new approaches to asking for a donation using story and storytelling. They pulled together their joint experience and knowledge and incorporated what they had learnt into their usual messaging to each create pitches to fit the allocated 1 minute, without them feeling rushed or pushy.
Since each participant had planned their pitch for a different audience group, their minute-long stories were targeted, specific and precise. Participants shared those pitches at the end, giving them all a selection to ‘borrow’ from on their next shift. The group left feeling more confident and at ease to approach visitors, and to overcome the challenge of such a quick interaction, and engage them with the possibility of donating.
“Josh is a wonderful trainer who tailored The Whole Story ethos perfectly to our fundraising methods at the Science Museum Group. All of our teams have since used the training effectively to give a higher level of customer service and engaging content in our conversations with visitors.”
Individual Giving Executive, Science Museum GroupBack to museums
Following a recommendation from one of our past workshop participants Urban Transport Group got in touch to see how we could help them use storytelling to make the case for their members – the public sector transport authorities for the largest city regions – including Metro in West Yorkshire and TfL in London. They could see that effective stories could be the key to successfully communicating the need for funding, powers and policies – so were interested to find out how we could make that possible.
Since we had already delivered training for the NHS, had worked in partnership with the 2 Civil Service unions and had led training for the Association of Directors of Public Health we had a solid understanding of the type of communication that would take place between the Urban Transport Group, the public, funders and policy makers. We delivered a 1-day workshop for the team of 6 – which included their researchers, their Senior Economist, their Policy Manager and Director. They each arrived with a presentation they had or would be delivering soon that we would deconstruct and rebuild as a story and present to each other to finish the day.
The participants came away with a better understanding of what they needed to communicate to make a connection with their specific audiences and to successfully argue the needs and benefits by using personal, organisational and national contexts. One participant used our content structuring techniques to select from his extensive and expert knowledge, that had been confusing rather than illustrating or proving his arguments. Another was able to use his own perspective to emphasise the value and importance of Urban Transport Group’s work and impact. As well improving their presentation skills, in response to ideas being discussed at the end, the group also started to look at how they could use the ingredients of story as a way to plan the progress of projects over time.
Research Partnership are a global pharmaceutical market research company who already recognised the importance of story to effectively communicate, but wished to refine and extend their use of storytelling to ensure they stood out in how they communicated and shared their results to clients. The Marketing Director took part in one of our taster workshops and went on to commission training for the company’s Directors to help them find the story which best encapsulated key research findings and insights. This story could be told as an animation for clients or would become part of their face to face presentations.
Our half day workshop helped the Directors to consider what qualities they wished to adopt, from what they believed or had experienced as good storytelling. In the workshop the Directors experienced our practical process to realise those qualities, explore and better understand what to share from a piece of research and found the story which best illustrated and effectively communicated the points they wished their audience to take.
During the delivery of the workshop to 3 different groups from Research Partnership’s UK, Asian and US offices, the Directors noticed immediately the power of examining their findings through the lens of storytelling. Presenting insights from previously unconsidered perspectives gave their research new weight and impact. They have come away being able to present in a more interesting and efficient style with a greater enthusiasm for what they communicate.
“We asked The Whole Story to come and give a half day storytelling training session to all our Directors with the aim of helping them to find the story in their global market research findings. All the attendees came back enthusing about the course and how useful it was. All said it exceeded their expectations and all said they would recommend it to others.”
Marketing Director, Research Partnership.Back to business
The Trust was about to embark on a change, which could be perceived negatively, overshadowing the actual benefits and improvements that would take place. In order to help the team, who were responsible for the change, to communicate it we suggested a practical workshop using storytelling techniques to explore what the change would be like for different individuals or groups.
30 participants (drawn from staff, patient groups and unions) worked in small groups to create a story that described the change as it interacted with others. They focused on particular audiences and how they inform what needs to be communicated or what story is most useful to tell them. Having created the story, one person from each table told the rest of the room the story of the change. Each story had a different protagonist and an intended audience, which shaped each story of the change in a different way. We concluded with feedback on everything we had heard; picking and choosing elements from each story, identifying common narratives that everyone could use, finding themes, arguments or angles that had greatest impact and identifying ideas, problems and solutions that had not yet been considered.
The workshop helped those involved in the change to find some clarity in what had become a very complicated and lengthy process. Exploring the change as a story reconnected the participants with the day to day and long term impact and benefits it would have on individuals (staff and patients) and the hospital as a whole. The participants felt more confident about approaching the audiences and groups that they would need to communicate the change to and had a selection of narratives that could be chosen from as needed. After this first workshop, to find the story of the change, theWholeStory’s voice coach Ben Joiner developed the teams communication skills further, to help each individual feel more confident and be more successful in how they used their voice and body to tell the story of the change.
“Your session was really enjoyable, informative and helpful and the whole team have gained something from it. It was a pleasure to work with you”
Chief Nurse/Chief Operating Officer, Deputy Chief Executive, Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust
Back to business
Lansons is a full service strategic consultancy, specialising in corporate, media and political communications. They had developed their brand and values and wanted training to focus their people on the finding their feet with what this meant and how they could share and embody the brand with existing and future clients. We offered a workshop where individuals could find their Lansons story. Responding to the new brand participants would create a story that would be unique to them, authentic, engaging and memorable and explain what makes Lansons better and different. The workshops would focus on creating stories that would inform conversation with clients at an upcoming event however the techniques and the stories created could be reapplied and adapted as needed.
Over 6 half-day workshops we worked with all 150 staff, from the founders to reception. The training gave them the skills and confidence to tell the company’s story to a variety of audiences, within a variety of contexts. Responding to the new brand participants used our storytelling techniques to create their own interpretation; incorporating examples and experiences from their own work. Over the process of the workshop they explored together what makes Lansons better and different and how to make that relevant to themselves, their specific audience and their desired outcomes.
Before finally launching the new brand the workshops helped Lansons to finalise the details, by listening to how their staff shared it as stories about how it exists in the their own and their clients’ experiences. The participants were able to better understand and digest the meaning and intentions of the new branding and see it justified in terms of their own work, their colleagues and of the business as a whole. The techniques of the workshop encouraged the participants to use language and descriptions (of the key wording of the branding) that were defined and articulated with real and considered meaning. The techniques also challenged the participants to think about their tone of voice, to discover new insights from well used case studies and overall gave everyone a new pallet from which to enhance their communication and interaction.
“The storytelling sessions really helped people tell a ‘corporate’ story in a very individual, personal way – and helped them to bring it alive in a way that resonated with them personally. The sessions were very much enjoyed by all who attended.”
Back to business
Having worked with Sotheby’s experts to develop how they could use storytelling to communicate with their clients we were asked to look at how we could help all London staff to get to know each other better and then do the same with representatives from Sotheby’s European offices (who were visiting for a 2-day event). We suggested a workshop that would provide a lively, creative and enjoyable opportunity for colleagues (both experts and support), who don’t necessarily know each other, to interact, inform and inspire each other. The fun and participatory activity would employ some easily applied processes and skills of storytelling, as a way to learn more about each other and what they do while sharing and celebrating what makes Sotheby’s amazing.
For the London networking workshop about 100 participants were treated to drinks and snacks while we helped them to create a story that said something both about themselves and Sotheby’s. As they developed their story, using different storytelling techniques, they also shared it with 3 different people so that they could meet them and get to know what they do. The European workshop followed the same process and was an informal energetic end to a day of sitting and listening to presentations.
The intense and fast paced workshop provided an opportunity for the London staff to find shared enthusiasms, often unexpectedly between individuals who did not normally meet. Although they were very tired the European participants enjoyed getting to know each other through their stories and in how they each responded to the different techniques that influenced how the stories were told. The stories helped participants to consider their role within Sotheby’s and its ongoing story. Hearing their colleagues’ stories built relationships that could strengthen the overall connections throughout the building. At the very least as staff walked around the labyrinth of corridors there would be more hellos and smiles exchanged. While being an opportunity to meet new colleagues and build new connections the participants could also take away the techniques used in the workshop to enhance how they communicate and interact on a day to day basis.
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