Storytelling for Influence

Craft a narrative to motivate and inspire
Preview Course

Whether you need someone to support your organization, get behind your idea, or get excited about following your lead, refining your storytelling skills can help. In this online course, you'll learn how to shape your idea into a story. You’ll create a story brief, iterate and evolve your story through prototyping and gathering feedback, and hone your tone and style. Get storytelling tips from IDEO practitioners and gain tools and techniques that will help you bring your vision to life and create stories that influence and inspire.

Course Outcomes
  • Gain a framework that will help you develop and hone your story.
  • Understand your audience, their needs, and what you’re trying to achieve with your big idea.
  • Create a prototype of your story that will help you shape it, share it with others, and make it more powerful.
  • Increase your ability to engage and inspire others through the development of tone and style.
  • Craft a story that brings your vision to life and motivates others toward action.
Skills You’ll Gain
Narrative Creation Story Prototyping Audience Engagement
Format Online Cohort Course
Start Date
Duration 5 Weeks*
Time 4 Hours/Week
Regular price
Sale price
Unit price
Download Syllabus
*Enroll in any August cohort course or certificate to get exclusive access to our new AI x Design Thinking Workshop Series.

Go Deeper with Certificate Programs

Storytelling for Influence is part of three certificate programs, including:

What You'll Learn

Week 1: Introduction

Get a brief course overview, explore the science of storytelling, and choose your story theme.
Watch a sneak peek
  • The Power of Storytelling
4 Video Lessons
  • How this Course Works—Your learning road map
  • The Power of Storytelling—Motivate people toward change
  • The Science of Storytelling—What makes stories stick
  • Meet Your Instructor—Jenn Maer
1 Assignment
  • Identify the Story You Want to Tell: Choose a theme and a related story you want to tell. These will provide you with the basic building blocks for your work throughout the course.

2 Discussions
  • Think about the challenges in your work today. What's one way storytelling can help you address them?

  • Think back to a time when a story really moved you. What made the story powerful?

Week 2: Develop Your Blueprint

Zero in on your audience, their needs, and the most powerful way to format your story.
3 Video Lessons
  • The Brief—Know thy audience
  • The Big Idea—Focus is key
  • The Medium—Ways to convey your story
1 Assignment
  • Develop Your Blueprint: Now that you've chosen your story topic, think about your audience, their needs, and the best way to tell them your story.

2 Discussions
  • Think of a time you empathized with another person or group of people. How did empathizing impact you? What insights did you gather once you stepped into someone else's shoes?

  • As you crystallized what you wanted to say into a brief and big idea, what challenges did you face? What felt uncomfortable? What felt right?

Week 3: Build Storytelling Prototypes

Get your story out of your head and into the hands (and minds) of others for feedback.
3 Video Lessons
  • Build Storytelling Prototypes—Creative ways to battle the blank page
  • Ways to Prototype & Build your Story—Low-risk ways to share your story
  • Invite Feedback to Strengthen Your Story—Iterate, iterate, iterate
1 Assignment
  • Prototype Your Story: Now it's time to prototype your story. This helps us get our ideas out of our heads and into the world. Follow our three steps: build, share, and reflect.

3 Discussions
  • Tell us about a time you learned from an early failure. How did that failure help you move forward?

  • Who's your hero or heroine? What made you look up to that person? How did his or her values shape who you are today?

  • In a few sentences, tell us about prototyping your story. What challenges did you face? How did you overcome them?

Week 4: Design for Impact

Increase your ability to engage and inspire others through the development of tone, style, and timing.
4 Video Lessons
  • Setting the Right Tone—Why tone is everything
  • Learn from a Presentation that Falls Flat—What not to do
  • Learn from a Presentation that Moves You—An invitation to imagine
  • 6 Tips for Story Impact—From good to great
1 Assignment
  • Iterate Your Story: Choose two of our 6 tips for story impact to enhance your story and make it more compelling.

5 Discussions
  • Share a video or article where you think tone strongly influenced how the story was told. What qualities or attitude did the tone convey? How did tone impact the way you received the story?

  • Share one of your letters with the community. What are your talking points? What feeling did you want to inspire in the recipient?

  • What did you notice about the presentation that fell flat? What tone-related adjustments would have made it better?

  • What was different about the second presentation? Did it motivate you? Compare and contrast the two presentations.

  • Think back to where you started—is there anything that surprised you regarding how your story has changed over time? Did you have any "a-ha!" moments?

Week 5: Conclusion

Get advice from Jenn on practicing and perfecting your storytelling skills, and bring your story to life using the style, tone, and a medium of your choosing.
1 Video Lesson
  • Course Conclusion—Go create impact
1 Assignment
  • Final Project: Bring your story to life in your chosen medium and share with the community for feedback.
2 Discussions
  • Submit an artifact or video, using your own tone and style, declaring yourself a storyteller.

  • What was the most revealing moment for you in the course? How will you apply what you've learned to a current challenge in your life or work?

Meet Your Instructors

Jenn Maer

Former Design Director, IDEO

Jenn led brand strategy and storytelling work with clients including Marriott, Mattel, Snapple, and Microsoft. She’s taught classes on brand and storytelling and spoken at SXSW and other events. Jenn is an award-winning writer, with recognition from The One Show, Core 77, SPARK, ADDY, and IDSA. Jenn holds a B.A. in Women’s Studies from Smith College.

More About Jenn

Frequently Asked Questions

We offer three types of courses: self-paced courses, cohort courses, and certificate programs. Cohort courses run on a set calendar, with fixed start and end dates. Course learning is self-paced within those dates and requires approximately 4-5 hours per week over 5 weeks. Courses consist of videos, activities, assignments, access to course teaching teams, and feedback from a global community of learners. There are also optional 1-hour video Community Conversations, held weekly by the teaching team. 

All of our cohort courses are fully online, so you can take them from any time zone, anywhere in the world. With our cohort course experience, while you'll be learning alongside other learners, you'll still have the flexibility to work at the pace that fits your own schedule. There aren’t mandatory live components, so you don't have to worry about having to log in at a specific time. At the same time, you'll have access to a teaching team, which is composed of experts in the field who are there to provide you feedback, and there are also plenty of options to connect with your fellow learners.

Course instructors have a strong presence in the courses through the course videos, but they're not actively providing feedback or holding direct conversations with our learners. We have a teaching team to ensure that you have the feedback, guidance, and support you need to learn successfully in your course. Our teaching team members are design practitioners that have experience applying course methods and mindsets in a wide variety of contexts around the world.

Our teaching team consists of teaching leads and teaching assistants, who are experts in their fields. Many of them have been with IDEO U for many years, and we have selected those who have direct experience with applying the course methods and mindsets in all sorts of contexts around the world. They all go through multiple training sessions by our instructional designers on not only on the subject matter, but also on how to create safe and collaborative learning experiences and environments.

Community Conversations are one-hour live video conversations hosted by the teaching team on Zoom. These happen once per week, with each one having two to three time options to accommodate different time zones. Each week focuses on the lesson that you’ve just gone through, so the output and the content depend on the specific lessons. You'll have the opportunity if you work together with your peers on the tools and mindsets from the course, reflect on what you’ve learned, and also address any challenges that you might be going through.

All course materials, including videos, activities, and assignments will be available while you are enrolled in a course. During the 5 weeks of the course, you will have full access to our learning platform and can refer back to it any time. You will only have access to the course materials while you are enrolled. 

Assignments must be submitted during the 5-week course duration in order for you to receive a certificate of completion.

Absolutely! We have had many teams go through our courses together. For those taking our courses as a team, we provide a number of additional benefits:

1. A Team Learning Guide, developed to provide your team with resources to facilitate offline discussions that complement the in-course experience.

2. A Manage Learners function, which provides visibility into your team's progress within the course.

3. The ability to create a private Learning Circle, which is a closed space for discussion on the learning platform specifically for your team.

For more information, visit our Team Learning page.

We offer a discount when you enroll in multiple courses at the same time through some of our certificate programs, including Foundations in Design Thinking, Business Innovation, Human-Centered Strategy, and Communicating for Impact

You can also enter your email address at the bottom of this page in order to receive updates on future offers or possible discounts. 

After completing a cohort course, you will be able to add it to your “licenses and certifications” on LinkedIn.

We also have certificate programs that consist of multiple courses. After completing a certificate, you will receive a certificate of completion via email as a downloadable PDF within 1-2 weeks of completing the final required course. Certificates are configured for uploading and sharing on LinkedIn.

You can purchase a course on our website using a credit card, PayPal, or Shop Pay. For US customers, we also offer installment plans at checkout if you use the Shop Pay method of payment.

We typically are not able to accommodate bank transfer or invoicing. However, if your order includes 10 seats or more, please contact and our team will be happy to review your request. 

Collaborate with a Global Community

Loved by Learners Across the Globe

Ina Jubert
Ina Learning Architect Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Denise Engel
Denise Manager, People Insights Dolby
Marc-Andre Singer
Marc-Andre Founder & Managing Director FORSPIRE
Dani Plumb
Dani Video Content Specialist Quark Expeditions
Storytelling for Influence
Cohort Course

“I am absolutely thrilled with the result that I obtained with my work. The process helped me to truly hone in on the important elements of the story so that I could produce a result that is full of impact and completely aligned to the work I am doing.”

Ina Boston, MA
Storytelling for Influence
Cohort Course

“I found the design and content so useful. As someone who spends her days in an office, I sometimes need refreshing outside influences to help think in different ways. This course was engaging and tactical. I walked away with real steps I can take to continue to get better.”

Denise San Francisco, CA
Storytelling for Influence
Cohort Course

“It's an easy and engaging format to learn and practice new skills. To build, share, and get feedback makes it tangible and gives you a sense of what works and what doesn't.”

Marc-Andre Zürich, Switzerland
Storytelling for Influence
Cohort Course

“This course is more effective than other professional development courses I've taken because the coursework is fun and digestible. The lessons also take a reasonable amount of time to complete, which is perfect for any busy professional.”

Dani Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Enroll As a Team

How to Enroll as a Team