The 5 C’s Of The Storytelling Arc: Circumstances, Conflict, Crisis, Climax, Conclusions (Part 1)

How You Can Apply Them to Your WorkLife Story

Photo by Tugba Tirpan

A Picture Tells a WorkLife Story

A Picture Tells a WorkLife Story

I was going through some files on my laptop and came across the above photo.

As a WorkLife Learning Practitioner and Writer, I collaborate with Performing, Visual and Literary Artists to deliver events that bring the arts to WorkLife learning. This photo is from a workshop we did called: How To Deliver Great Presentations, Incorporating Story.

As I continued going through my files, I found the related story that went with this photo — it was part of the script for the performance we did that evening. It was an interactive performance — we demonstrated various techniques over the course of the evening, each of which the audience would then set to work, applying that technique to their WorkLife story.

By way of demonstration,” Professor Hannah’ was following my story arc on a Flipchart, as I told it, and would call out what point I was on the arc as I got to it.

This is the script — with notes that I rediscovered when going through my files:

Carmel: My greatest challenge and how I overcame it. My greatest challenge was also my greatest fear, speaking in public. I changed careers from Investment banking to people development, returning to university as a mature student. On completing my degree, I joined a Career Consultancy firm and launched my new career. [Hannah: “Circumstances”]

The one to one coaching work came easily to me. Workshops and presentations didn’t. I was so incredibly nervous talking in front of people. I spoke to my boss and asked if I could focus on the coaching programmes and not the workshops and presentations. He said I’m sorry, Carmel, but no, that’s not possible. He didn’t know the sleepless nights I had leading up to these events. I knew I had to do something to overcome my nerves. [Hannah: “Conflict”]

I discovered a week-long workshop on Presentation skills. Monday to Thursday morning, we worked in small groups developing our presentation skills. On Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, each one of us had to deliver a presentation to the larger group of 80 people. This would be filmed.

As Thursday afternoon approached, right on cue, my nerves started to kick in, and I knew they would get worse if I didn’t just get it over with. I approached the guy responsible for filming, and I asked if I could go first. He said I’m sorry, Carmel, but no, that’s not possible.

So, I took my seat, and as time went by, I grew more and more nervous. Towards the end of the afternoon, my name was finally called. The set-up was that when our name was called, we went out into the foyer to be prepped, motivated and energised by one of the team. The girl working with me began to do that, and I burst into tears. I was just so incredibly nervous. She had to take me to a private room, and we both knew I was in no state to go on. [Hannah: “Crisis”]

When the day had ended, the facilitator came to talk to me and asked if I would give my presentation the following morning. He knew how hard I’d worked all week. I said the only way I could do it was if I could go first because otherwise, I knew I would bottle it again.

This was much easier to arrange this time. I left saying I would really work on my presentation, which I already knew inside out, and upside down, sleep on it and make my final decision in the morning. My decision was yes, I would do it, I’d put so much work into it, and I knew I would regret it if I didn’t.

So, I was first up that Friday morning, and it went amazingly. I actually got a standing ovation! [Hannah: “Climax”]

Afterwards, I was chatting to someone on my team, and he said, well done, and I said thanks, and I don’t think my voice shook too much, and he said, no, and your neck didn’t go red either! I hadn’t realised I’d had a red neck all week!

Taking myself completely out of my comfort zone was how I overcame my greatest challenge and my greatest fear. [Hannah: “And Conclusion!”]

Note: Hannah draws the arc on the flip chart (dressed in gown and hat).

And that’s the 5 C’s Of Storytelling: Circumstances, Conflict, Crisis, Climax, and Conclusion.

Have a go at applying them to your WorkLife story.

Here’s a link to part 2 of this story


Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.