Six Steps to Successful Storytelling

January 14, 2019

So many people shy away from presentations.

The thought of getting up in front of a crowd is nerve-wracking.

It makes them feel exposed, subject to scrutiny, and afraid to fail.

Valerie gordon performing at speak up hartford

Preparation + Practice = Presentation Success

I’ve been in front of audiences many times and still get nervous, though with practice I turn that nervousness into eagerness.

Knowing how to simplify your storytelling in a few steps will help you beat stage fright and ensure your message is heard.

(I use these all the time!)

I call it “The Six “C”s of Communication.”

But there’s actually a 7th step, an added bonus that naturally follows the first six.

Because I like alliteration, each step begins with the same letter.

THE FIRST C: Stories should be CLEAR.

Have you ever listened to a story and wondered what is its point? Before you jump into your story, consider WHY you’re telling it. The story should always be audience-centric. It doesn’t matter how good your story is its value isn’t clear to your listener.

THE SECOND C: Stories should be CONCISE.

The best stories leave the audience wanting more. The biggest mistake people make telling stories is taking too much time on exposition – the set-up of the story. It’s rarely necessary for every bit of the background to be understood before you get to the plot – and the point – of the story.

THE THIRD C: Stories should be COMPLETE.

Here’s the challenge: How do you make a story CONCISE but also COMPLETE? Make sure it has all of the information necessary to leave the audience with the main points you need them to know. It’s OK to leave them curious for more as long as all pertinent material is provided.

 THE FOURTH C: Stories should be COMPELLING.

Stories – those with conflict and pivot points and plot twists – are naturally compelling. Stories are what make data come to life and provide the context to make listeners care. Consider taking your audience on a journey from before to after, or then to now. Create stakes to engage them in the outcome. Casting a hero – or central character to focus on, root for, or identify with – is another way to make stories compelling.

THE FIFTH C: Stories should be CONVINCING.

Whether used as a marketing tool to persuade consumers or a personal strategy to get the job, land the sale or grow your network, stories need to convey meaning and importance. The point of the story needs to match up with the goal of telling it – HOW do you want people to feel and respond after hearing it? Start with the end result in mind – what do you hope to achieve by telling it? What’s the optimal outcome?


Storytelling is a tool to personalize processes, connect audiences with data, or otherwise engage the listener. Populating your story with robotic and meaningless “corporate speak” or in an overly literary or flowery manner takes away from the key components of a great story. Your story should be authentic, relatable, and generous to the audience. Keep it real. Be yourself. Sound like a human being, not a robot.

6 c communication six steps to successful storytelling

Ensuring your story and the message behind it is clear, concise, complete, compelling, convincing, and conversational gets you that final C:


Knowing how to bring value to the audience – and with a little practice – you’ll grow your confidence in your storytelling techniques.

Start with your Why. Use the 6C method as your How.

Happy (successful) storytelling!

Valerie gordon your story matters web six steps to successful storytelling

Valerie Gordon is an award-winning television producer, author, and founder of The Storytelling Strategist. She speaks at conferences about the art of storytelling for impact and influence and works with corporations to train future leaders and build diverse, collaborative teams. Book a discovery call for your group or organization. 

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