Secret of Compelling Storytelling

Secret of Compelling Storytelling

Compelling Storytelling, Secret of Compelling Storytelling

I attended a workshop, hosted by Pres Vasilev, who was 2013 World Champion of Public Speaking. Here’s his winning speech: 

He shared the eight things to uncover the essence of storytelling: 

  • Foreshadowing to create curiosity 
  • Callbacks to keep story time 
  • Sensory details (sound, touch, smell, taste, etc) can awaken the senses and paint a vivid imagery. 
  • Chekhov’s gun to ensure that every element in a story is necessary, and irrelevant elements are removed. 
  • Revealing character through words, thoughts, effect on others, actions taken, and looks. 
  • Personification include make it speak, give it a dialogue, bring freshness, surprises the audience
  • Evoking emotion directly with words and dictation, and indirectly with characters’ reactions 
  • Storytelling GOALS ™

My favorite was his last point, storying telling GOALS 

  • Goal
  • Obstacle
  • Adventure
  • Lesson
  • Success 

To tell a good story, you must have a good goal, you must face an obstacle. After experiencing the obstacles, it sends you on an adventure. The adventures teach us a lesson. And that lesson leads us to succeed in achieving our goals. 

A few other great tips he shared during Q&A: 


  1. It’s important to keep tension in your story to gain attention 
  2. Serious conclusion drives more impact
  3. If you have a strong accent, consider slowing down and writing fewer words in your script. Pres’ speech was only 493 words, a lot shorter than the usual 700 words recommendation for a 5-7 minutes speech contest  
  4. Use self-deprecating humor to avoid offending anyone. It shows confidence, vulnerability, and provides strong emotional connection. 
  5. Develop a punch line in your dialogue. Pres used “I can handle it” as the punchline. 
  6. Instead of writing two to three short stories, one story can also be impactful. 


  1. Practice. Practice. Practice. Pres practiced the sound effect in 55 clubs and went through rounds of iteration. 
  2. Pauses! Leverage pauses to make maximum impact. Pres paused as long as 7 seconds to make sure his thought-provoking message hit home. 
  3. Build in time for audience to react to your speech (i.e. laughter) 

I hope this short post is useful to many of the public speaking competitors this season. Best of luck. Join Women L.E.A.D. club meetings to practice your speech; and we will be hosting our club competition on Feb 24th, 6-8pm PST, 2021. See you there. 

Written by Renee Yao, President of Women L.E.A.D. Toastmasters 

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