Adding Tall Tales To Any Speech Can Make You More Believable

Speakers can use tall tales to capture their audience's attention
Speakers can use tall tales to capture their audience’s attention
Image Credit: Loren Javier

What do you think that your next audience will be expecting from your speech? I almost hate to say this, but do you think that they are going ignore the importance of public speaking and to show up expecting to be bored? If so, then you have a real challenge on your hands. Not only will you have to not bore them, but you are also going to have to bring them back from the edge of thinking that you will be boring them. Not an easy task.

The Power Of Tall Tales

You might be wondering why you would even consider using tall tales in your next speech. I mean, are they sorta like lying to your audience? Absolutely not. First, you need to understand what a tall tale is. It is simply an exaggeration of something that your audience is already familiar with. A tall tale might go something like this: “The next morning I got up, went to the garage to get my shovel because I expected to have to shovel some snow, and then I opened my front door only to discover that my entire house was buried in snow up to the top of the roof.”

The reason that tall tales can be such an effective part of any speech is because your audience won’t be expecting them. They sorta sneak up on you. You’ll start out talking about a situation that your audience is very familiar with (e.g. a snowstorm) and then all of a sudden things take a sudden departure from what the audience was expecting. It’s this element of surprise that will both capture and hold their attention.

The reason that a tall tale is so effective is because your audience is never quite sure if you are making all of this up. Yes, it seems just a bit too outlandish to be true, but there is always that remote possibility that what you are saying could be legit. Your audience will resolve to listen more closely to what you are saying in order to determine just exactly what is going on here.

How To Use Tall Tales In Your Next Speech

If I’ve been able to convince you that tall tales are yet another tool that should be in your speaker toolbox, then the next question has to be just exactly how should a speaker go about using tall tales in their speech? The first thing that you need to do is to determine where you’ll get your tall tale from. The easiest way to go about doing this is to simply take a step back and observe what you and others do during a given day. Once you identify a given task, think about what could be done to it in order to take it to an extreme. Once you know this, then you’ve got your tall tale.

The next thing that you’re going to want to do is to spend some time thinking about how you are going to want to deliver your tall tale. One thing that you might want to consider is the use of an accent. This can help to convey that what you are talking about might be phony – you can drop the accent when you have moved on from the story. The best tall tales contain surprises. You need to keep in mind that some surprise will delight your audience, but too much might throw them off. Finally, the use of repetition – showing that you did some action over and over again can provide you with a great lead up to when you deliver the “tall” part of your tale.

You need to keep in mind that your tall tale is just one part of your overall speech. This means that you need to edit its length down to no more than about 3-5 minutes. If your story includes some bragging about how great you are, you might want to consider telling your tall tale in the third person. Finally, keep in mind that what you are trying to accomplish with the inclusion of a tall tale is to amuse your audience.

What All Of This Means For You

Every time that you give a speech, you want maximize the benefits of public speaking and capture and hold both the attention and the imagination of your audience. There will be times that your audience shows up expecting to be bored by your speech. This situation will create a special set of circumstances for you: you’ll need to let your audience know that they won’t be bored and then you’ll have to entertain them.

One powerful tool that you have available to you is the tall tale. These made up stories are powerful because your audience will never see them coming. What starts out as just another story quickly turns into something that is probably not true. The fanciful nature a tall tale will capture and hold your audience’s attention and will allow you to also deliver the real message of your speech.

As speakers we always need to be looking for new ways to capture and hold our audience’s attention. Tall tales are one more tool that we have at our disposal. Learn to use tall tales in your speeches and watch your audience wake up and start to pay attention to you!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you have to tell your audience that your tall tale was not true?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’d like to think that if we all realized the importance of public speaking and took enough time to prepare for every speech that we give then each speech would be a success. However, that’s not the way that life works. There will be times that we give speeches where things just don’t work out. We’ll end up giving a bad speech. When that happens we generally feel quite bad about it. What should we do now?

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