How To Stretch The Truth In A Speech

When a speaker has to exaggerate, they need to do it correctly
When a speaker has to exaggerate, they need to do it correctly
Image Credit: Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

As speakers we are expected to be able to use the importance of public speaking and deliver information to our audience. They have come to listen to us and, with a little bit of luck, learn something new that they can put to work in their lives. What this means for us is that we have to do research before we give a speech so that we can deliver a speech that will contain the content that our audience is looking for. However, there will be times that we will want to change things up a bit. We’ll want to tell our audience something that is untrue. When we do this, we’ll want them to come to realize that what we are telling them never happened. This means that we are going to have to master the art of telling tall tales.

What Is A Tall Tale?

So if as a speaker we need to grab our audience’s attention and we decide to do this by telling them a story that turns out to be patently untrue, a tall tale, just exactly how should we go about doing this? The good news is that we have all heard tall tales before and so we know what they look like. A classic case of a tall tale would be the story of the American lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his giant ox. The reason that a speaker would use a tall tale in their speech is simply to use exaggeration to entertain their audience.

When we are sharing a tall tale with our audience, we’re going to want the first minute or so of the story to come across as being very believable. After that, things can start to spiral out of control. The best tall tales are the ones that we are able to create based on our personal experiences. By using actual events that have happened to us, we can make our unbelievable story seem that much more real. When we are sharing these stories with our audience, we are going to want to make our story come alive by using vivid imagery, colorful details, and expressive body language.

Tall tales are not something that we normally spend a lot of time telling. This means that when we decide to work one into a speech, we need to make sure that we take the time to practice what we are going to be saying. The kind of feedback that we are going to need to get will be things that deal with pacing and vocal variety. We’ll also be looking for guidance regarding how our tall tale both ebbs and flows during the telling and if we are doing a good job of using our body to communicate the feeling of the story to our audience.

How To Tell A Tall Tale

In order to successfully work a tall tale into your next speech, you need to know how to go about adding it. The most important thing that you need to understand is that in order for a tall tale to be an effective part of your speech, you need to have enjoyed creating it. If you want your audience to get involved when you are sharing your tall tale with them, then you have to have fun when you are creating it, rehearsing it, and, of course, telling it. The fact that you are enjoying yourself will give your audience permission to enjoy themselves and that’s why you are telling them a tall tale.

When you decide to include a tall tale in your speech, you may find yourself struggling to figure out what your story should contain. The good news is that you may already know the answer to this question. More often than not, the best tall tales come from the speaker’s own life. Tap into a conflict that you’ve experienced in the past – members of your audience have probably had the same conflicts and they will be able to relate. Your tall tale can revolve around how you went about resolving your issue or how you might have resolved it. Once you have these points identified, you can then go ahead and add your exaggeration.

In order to do a good job of delivering your tall tale, you are going to have to find the time to practice. Before you stand in front of an audience, you are going to have to make sure that you know your tall tale both inside and out, top to bottom, etc. This may be one part of your speech that you will want to take the time and memorize. The good news about practicing your tall tale is that if you do this enough, then what will happen is the eventually it is going to end up sounding like it is not memorized. With a little luck, your made up story will come across sounding almost like it is believable!

What All Of This Means For You

As speakers we are always looking for ways that we can make our next speech connect with our audience so that we can share the benefits of public speaking. Often what we will do is research before we give a speech in order to make sure that it is filled with facts and stats that our audience can take home with them. However, it turns out that there is another way to connect with your audience – tell them an untrue story. The best kind of untrue story is a tall tale which starts out as a believable story and then transforms itself into an outlandish tale.

The good news when it comes to tall tales is that we have all heard these types of stories before. The story of Paul Bunyan is a classic. When we start to share our tall tale with our audience, the first minute should be believable and then after that we can start to exaggerate what is going on. When we decide to include a tall tale in our speech we need to take the time to practice it and get feedback on how it is being received. In order to create an effective tall tale, we need to make sure that we enjoy creating the tale and have fun writing it. If we are looking for an idea for our story, we can take a look at the conflicts that we have experienced in our lives. Once we’ve written our tall tale, we’ll need to take the time to practice it in order to make sure that we can do a good job of delivering it.

As speakers one of the challenges that we face when addressing any audience is that there is a good chance that they have heard what we’ll be talking about before. If we want to get our message to stick with our audience, then we are going to have to get creative and add tall tales to our speech. Doing this will entertain our audience while at the same time providing us with a way to better connect with them. Next time you are giving a speech, feel free to bend the truth a bit and include a tall tale!

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

Question For You: How long do you think that a tall tale should be when you include one in your speech?

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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 can only speak for myself, but because of the importance of public speaking I’m always looking for ways to become a better public speaker. I’ve taken classes, read books, and talked with experts. However, one thing that I had never thought to look into was how an exercise program could impact how I talked. A while back I had been talked into trying out a yoga program that was being held at a local university. I went to the program with low expectations. However, when I gave a speech the next day it went very well. Hmm, could there be a link between yoga and speaking well?

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