A Tall Tales is a speech that is of a highly exaggerated, improbable nature leaving some members of your audience thinking liar, liar pants on fire. At the same time, others might also be thinking, wait a minute, that may be true or, is it? Hum! A Tall Tale, like any good story, should have a theme or plot, filled with humor, more humor, and where appropriate, props to bring your story to life. If you are wondering why we tell Tall Tales in Toastmasters? Tall Tales encourages speakers to let our imagination run wild. They challenge us to expand our creativity and ability to become better storytellers. And good storytelling is the secret to becoming a better public speaker.
Today, whenever we want to learn about something old or new, we turn to Alexa or Google; however, on this occasion, the best definition I found for a Tall Tales is from good old Webster. Webster describes a tall tale as a “Narrative of events that have happened or are imagined to have happened.” It is usually a short story, real or fictitious. It could be a piece of information, gossip, rumor, falsehood, or just a big lie. Today we call many of those stories fake news.
My first competitive tall tale speech contest was in 1999. After completing four Competent Toastmaster Manual Speeches, I competed with a speech entitled Hell’s Paradise. That speech took me all the way to my first District Contest. Hell’s Paradise was about the companies that were dominating the software market in the eighties and nineties. I did not name names, however, I am sure you, too, will get my drift even if you were not around at the time. I felt one of those companies behaved similarly to Adam when he was in the Garden of Eden – rotten to the core. And then there was that other company’s view of the world was, in my opinion, it was just micro and soft. On that premise, I built “Hells Paradise.” However – Was I ever so wrong? We all got Googled by this little company that expanded by ten to the one-hundredth power. Go figure!
One of the lessons I learned very early in that process was since your speech must impress your audience as well as the judges, it would help if you studied the judging criteria. Reviewing the score sheets while you are developing your speech also paid dividends, Start with something that is familiar to your audience. Why try to be Columbus, be authentic. Make your lies B-Bigger and B-Better and B-Bolder. Let your three B’s sting your audience! And pay close attention to the following:
SPEECH DEVELOPMENT: The way you put your ideas together so the audience can understand them. A good Tall Tale speech immediately engages the audience’s attention and builds to a conclusion. Begin with a theme with which your audience is already familiar. That will earn your thirty points.
SPEECH TECHNIQUES: That refers to the use of various tall tales skills, such as exaggeration, hyperbole, irony, pun, humor, and surprising twists. These techniques are the essence of making a tall tale successful. If you skillfully incorporate those techniques into your Tall Tale, that is good for another twenty-five points.
APPROPRIATENESS OF LANGUAGE: This is where many “Tall Tale” competitors get into trouble. Your choice of words should relate to the speech purpose. Your language should fit the occasion and be in good taste -Ten points.
PHYSICAL: Presentation of a speech carries part of the responsibility for effective communication. Body language should support points through gestures, expressions, and body positions. Fifteen points
VOICE: The sound that sends the message – Your voice should be flexible, moving from one pitch level to another. A good speaking voice is on that can be heard and easily understood- Another fifteen Points
LANGUAGE: The Proper use of grammar and correct pronunciation will show that the speaker is the master of the words used – five points, to take you over the top.
Look at your life and the lives of others around you. And I am sure you will find many stories you can spin into a Tall Tale. Challenge your audience to ponder with that look that says – REALLY! NO! PERHAPS –THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE; Take your audience to the edge of the precipices and dare them to believe we are both going to jump, but you go first. That is when you must give the moral of your story or leave your audience to figure out the “rest of the story,” – the life lesson we all should take away from every Toastmaster’s Tall Tale Speech.