What is a Tall Tale Contest?

A tall tale is a story with unbelievable elements, related as if it were true and factual. Some stories such as these are exaggerations of actual events.

A tall tale has these features: A larger-than-life, or superhuman, main character with a specific job. A problem that is solved in a funny way. Exaggerated details that describe things as greater than they really are.

Some tall tales are exaggerations of real events, while others are completely make-believe. Tall tales are usually very funny because the exaggerations in the story tend to be the main focus of the whole story.


Why Do We Have a Tall Tales Toastmasters Contest?

Storytelling is one of the most important aspects of public speaking. Not only do stories keep your audience glued to your message, but the process of creating stories takes time, patience and diligence. Once you become skilled at developing stories and presenting them, you will be much more able to make higher quality presentations at work. Even though you might not use a fictional story when presenting your latest architecture design, you will find that your experience in the Tall Tales competition would help you present the details of your architecture design work to your clients and firm, for example.

My point is that you should approach participation in the Tall Tales competition as an opportunity to practice your detailed story development and presentation skills. This opportunity will increase your speaking skills in other types of speeches, not just the next time you tell a humorous, exaggerated, make-believe story.


Basic Rules of the Tall Tales Speech Contest

1- Time is 3-5 minutes, plus or minus 30 seconeds. So you really have to whittle down your story to the most important points

2 – Must be an original story with original content. Best to use something that happened to you so you’re not suspected of copying an existing story

3- There is no topic limitation. You can choose any topic you want your tale to be about. It just has to be original. So, no adapting from a children’s story book.

4 – Humor and props may be used and are even suggested to illustrate the story.

5 – Do NOT prepare a written introduction as only your name and speech title will be announced when you are introduced

Tips to WIN a Tall Tales Contest:

  1. Have a small 10-20 second introduction to your story so that people know where you’re going with it
  2. Plan a story plot that stays on track that people can follow
  3. Create a build-up in your story to a climactic point
  4. Use a TON of exaggeration that will naturally bring humor
  5. Have pauses to give people time to laugh and breathe
  6. Try not to yell at your audience as many of the samples I saw on YouTube had a lot of yelling
  7. Describe details to the point where the audience has a picture in their minds of what’s happening
  8. Include surprise twists in your story to throw the audience off guard and so that things happen that are unexpected
  9. Tie-up your story with a final point as you would any speech
  10. Leave ’em laughing paint a picture in our minds of a story with details so that we can picture it


A Tall Tale Should Include the Following Features:

  1. A character with extraordinary abilities and a specific goal. In the best tall tales these characters are also, for the most part, ordinary people with which the audience can easily identify.
  2. A problem that is solved in a humorous way.
  3. A careful blend of exaggerated and credible details. Don’t exaggerate everything in your tale. Use some realistic details to hook your audience, because they can picture themselves in such a situation. Then blend in exaggerated details to amaze them with a tall tale. With this judicious combination of various details you can really set up your audience to laugh. For example, a story about an ordinary person walking into a cave and encountering a bat as big as a bear cub can be hilarious. A story about a ten-foot-tall man digging a tunnel to the center of the Earth, where he encounters dragons and dinosaurs, is more fantasy than funny.
  4. A comical ending. The last lines should make the audience chuckle and/or groan. Clever twists and puns can also be sprinkled throughout the story.

Facts Tell, Stories Sell

Follow the BASIC formula.

BELIEVE in the story. Speak from your heart or from a real experience. Or pick a well-known story that supports your message.

APPROPRIATE –  Is the story appropriate for your message and audience?

STRUCTURE –  Include an opening, a problem and a resolution. Stories are about journeys. You start off in one situation, face a problem, overcome the problem and grow or learn from the experience.

INTERNALIZE –  Practice! With enough rehearsal, the story becomes second nature and flows like part of a conversation.

CAPTIVATE – Bring the story to life and focus on your audience’s needs and your message. Use facial expressions, gestures, voice inflection or props, all tools learned in the Competent Communication manual.


Those are the BASICs to help you get started talking with tales.

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