At a recent Toastmaster contest, a young man told a story from his childhood, one in which he was left home alone one day while his mother, a single parent, went to work. My heart went out to him.
When the winners of the contest were announced, he didn’t win, but several supporters congratulated him on his second place finish.
Later, at the end of the contest, guests were invited to speak and one of the young man’s supporters stood up. It was his father. What? He had said in his speech that his mother was a single parent?
I went up to him a few minutes later.
“So, I’m a little confused,” I said, “Your dad is here, but you said your mom was a single parent.”
“Oh, I made it all up,” he said.
“None of it was true?” I asked.
I felt manipulated. Lied to. I admit at that moment, I disliked the speaker.
And, whenever I dislike a speaker, I take it that there is a valuable lesson to learn!
And that is this: Keep it real.
When telling a story about your life, keep it real, at least in the essential aspects. Speak the “emotional truth” says Darren LaCroix, the 2001 Toastmasters World Champion.
For a little more on “condensing” elements of your speech, but sticking to the “emotional truth” see this blog post from Craig Valentine, the 1999 Toastmaster World Champion.
It’s one thing to tell a story about your childhood where you condense some events, or change minor details, but to completely fabricate a story? Well, that’s a good way to lose the trust of your audience.
What do you think? Is it ever OK to make up a story and present it as a personal story?