Earlier this year, I decided to try my hand at a tall tales speech contest. It was a decision made with a touch of trepidation.
I had never given a tall tale before. Heck, I wasn’t sure what it was — but it sounded like fun. As someone who usually gives professional presentations, I was ready for a change.
The 2020 tall tales event was one of four speech contests held by District 29 of Toastmasters International, which teaches communications and leadership skills. After deciding to compete, I attended a workshop on the type of public speaking I was about to attempt.
A tall tale, I learned, is a story with a highly-exaggerated and improbable plot. Ideally, the presenter sets the scene, defines the main characters and overall mood, creates a problem and devises a solution. Essential elements include sarcasm, puns, slapstick or other forms of humor. The most successful tall tale speeches often include a funny costume and a prop or two.
With that guidance in mind, I began crafting a 3-5 minute tale for the competition. The result was “Aunt Lulu’s True Love,” a story about my fictitious 7 foot, 2-inch aunt who joins the military and meets a man who appears to be equally tall. After Lulu learns her love interest wears 24-inch platform shoes, the couple decides to get married anyway, recognizing that height doesn’t matter when it comes to happy relationships.
To my surprise, Aunt Lulu and I won at the Club, Area and Division levels of the contest. We went all the way to the District level – and won there, too.
What did I take away from this experience? It was indeed fun, despite the fact that COVID-19 forced the tall tales contest to be conducted via video conferencing.
For me, the contest also reaffirmed that a willingness to try something new — and go out on a limb — usually reaps benefits. Here are some of them:
You gain confidence. Even if the new activity doesn’t pan out, you grow just by getting out of your comfort zone.
It sparks creativity. A change stimulates your thinking and helps you see things in a new way.
You make new contacts. Exploring a new endeavor puts you in touch with a different circle of people. Since you share a common interest, some of these new acquaintances may become friends – or even business partners, depending upon the interest.
You may surprise yourself. A new activity can unearth a previously undiscovered talent or aptitude that lies within you.
As demonstrated by countless late-blooming entrepreneurs (and this teller of tall tales), skills can be acquired at any age if you put in the time to learn them.
When a new interest beckons, answer. You’re never too old to try something new.