Casting a reality check on real-world conundrums
With audiences able
to fact check in real time
on their mobile devices, a
speaker is taking a real risk
not being accurate and, more
If you represent a
story as true, it should
be scrupulously correct.
However, if you want to
create a story based on a
compilation of facts that
you know will make a
strong point that has value,
I suggest starting with,
“Imagine this situation. A
relative …” Then you can
make your points and tell a
great story that resonates
because it is based on real-
world experiences, but you
haven’t suggested the story
is true exactly as told.
What Would You Do? is a regular
column that presents a real-life
dilemma faced by professional speakers. NSA members are encouraged to
submit a dilemma for possible discussion in this column. Please submit
dilemmas to email@example.com.
NSA reserves the right to edit submissions for length and style. All
dilemmas will be anonymously attributed. Opinions expressed are those of
the individual respondents, not NSA.
Truth or Dare?
You’ve noticed that some speakers
tell stories you know aren’t true, while
representing them as fact to shore
up their own points. You know a little
mistruth might help you make your own
point as well. What do you do?
People make life decisions based on what we say. Not only
should your facts be right, but if you are telling the audience to
do something, you better be sure that it will work … If you are
saying something that is theory, then say so. If what you are telling
someone to do has been proven to work by you, tell them. Make
sure they understand the difference. … I never quote a fact if I
cannot identify the source. The source may be wrong, but I never
would create a fact out of thin air.
—Ray Leone, St. Augustine, Fla..
It’s not only distorting or making up facts—it’s
exaggeration and hype. They may be useful for dramatic
effect, but can cause everything else we say or write to be
discounted. (And that’s a fact.)
—Robert Merlin Davis, Phoenix, Ariz.
Anything we say from
the platform, especially when
positioned as an expert, should
be founded in fact. Speaking
professionals use stories to make
points, and may embellish in the
name of a great story. As I wrap
up the point of a story, I focus on
the essence of the message and
the lesson to be learned from
it. Unless you are going over
the top to make a point, clearly
delivering a humorous bit or
sharing a clearly exaggerated
story, it is best to stick to what
you truly know as fact.
—Scott Cooksey, Houston, Texas
Almost all of my stories
come from my personal
experience. They are either
from my dental office
experiences or from my
personal life. If you use some
type of a fable, identify it as
a fable that you have heard.
Then use the story to make
a point. Having said that, I
have heard speakers use an
obviously made-up story
to make a great point and
have it work. Truth is better,
though, and truth can be
stranger than fiction.