The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Beware the Story That Is Just Too Good: The Five Minute Response

I was looking for an illustration to use in a public speaking engagement the other day. If you speak frequently to crowds, you understand the need. You head out into your books and onto the search engines looking for pithy quotes and engaging tales to either spice up or add some real life application to what you are saying.

The other day I came across a gem of a historical situation that seemed to illustrate my point beautifully ... too beautifully. I became suspicious. I searched far and wide for the main character found in the story.  However, he was not to be found outside of mentions of that particular story ... on sites related to the individuals I was speaking to in the days to come. I started to get the strong whiff of a manufactured tale.

Having been unsuccessful at finding reference to that particular rout, I found other, more easily cross-checked stories. Beware of these all-too-useful illustrations that fit too perfectly. You do not want to be called out after your presentation by someone who knows better. You do not want to be caught in a fictional tale you've declared was fact. You want your audience to believe you are a reliable source who has done his or her due diligence and is presenting reliable information. If your hearers ever start to doubt that, you've lost them. If you have to speak to them regularly, you'll have to fight hard to regain their trust.

Beware the perfect illustration ...

And that's the five minute response.


Richard I. Garber said...

Mr. Brooks:

I enjoyed your post, since a year ago I blogged about Is that a true story or just a fairy tale?

I have also run into tales where either the claimed source has changed (from the Book of Lists to the Guinness Book of Records, or the Book of Questions and Answers):

or the time interval did (from 40 years to just 30):


J.S. Brooks said...

Mr. Garber,

Thank you. It is quite the challenge these days. Editing and fact checking are entirely on those who surf the wild world of the Internet.