One of the hardest parts of public speaking, ironically, is not actually the speaking itself – it’s finding something to talk about! Deciding on the speech topic is essential when writing it, because you need to have at least a general idea on what you will talk about.
A common solution to this problem is picking from a list of topics that a teacher or organizer gives you. Sometimes picking from a list may work, but sometimes it doesn’t. Too often, these lists comprise topics that don’t interest you enough or topics that you have heard about so many times that they have become “cliché” topics. (According to Wikipedia, a cliché is an expression… that has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating).
However, if your teacher or other adult does make it compulsory to use one of the given topics, and you have this problem, don’t despair! An easy way to make a topic interesting is to connect it to something personal in your life. One example of this is perhaps, if I was to argue for how cats are better than dogs, or vice versa. I could provide some solid reasons for why one is better than other, but then back them up with some anecdotes, or amusing mini-stories, about how one dog or cat I met (or own) acted in a way that supports this reasoning. If I was arguing for the dog side, at one point in my speech I could say something like: “There are many reasons why dogs are better pets than cats. For one, dogs are better than cats because they tend to act more friendly towards humans. In fact, my cousin owns a dog, and many of the people who know Fido say he’s the nicest animal they’ve ever met!”. On the other hand, if you’re struggling with choosing a speech topic, this post is for you.
Toastmasters International is an organization determined to help teach public speaking worldwide. Unfortunately, Toastmaster clubs are only available to adults. However, children are welcome as guests at open clubs. Another way kids can participate is by joining in Gavel Clubs. These are clubs that give people who are unable to join a Toastmaster club because of their age or other challenges a chance to join Toastmasters. Anyway, you’re probably wondering why I am talking about Toastmasters, right? Well, this organization has plenty of videos online that are centered towards improving your speaking, and we are going to use one of these videos today.
The video I am referring to is called Finding Speech Topics. This video details some interesting and easy ways to choose the best topic for your speech. Here is a summary of (along with some of my thoughts on) the tips that this video teaches:
1. Think about your personal experience. If you think about it, your life is filled with interesting experiences! You can choose from countless possible stories, descriptions and other things that you can pull from out of your experiences and put into a speech. Here’ a tip for choosing a good story: a lot of the best stories are linked to emotions. Think of a time when you strongly felt an emotion: that might potentially make a good speech topic!
2. Check reference materials. If you still aren’t sure what to talk about, look up information! As the video states, “Four major resources can help you: websites, newspapers, books, and magazines are all packed with stories and facts that you can use to make great speeches.”
3. Focus on your audience’s needs. When you decide on a topic, please be sure to keep in mind that some topics will fit a specific audience, while some others won’t. If you are planning to talk about something that people may not understand or relate to, that may not be the best topic that you can choose to speak about.
4. Recognize the occasion. This isn’t often something that will affect your speech, but when it does, it can be a big thing to consider. Make sure that your speech fits not only the audience, but also the occasion!
5. Are you qualified to talk about that topic? As the video states, you can speak on just about anything, but there are usually some limitations. Make sure that you are only speaking about things that are appropriate for you to talk about.
So, there you have it. These are 5 great tips on how to narrow down what you want to speak about!