What is the subject we know the most about? Any ideas? The answer is you! The first speech in the Toastmasters educational program, The Icebreaker, has the objective of getting you to speak from a position of undisputed authority on the subject of yourself for four to six minutes.
Talking about yourself is relatively easy since you have so much material to choose from. All Toastmasters love an Icebreaker speech! By just talking about yourself you create interest in you with your audience, and you get our undivided attention.
However for the next speech and in our progression through the manuals we often find ourselves challenged – What topic can I choose that is interesting enough?
From our Toastmasters manual we know the objectives, however it is not always that easy to find a suitable topic. This challenge is not restricted to Toastmasters! You could be asked to give a presentation at work, or speak at a conference or a wedding. It’s been left up to you to choose the topic.
For your Toastmasters assignments, don’t feel compelled to choose more worldly topics such as climate change, inflation, or world peace. These subjects are very challenging unless you have a special involvement with the topic.
But fear not! There are speech topics everywhere. You only need to develop your awareness. Topics can be find in the media, talking to people, and observing the world. Just living each day is raw material for speeches!
For example, some of you may have seen the TV program “Things to Try Before You Die”. The focus is on adventure – Kung Fu in China, watching the sun rise over the pyramids in Egypt, and paragliding in New Zealand. As soon as I saw this program I thought about things that I would like to do!
What exciting things would YOU like to do before you die? I’d like to hear that special speech from you.
What special places have you visited in the world? What is Kung Fu? Are Martial Arts good for health? Where can I learn? Is China an interesting travel destination? The list goes on and on. One TV program is a springboard for many more ideas.
Keep an open mind about anything that sparks your imagination. Everything is a potential speech, simply have faith that in time you can develop the material into part of a speech.
A word of caution. Inspiration usually strikes at inconvenient times, such as driving, eating out or on your lunch time walk. You must always be prepared to capture your speech ideas at all times. Carry a note pad (stenographers pad) or voice recorder. Your mobile phone and MP3 player can make short voice recordings.
Our lives are so busy, we can easily let a thought fly away, I suggest when you get an idea, grab the closest writing material, maybe a post-it note pad, and write it down, perhaps giving a brief outline or writing a few paragraphs.
Make a speech ideas folder, stick your post notes, newspaper and magazine clippings. This becomes a valuable resource for ideas and inspiration – because you have already identified topics of interest.
What are some other ways to get ideas for topics? Start with these questions:
- What is happening in your life?
- Have you read an inspiring biography, travel or history book? Could you use some of the stories in a speech?
- What have you learnt recently?
- What would you like to learn and why? How will you go about learning – possible obstacles and ultimate rewards?
- Could you teach us some tips or new skills?
- What are you passionate about? Tell us about it!
And don’t forget the common, everyday things of life. One of our club members gave a speech on the history of the Tomato and another speech on an unusual spice … the Nutmeg. These speeches were well researched, educational and highly entertaining. Look around your kitchen, find an interesting ingredient then develop a speech.
And who could forget the Internet? There are two web sites I recommend.
- Google search. Type in a single word or phrase and be amazed at the diversity of responses.
- Wikipedia the vast encyclopedia of topics. I typed in the word chilli and was presented with 8 pages of fascinating material.
The material you gather for topics is raw material and could be used for any type of speech. There are four main categories of speeches:
“Things to do before you die” could be the basis of an inspirational speech, for example: how my brother won a golf championship in the last days of battling cancer, or a humourous story about someone wanting to streak naked at a sports event.
Your everyday lives provide the fuel for your speeches. Keep your eyes, ears and minds open to the abundance around you. Gather ideas, articles and stories every day to build up your supply of raw material.
You may be pleasantly surprised at the topics you find your speeches.