Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How do you pick the right speech topic?

"I have so many topics at hand and so much content to talk about. How do I pick the right speech topic?"

This is the question that will come to your mind if you read the article "How to select a speech topic and write a speech script?".

Or, you may be invited to preside over a meeting or function... you may be the chief guest for an event. What are you going to talk about?

This article will provide you some guidance to select the right speech topic for your next speech in toastmasters (for that matter, any speech that you make!).


At a high level, you have to look into 3 key factors when selecting your speech topic.

  1. Your Audience
  2. The Occasion
  3. Your Abilities
Let us look at each of these factors.
  1. Your Audience: Any speech that you make is FOR THE AUDIENCE. Normally, you deliver a speech - to inform, to entertain, to persuade, or to inspire the audience. So, you have to always select a topic and prepare a speech with your audience in mind. This will help you to CONNECT with the audience better.  If you are going to deliver a speech at a old age home, you cannot be talking about "how to save money for your retirement". Similarly, if you are going to deliver a speech at a college you cannot be talking about "10 ways of enjoying your retirement". Some of the criteria that you should consider are - what is the average age of the audience, what are their interests, what do they already know, what topic would be interesting for the audience, what is the cultural background etc.,
  2. The Occasion: What is the occasion? Selecting a speech topic that suits the occasion is very important. For example, you cannot deliver a humorous speech at a funeral. You cannot deliver a serious speech at a wedding. Your speech topic has to match with the mood of the audience. In a toastmasters meeting, you are recommended not to use topics that are controversial such as Sex, Religion or Politics :) You can still pick topics such as "Corruption in India", without making ugly remarks about any political party or without making any references to any political leaders.              
  3. Your abilities: Do I have the conviction to deliver this speech? Do I have the capabilities to deliver this speech? These are the questions that you should ask when narrowing down your speech topic. For example, it will be hard for a member who does not come to the club meetings regularly to persuade others to come to the meetings regularly. Similarly, it will be hard for an obese person to inspire an audience to stay fit and healthy. A school teacher can talk about "How to talk so that kids will listen". An outstanding software professional can talk about "How to develop a defect free software". When you talk from your heart, your passion/conviction shows up and it will in turn keep the audience engaged and motivate them, too. An old person who finds it difficult to even walk is not expected to pick a topic that requires him to jump and do a drama. If you are someone who has difficulty in using good English, do not try to "artificially" include some GRE words or jargons into your speech. There is more likelihood that you'll forget those words during your speech. 
When it comes to selecting a speech topic for a toastmasters meeting, select from
  1. The topics you know
  2. The topics you love
  3. The topics that interest the audience and of course,
  4. The topics that help you to meet the project objectives
Let me explain those 3 circles (i.e., the Venn diagram) with an example. 

If I have to deliver a speech, I can easily select topics from the areas that I'm familiar with 
  • my personal experiences, 
  • my US life experiences, 
  • my personal problems, 
  • traveling, 
  • blogging, 
  • software development/testing, 
  • computer networks, 
  • politics, and 
  • toastmastering. 
Out of these topics, I love to talk about 
  • my US experiences, 
  • traveling, 
  • computer networks and 
  • toastmastering. 
However, if I start talking about "computer networks", the diverse set of people in a community toastmasters club may get bored. That leaves me with topics that are of interest to me as well as to the audience.  So, I would end up choosing a topic from my US experiences, traveling or toastmastering. 

If the project expects me to give an entertaining speech, I would very well pick the speech topic from my recent travel experiences. 

Toastmasters project manuals give you the flexibility of choosing your own speech topics. So, to the extent possible, pick topics that are of interest to you as well as the audience. 

Hope you have now mastered the art of selecting the right speech topic for your next speech. Happy speaking !

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