Selecting a topic
There are two general sources for speech material; personal experience and reference material, which includes informal references such as friends, blogs and magazine and newspaper articles. The easiest source is personal experience – we already know the material and just have to decide how to best present it to our specific audience.
Researching a topic from scratch takes longer – a lot longer, really. Not only do we have to find and organize material about the subject, we have to study it so that we know it well and can comfortably talk about it.
More often than not, we combine the two. We think about an experience and how it fits into the speech we’re planning, then flesh out our recollection with facts, quotes, stories and jokes we find in reference materials.
Our speech will start with an opening designed to get attention, cover two or three main points, and end with a call to action, a summary or a story or joke. Since we know enough about most speech topics to talk for hours, drafting a speech is a matter of organizing, pruning, organizing more, pruning more . . .
It’s efficient to focus our efforts early by summarizing our speech in one sentence, or better, one phrase. We can more easily select three main supporting ideas, and support them as needed, if we know where we’re going with the speech. That frees a lot of time for crafting and memorizing superior openings and closings.
If we’re staring at a blank piece of paper after an email reminds us we’re to speak at next week’s meeting it sometimes helps to just read the project in the manual and ask, “how would this work with:”
1. My interests, such as sports, hobbies, entertainment, career or investment strategies?
2. Stories about my family, friends, pets or even ancestors?
And, how should I best give this specific audience my ideas; stories, graphs, pictures? (We’ve already analyzed our audience, right?)
The speech starts to form itself as we answer. It’s doable, and our speech next week will “shine because we took the time” – to prepare for our speaking role.