Finding and Selecting a Topic



The Importance of Choosing a Good Topic

Choosing a good topic is an essential step towards delivering an effective speech.

Learning Objectives

Explain the importance of selecting the right topic

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • When you tell a story, you want your audience to be engaged, so you choose a topic that will interest your audience. The same goes for speech giving.

Key Terms

  • topic: Subject; theme; a category or general area of interest.

Tips for Choosing a Topic

When you tell a story, you want your audience to be engaged, so you choose a topic that will interest your audience. The same goes for speech giving.When you choose a topic, consider your audience. Ask yourself: What topic, or subject, will engage the audience?

If you are unsure what topic to choose, consider the following:

  • current events (newspapers, other media)
  • personal experience
  • your hobbies– Does your audience have an understanding of the basics of your hobby or the terms used in it?
  • your work–Are there things that you have learned through your work that would be useful to people who are not familiar with your profession?
  • books you may have read recently

The trick is to be as relevant as you can to the audience who is listening to you.

Your Areas of Expertise

When selecting a topic consider areas in which you have expertise.

Learning Objectives

Explain why choosing a topic in an area in which you are an expert is a good option

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Considering your expert areas can help you decide what topic you will speak about.
  • An expert area is one where you have knowledge that most people do not.
  • Choosing an expert area for a topic has an advantage because you already have the knowledge, which makes it easier to explain to an audience.

Key Terms

  • knowledge: Familiarity or understanding of a particular skill, branch of learning, etc.
  • expert: A person with extensive knowledge or ability in a given subject.
  • expertise: great skill or knowledge in a particular field or hobby

Your Expert Areas

Many people have areas in which they are experts.

A picture of AVIDAC, one of the earliest digital computers, in 1953.

Expertise: Considering your areas of expertise can be a way to generate a speech topic.

Experts are people who have a thorough knowledge of something that most people do not. Expertise is when someone has a wealth of knowledge in a particular field. Rocket scientists are experts, but so are the analysts who talk about football on the television. When trying to select a topic for your speech consider any areas in which you are an expert. Do not expect to speak fluently on a subject that you know little or nothing about. Your fluency will be in direct ratio to two important conditions: your knowledge of what you are going to say, and your being accustomed to telling what you know to an audience.

Your area of expertise might be a good topic to give a speech about because you already possess a familiarity with it. One benefit of this familiarity is that it reduces the time you will have to spend on researching. Instead, research will mostly be aimed at refining your expertise, enriching it, and ensuring that you are familiar with the conversation around that topic.

When trying to determine what topic you will speak about, picking an area where you have expert knowledge increases the likelihood that your speech will effectively communicate with your audience. For the audience, you are the authority on the topic that you are speaking about, so it might help to already have authoritative knowledge. A speech whose topic is related to your expert area will draw on your extensive knowledge, making it easier for you to explain the specifics of the topic to the audience.

Your Areas of Interest

Consider areas that you are interested in when trying to select a topic for your speech.

Learning Objectives

Select your topic from an area in which you have an interest but are not yet an expert

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • An interest is something that you are aware of but don’t know much about.
  • Think about what intrigues you about the area you are interested in.
  • Choosing something you are interested in as a topic will likely turn you from a novice to an authority.

Key Terms

  • Interest: A great attention and concern from someone or something; intellectual curiosity.

While most people are experts in certain areas, possessing highly specific knowledge, they also tend to have areas that they might not know much about but have an interest in knowing more. One stamp might lead someone to be interested in stamp collecting. Or maybe you have had a conversation with a friend who introduces you to an idea that interests you but you have not found the time to thoroughly investigate it. When trying to select the right topic for your speech, consider any areas that you are interested in.

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A Stamp Collection: Someone who has an interest in stamps might think about that as a speech topic.

There are many advantages to searching in an area of interest for the topic of your speech. As you research your topic, you will move from having an interest to having a good understanding. In this way, your journey will mirror that of the audience who you will be speaking to. Your goal as the speaker is to make the audience interested in the topic of your speech and then inform them about that topic through the course of your speech.

When choosing a topic, think about an area that interests you. Then ask yourself some questions, like “Why do I think this is interesting? ” and “What specifically interests me about this topic? ” Follow through your initial sense of inquisitiveness and consider how you might recreate this sense of interest in the speech, which would draw your audience in in a similar way to how you initially became interested in the topic. Then consider how you might enrich this interest by researching the area and learning more about it. The goal of your speech is be to navigate the audience through the same journey you went through, from ill-informed interest to informative understanding.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is one method to finding the right topic for a speech.

Learning Objectives

Employ brainstorming as a method to help you generate topic ideas

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Brainstorming can be a helpful way to find the topic for your speech.
  • Brainstorming is a helpful method to generate a large numbers of ideas in a spontaneous manner.
  • During a brainstorming session, give yourself a time limit and then let yourself consider any thoughts you have in considering what the topic of your speech will be.

Key Terms

  • brainstorming: A method of problem solving in which individuals or members of a group contribute ideas spontaneously.

You have considered your areas of expertise. You have considered your areas of interest. And you are still trying to choose the right topic for your speech. In addition to these other methods of finding and selecting the right topic, brainstorming is an effective means for generating potential speech topics.

Think of a brainstorming session in terms of what happens during a real storm. Think of the ideas as rain. Good storms have lots of rain, and a good brainstorming session should generate lots of ideas. And hopefully your brainstorming session will have a lightning strike, or an “ah-ha! ” moment, where you identify the perfect topic for your speech.

A painting of a lecture at a knight academy. The speaker is standing at the lectern and the audience is seated nearby.

Speech Topics: Brainstorming allows you to generate topics for your speech.

The goal of a brainstorming session is to let yourself quickly generate a large number of ideas, commonly in relation to a specific purpose. When brainstorming for speech topics, write at the top of a fresh piece of paper: “What topic should my speech be about? ” Then, under the question, let yourself write down what comes to your mind for a pre-established period of time. Let yourself generate as many different answers to the question as come to mind.

Brainstorming is one of many ways to help you find and select the best topic for your speech. Brainstorming should feel less stressful than other methods of generating ideas. Use brainstorming as a creative way to come up with different topic ideas. Use the creative topic ideas that you have generated during brainstorming to help decide what your speech will be about. A well-chosen topic is key to the success of a good speech.

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Lightning Strikes: Lightning strikes, or “ah-ha” moments, during brainstorming mean that you are coming up with ideas.

Scoping Your Topic

Once you have generated a variety of ideas, it is time to narrow the topic to ensure it fits the scope of your speech.

Learning Objectives

Demonstrate how to narrow your speech topic

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Scoping your topic is identifying the subtopics related to the general topic your speech will address.
  • The amount of time allowed for the speech will help determine how narrow or broad the scope should be. A broader scope will take more time to explain, while narrowing will allow you to cover the material in less time.
  • If your goal is to include more detailed information, narrowing your scope will allow you to analyze your topic more completely.

Key Terms

  • narrow: To reduce in width or extent; to contract.
  • topic: Subject; theme; a category or general area of interest.
  • scope: The extent of the area or subject matter that something deals with or to which it is relevant.

After much deliberation, you have selected a topic. Congratulations! Now comes the fun part: making that topic manageable and developing your speech. Think of your preliminary work as establishing a general target. Now the goal is to narrow your aim and find the bull’s-eye !

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Narrow Your Topic: Narrowing your topic is like aiming for the bull’s-eye on an archery target.

Even though it is not an easy decision to come to, deciding on the general topic has only set you out on the path toward developing a speech, not toward leading you to the end. If you decide your topic will be about basketball, for instance, that is quite a broad topic. Will your speech be about the history of basketball? Will it be about specific players? Or specific rules? Scoping your topic is the process of identifying the important subtopics that form the parameters of your speech. As these questions make clear, picking a general topic is only a first step. What you need to do is establish the scope of your engagement with the topic of your speech by breaking it into the important parts.

An important consideration when you begin narrowing in on the specific area of your general topic is how much time you will have to deliver your speech. If you have a shorter amount of time, you will need to narrow the scope of your speech. If you have a little more time, you might be able to cast a wider net when it comes to the topic of the speech. Use time constraints to your benefit, let them guide you to narrow the scope of your speech.

Scoping your topic will not only make the writing of the speech easier, but by narrowing the scope of your speech, you also increase the likelihood that your speech will effectively communicate with the audience. Covering a more narrow scope will allow you to include more detailed information, and cover your topic more fully. When your speech has a focused engagement, it is easier for audiences to follow along and be informed or persuaded, depending on what the purpose of your speech is.