Selecting a Topic for an Informative Speech

Learning Objectives

Select an appropriate topic for an informative speech.

Now that we have discussed the five different types of informative speeches, let’s focus on how to select a specific and appropriate topic for your speech. Your speech should fit within one of the five speech types we have discussed in the prior section.

Person choosing a bar of chocolate from a wall of options

Choice is hard.

Choosing a topic can sometimes be the most difficult step. You want to choose a topic that is of interest to the audience and yourself. You also want to make sure that you have met the assignment expectations. If you think finding a topic is a challenge, you are not alone. There are many (even professional speakers) who think this can be one of the hardest parts of a speech!

As you think about topic choices, recall that the purpose in an informative speech is to share information with an audience, not to persuade them to believe something or take some kind of action.

As an example, you may want to give a speech about affordable housing options. You will want to keep your focus on explaining the options available to your audience rather than offering your opinion on the best options. You do not want to ask your audience to try and persuade their local legislators. You only want to stick to the research you have done about what constitutes affordable housing and nothing more. It is important to select a topic you understand well, is of interest to you, and can be explained to your audience easily. You do not have to be an expert on your topic, but you should be familiar enough with it that you can talk about it with confidence. You also want to keep your audience in mind and select a topic they are unlikely to know a lot about and that they would be interested in learning more about.

When determining a topic, keep the following in mind:

  • Know your speech purpose. In this case, it would be to inform or explain. Focus on topics that lend themselves to that purpose.
  • Who is your specific audience? Would they be interested in your topic? What knowledge might they already have about your topic? What might they want to know about your topic?
  • What constraints have you been given? For example, what kind of room are you speaking in? How much time will you have to speak? How many sources do you need to cite? Are you required to use visual aids?

Find the right scope

One common error students in public speaking classes have is selecting a topic that is too large or broad in scope for the time they have been given to deliver their speech. To illustrate, you might be interested in developing a speech that informs your audience about the Black Lives Matter movement. Even though Black Lives Matter is a specific social justice movement, it is still a broad subject with many different facets, many of which might be a good subject for an informative speech. For example, you could devote the speech to the particular events in 2013 that were the genesis of the movement. Or you might focus your speech on explaining how the #BlackLivesMatter social media hashtag helped spread awareness of the movement. Or, you could talk about how Black Lives Matter started.

As you think about selecting a topic, ask yourself whether you can reasonably hope to inform or educate your audience in the time frame you have for the speech. If you think it might be too broad in scope, try and brainstorm aspects of the topic that would be focused and narrow enough to fit the time parameters you have been given.

Once you have selected your topic and narrowed it to fit the assignment parameters, you can start organizing the speech.

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