For many people, the thought of giving a speech in front of a group can be terrifying. Even if you are comfortable with public speaking, it can be difficult at times to determine what to speak about. In this unit, we shall expose you to some important tips that will help you select a speech topic that will impress your audience every time.
Choosing a Topic
The most important point in this section is that, whether you choose a topic from subjects you know a lot about, or from subjects that you would like to know more about, your choice will be guided by your analysis of the audience, the occasion, and the setting. For the purposes of this study unit, let’s assume that your listeners are your fellow students. They have come to hear your first speech (the occasion) in a lecture hall in your university or college (the setting). By the end of this study article, you should be able to see a clear connection between the material you studied in previous articles. Now, study the following steps to choosing a topic:
Steps to choosing a topic
- Look for timely topics. Pick up a newspaper or check the headlines on the Internet. Sometimes an interesting story can spark your creativity. Plus, it gives you a great way to open your speech.
- Connect. If you have an idea for a topic, look for a way to relate it to your audience. Does not just talk about a topic in general – try to help your audience understand and care about it.
- Think about your audience. Who are you speaking to? What do they care about? The first thing you should always do is put yourself in your audience’s shoes and consider what they would like to hear and why.
- Consider your own knowledge and background. What do you care about? The easiest speeches to deliver are ones on a topic that you know inside and out. Your own passion and knowledge about a subject will come through in your presentation with very little effort.
- Consider what actions you would like your audience to take when you finish speaking. How should they feel after hearing you? What would you like them to do? Instead of just speaking about a topic, think instead about trying to persuade your audience to take a certain action or change a belief or behaviour.
Determining the General Purpose
What is the Purpose of a speech?
Before one begins to think about delivering a speech, one must determine why he or she is giving the speech. Speeches serve a variety of purposes. The immediate audience helps determine the purposes of a speech. People assemble for a speech because they expect to hear or learn something they did not already know. A speaker must satisfy these expectations. Establishing one’s purpose in giving a speech demands explicit attention. It is not enough to believe that the speech is expected or that speaking is somehow a routine act. Such assumptions will quickly be discerned by an audience; and if the audience suspects that the speaker is there unwillingly or unenthusiastically, such an audience will be far less receptive. If a speaker does not have a clear reason to give the speech, then the speech should not be given.
The Central Purpose of a Speech
There is really only one purpose of a speech: a speaker must wish to engage his or her audience with a central idea or proposition. The act of engagement is crucial. A speech is a dynamic relationship between a speaker and the audience. A speaker who views an audience as nothing more than the passive receptacles of his or her insights will lose that audience. It is important to remind ourselves that every speech has objectives, and these objectives include: conveying information or insight, persuading the audience and motivating the listeners.
Determining the General Purpose of your Speech
Most speeches have one of the following general purposes: to inform, to persuade, to entertain, and to pay tribute. Some speeches may have other purposes such as: to introduce, to present, to accept, to inspire, to eulogize. Before you begin to plan and prepare your speech, decide its purpose.
To Inform: In an informative speech, you are concerned about giving new information to your listeners. You want your audience to understand and remember new information.
To Persuade: In a persuasive speech, you want your listeners to change their opinions, attitude or actions.
To Entertain: An entertaining speech is light, fun and enjoyable.
To Introduce: A speech of introduction is designed for one speaker to introduce another to the audience.
To Present: A speech of presentation is formally designed to formally present an award or honour to another person in front of an audience.
To Accept: A speech of acceptance is made by a person who has received an award or honour in front of an audience.
To Pay Tribute: A speech of tribute praises or celebrates a person, group, institution or event. It generally conveys love, gratitude, respect or admiration.
To Inspire: The inspirational speech is given to move listeners to a higher level of feeling or activity. You want your listeners to feel uplifted or encouraged.
To Eulogise: The eulogy is a speech made in honour of someone who has died.