Speak on any topic I choose? What's a speaker to do?

Speak on any topic I choose? What’s a speaker to do?

“You can speaking on anything you like. I’m sure whatever you come up with will be great.” These words give you absolute freedom to say whatever you want. With absolute freedom comes absolute terror because now you have unlimited speaking topics!

Ahhhh! What’s a speaker to do?

Before I launch in, this post is meant for aspiring speakers, Toastmasters and students, who have no clue what topic to choose for their next speech. It’s also for anyone looking for their next big speech idea. I’ve been asked question a lot lately via email – how do I choose a good speech topic. I’ve even been asked “What’s the best speech topic?”

There is no best speech topic

Just like Sasquatch, zombies, Dracula and unfortunately unicorns, there is no mythical, guaranteed to be amazing,

The Perfect speech topic doesn't exist and neither do unicorns

The perfect speech topic doesn’t exist and neither do unicorns

speech topic. There is no one speech topic that is going to interest every audience at every event. Selecting a topic is a personal journey. Where you, your audience and your knowledge matter. Let’s break down the process of finding the best speech topic when you are given the gift of choosing any topic you’d like.

Step 1: Who’s in your audience?

The person who booked you for the gig says you can speak about whatever you like – the next question out of your mouth needs to be: “tell me who is showing up for this event?” Then get as much information as you can about your audience – demographics, beliefs, attitudes, challenges, hobbies. Find out what other speakers have discussed. The more you know the more likely you will find a topic that resonates with your audience.

The topic you select is to benefit them and provide value. Remember, content is key to creating presentation that audiences love.

Step 2: What do you know about?

You should not pick a blogging niche that you know nothing about, and you shouldn’t pick a speech topic that you don’t have any experience with. Develop a list of your expertise. Write down everything you know about with no judgement about it’s value to your audience. Here’s my list:

  • Duran Duran
  • London
  • Zombies
  • Cats
  • Market Research
  • Persuasion
  • Twitter
  • Blogging
  • Surviving graduate school
  • Loss and grief
  • Loneliness

I wrote that in less than 30 seconds – just list it. I’m not saying every audience I speak in front of wants to hear about Duran Duran – but heck I’m super knowledgable about it (don’t judge my love of ’80s super-groups).

Step 3: What do you love?

You wrote down everything you know about – now look through that list and circle the topics you feel passionate about – the ones where your knowledge and enthusiasm collide like an atom circling a super conductor. Don’t circle a topic because you think your audience might like it – this right now is about you coming up with options. What do you feel most passionate about.

Step 4: Choose the best topic for the audience and event

You understand your audience, you know what you know and appreciate what you love. Look at the topics you circled. Find the topic that best serves your audience. This is the sweet spot. This is the topic you should speak about.

Need more help picking the just the write speech topic for yourself and your audience? Here’s a great resource from 6 Minutes on the secret to choosing a great topic.

Now, your job is – not to write the speech yet. You need to develop your BIG IDEA statement first! I’ll discuss exactly how I to do that in next’s week blog.

What topics do you like to speak about? Leave your topic ideas in the comment section – can’t wait to read them.

photo by: Sam Howzit

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