How to pick a speech topic your audience will actually love

How to pick a speech topic your audience will actually love

We’ve all been there.

You have a speech booked at Toastmasters (or something similar) and you have no idea what to talk about. It’s understandable that the task can seem so daunting.

Picking a topic for a prepared speech can be like choosing a plot for that novel you’ve been meaning to write; your mind is either totally empty or it’s full of so many ideas that you just don’t know which one to go with.

Choosing the “best” topic is one of the important aspects of successful public speaking, so what’s the best way to turn this confusion into a viable topic?

Here are some simple tips to help you find the best speech topic for you:

 

1. What do you want to achieve?

It sounds obvious, but lots of people don’t stop to ask themselves this question and go straight on to step 2.

Are you trying to write a persuasive speech? An inspirational speech? An informative speech? Are you trying to challenge yourself by giving a speech outside of your comfort zone?

If you are trying to win a competition, check what guidelines have been published and see what kind of speeches have won before. Certain topics might be discouraged or forbidden; alternatively, certain kinds of topics might be perennial winners. Watch videos of previous competition winners and go to the competition website to make sure you are familiar with what sort of things are allowed.

Making sure that you are clear about what your goal is and what external constraints there are will help you decide if your speech topic is going to help you achieve this aim.

 

 

 

 

2. Pick something you are interested in

So, now that you know your aim; whether it be to inspire, to inform, to persuade or something else entirely, you need a topic that will fulfill it.

Whilst contemplating the various topics available to you, you might come across something that you think would be worthy of more investigation. Before you go further, you need to ask yourself the next question: do I actually find this topic interesting? If it doesn’t fill you with much excitement, then you are unlikely to carry your audience with you on whatever journey you want to take them.

If you pick something that you think is interesting, then your enthusiasm is more likely to be infectious.

A good speech requires many hours of composition and practice. If you look forward to getting started with this hard work, then you have probably chosen a good topic for your speech. If, however, you quickly find that working on your speech is a chore then you should consider choosing something else.

With that said…

 

3. Think of your audience

…if you choose a topic that is a passion of yours, make sure that it’s something can you package in an accessible form for your audience. You have a goal and your topic should be a way of achieving that. Be wary of choosing something that is too esoteric, complicated or requires too much explanation.

An overview of almost any topic can be made interesting, but it’s important to consider how much detail you should give and crucially: what’s in it for the audience? Why should your audience listen to you? What does your speech give them?

 

4. Think about how much time you have to do research

No one can be an expert on everything and you might very well find yourself needing to do some research on the topic you have chosen. The next question you need to ask yourself is: how much time do I realistically have to spend researching this subject?

If you don’t know your topic very well – how much time do you have to read up on it? How much time do you have to find and prepare any necessary visual aids? A speech is more likely to successfully inform or inspire your audience if you feel confident with the topic. If you feel like you don’t have so much time, then choose something you’re more familiar with or something that requires less research.

 

5. Every speech should be a learning experience

A “good speech topic” is one which achieves your goal, but whether that happens or not, regardless of whether your speech is intended to be persuasive, inspirational or just plain informative, make sure that you get something out of it too. Challenge yourself to try something different; choose a topic that you’d like to make accessible for others or one that you’d like to understand better yourself (if you have the time). Push the boundaries of what you think you can achieve and make every topic a tool for self-improvement.

So, there you have it. A few tips on how to choose a public-speaking topic when you find yourself sitting wondering what to talk about. Be relevant, be realistic and most importantly, be a bit adventurous!

 

This post was originally published on 27 Feb 2019, and was updated on 28 Feb 2019. 

Peter Rodger

Presentation Coach & English Teacher

Peter has worked both as an extensive background in public speaking and coaching having competed internationally in speech evaluation. He is also a qualified teacher of English as a second language and specialises in helping non-native speakers with pronunciation. He currently coaches at TEDx Stockholm as well as being actively involved with Toastmasters. Talk to him here.

What You Need to Know About Eye Contact

What You Need to Know About Eye Contact

Remember a time when you wanted to communicate with a childhood friend secretly but without your teacher knowing? What did you do? Most probably, you looked at your friend straight in the eye, and quickly glanced at the door with the fullest force of your eyebrows. It was the purest form of communication: eye contact.

The psychology of eye contact goes deeper than just childhood habits. It satisfies a more profound need for all of us to be seen, to matter.

 

 

If you are in the audience, the presenter doesn’t need to look directly in the eye to engage you. The impact of eye contact can be felt as long as the speaker seems to look at your direction. So if it’s your turn to speak, it’s wise to share your eye contact love equally to as many numbers of people as possible.

Yet, there is such a thing as staring too much at someone, so where should you direct your eye contact and for how long?

Easy. Plant friendly faces on each corner of the room: two at the front and two at the back. These are your friends, whom you’re comfortable staring at for an extended period. Instead of sharing your attention to everybody, you only need to care about these four faces.

Start from the front faces, and perform a swipe with your laser-focused eyes, i.e. if you start from the front-right corner, go to the back-right corner, then to the back-left, then the front-left. Change the direction of your glance swiftly back to the back-left. It shouldn’t look like you’re jumping from one corner to the other. Imagine an electric fan swivelling side-to-side consistently.

They say “eye contact is more intimate than words will ever be”. Not using it to communicate your next presentation will be a misfortune.

 

This post was originally published on 21 Feb 2019, and was updated on 22 Feb 2019. 

 

Martha Winata

CEO & Co-founder of Get Sandwich

Martha coaches people presenting on startup pitches and science presentation grants. When she's not hard at work helping people present better, she can be found travelling around the globe and eating delicious delicacies.

3 Root Causes of Public Speaking Apprehension to Overcome

3 Root Causes of Public Speaking Apprehension to Overcome

To improve your skills in speaking publicly, you need to put in the reps to talk in front of large crowds more often.

It’s easier said than done though. We human beings are wired to be fearful of any risk of social isolation, commonly based on:
Situations–who are in the audience? What are the penalties if you fail?
Preparation–do you have enough info to make a good talk? Do you have enough time to rehearse?
Thoughts–are you the best person for this? What if the audience finds you boring?

The first two fears are real. They are grounded on externalities: it’s not a good idea to talk spontaneously about a hard subject if your boss’ boss is in the room. Doing that will create an attention debt that will retaliate later in the future.

But the third fear is only base on your thoughts and is not real, especially if others don’t share the same fear when you ask them. If you don’t usually talk in front of a large number of people, it’s tempting to follow those internal thoughts. It’s better to address only the first two instead.

 

This post was originally published on 18 Feb 2019, and was updated on 19 Feb 2019. 

Martha Winata

CEO & Co-founder of Get Sandwich

Martha coaches people presenting on startup pitches and science presentation grants. When she's not hard at work helping people present better, she can be found travelling around the globe and eating delicious delicacies.

Practice does not Make Perfect

Practice does not Make Perfect

Practice makes perfect. You may think this is part and parcel of the wisdom of the crowd, and whoever saying it to you is trying to help you. Reminding you that hard work counts, and that perfection is the goal.

But is perfection the reason for anyone practicing? Is that why you practice creating your signature cakes? Or reciting your presentations?

 

Perfection is subjective. The day is perfect. Whose day? Yours. The trip was perfect. Whose trip? Definitely not everybody’s. We don’t describe anything objectively using the word. Try this out: The research results are perfect. Sounds weird? Perfection is objectively unattainable.

In fact, focusing on perfection has led many to failures. The more you cognitively associate what you are doing with perfection, the more likely you will make mistakes. Even when practicing, too much focus on the details derails you from the bigger picture and can easily demotivate the whole process. If practice is all we need to get better, then why don’t everybody just practice for their own good?

Practice makes perfect. But then another voice in your head chimes in: “but no one is perfect therefore there is no need to practice. Yay!”

Wrong.

Practice makes progress. What can you say now to that?

It’s much more useful because it’s hard to refute and don’t let the nuance deceive you. A small change in wording leads to a massive shift in the mindset.

Small incremental progress, is the underrated sister of innovation. Similar to how the interest of your bank account works, progress compounds. It even has a name, called The Kaizen Effect. This blog post describes it well:

“Try to do just 1% better than the day before. Start small and make your increases gradual. Avoid the temptation to get impatient and start rushing forward and taking bigger leaps. Take it slow, steady, and consistent.”

Through this lens, doing 1% better is virtually the opposite of striving for perfection. It’s just a tad better, and that’s enough to practice just one more time. Practice that song for one more minute or run just 100 meters more. The act of practicing becomes that much easier. After all, you’re not striving for perfection, are you?

Aristotle, umm err actually, Will Durant famously said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” You can choose to make a habit out of practice, and that’s enough. Some even go as far as saying, do your worst. And doing your worst does count for progress.

Progress leads to change and change leads to growth. Catch yourself desperately trying to attain perfection, and refocus your effort to simply create 1% progress for today.

So what are you waiting for?

 

 

 

New meat on the market: help us to unite and conquer

New meat on the market: help us to unite and conquer

This week we have 2 very important announcements for you. They relate both to our product and to our brand, so this means that it involves you – our beloved clients and enthusiasts.

The first one is that we have been looking for a name to call you, where “you” is a personality that we talk to especially in our social media. Since our (funny!) name is Get Sandwich relating to the sandwich technique, our team has come up with the name Sub. What do you think, Subs? Leave your thought in the comments and let us know if you like it or if you have a better idea.

The second one is a shout of happiness and a kind request. Get Sandwich is selected as a finalist in the Swedish National Finale of Nordic Startup Awards 2018 in the category Best Newcomer. Yeeey, amazing news! We are proud to be a part of this select batch of fine Nordic startups and thrilled of being inside this ecosystem.

There is a jury to determine the winner in each category, but the public voting counts as ONE jury member. Having the most votes can increase the chances to win and the public voting is now open. Run to this link and search for Sandwich. The public voting closes on August 22 at 16h CEST. We thank you in advance for your support!

Follow our social media channels* for more updates, news and interesting facts about the public speaking world and the sandwich features. If you would like to share don’t forget the hashtags #GetSandwich #NSAwards #NordicMade.

Have a juicy one!

*Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

 

How to bore others

How to bore others

I don’t have so much experience in being an interesting speaker, but I am a black-belt in making people bored.

In the same way that speaking well is a skill, making people bored is also a skill. Have you thought of how to get away from those pesky neighbours saying “hey”?

Or maybe those colleagues who want to chit-chat, taking away your most productive hours in the morning?

I tell you the worst location I’ve been in where this skill is tremendously useful.

When I’m on a plane.

Let say the flight is ten hours from Stockholm to Singapore, and within the first five minutes of starting the long journey, just after I finish putting my socks on, then my slippers, then tuck myself under a blanket, relaxed my shoulder with a quick massage, about to put on my eyepatch and pop the sleeping pills to settle into a good sleep. The woman sitting next to me touched my shoulder. She grins at me with a hint of restlessness, then she asks “So you’re going to Singapore?”

I said, “Aren’t we all?”

 Tell me if you’ve been in these tricky situations before.

To get you out, here are three prescriptions on how to bore others.

My first advice is to talk about yourself. A lot. After all, why hold back. Tell her your origin story. How you were born. Tell her how your mother had read you Wonder Woman and Batman stories when you were still in her tummy, and that your father played Mozart on a loop for the last 3 months of the pregnancy.

Tell her your priorities in life. How much you demand comfort and enjoyment above all else. Explain to her why your bed sheets need to be ironed / everyday otherwise you will have nightmares for weeks.

Tell her how your kids, your biggest pride and joy follow your teachings and double down / on the quest to be spoiled brats. Your daughter is the living embodiment of Kim Kardashian and your son is the next Donald Trump. The world has been so unfair to you, for the sake of justice, your family shouldn’t have to go through hard-life.

The thing is you are better than everyone else. Tell her how people complain all the time about their lives but it’s really nothing in comparison to how much abuse you’ve gone through in the airport. How the baggage checking never understands your plight for speed and that you’re allergic to having your iPad touched by dirty, coarse hands.

For the second advice, you should ensure that you have a smug face. Do everything necessary to appear disengaged. Look at NOT the woman’s face but the ceiling, or the person next to her instead. Talk without acknowledging she ever exists. She started this conversation after all. It wasn’t you who wanted this.

When she appears to want to butt in, don’t give her that pause. Keep talking. Pause is only for people who want to be understood.

You don’t want that.

If you’re telling a story, like when you met the queen, change to a posh accent. “Oh, my dear, the queen has invited the family to the royal high-tea. Indeed, it is so delightful. Now… off we go.”

My final advice is to ignore all feedback. Ignore that little voice in your head that says, “You’re being an ass”.

When the woman gives you a full-blown yawn, just pretend / that she hasn’t slept well last night. She got too excited for the chance / to meet someone like you.

After you’ve followed my advice for 10 minutes, there should be one sign of success. Get ready to get your phone out / and take a picture of what you’re about to achieve. I will give you a certificate as a public recognition. The woman should be, completely asleep.

If she’s still awake, switch to plan B.

Excuse yourself to get a cup of water, secretly pull out the sleeping pills you almost took before. Drop them into the cup. Go back to your seat.

Tell her, “Hey, I thought you must be exhausted after hearing all of that.”

Don’t forget to smile.

This post first appeared as a speech delivered in Toastmasters in October 2017.