What should you speak about?

How old are you?

That’s how many years of unique experiences you have. You have accumulated insights and stories relating to hundreds of different topics. So why is it so hard to think of something interesting to talk about? As Toastmasters progress through the speech manuals they may feel like they have exhausted their personal anecdotes and areas of interest. Clearly they are having a problem tapping into their own canon of experience.

Developing a speech is a slow process. Fully formed speech ideas are unlikely to pop into your head exactly when you need them. You have to find a way to harness all those partial ideas, anecdotes and insights that are popping into your head all the time. These fleeting thoughts need to be recognised as something that could contribute to a future speech. Fragments of ideas and stories should be written down as a resource for writing future speeches.

I’m sure all of you have had creative ideas, and then forgotten them forever. Avoid this by implementing a habit of jotting things down. However unusable an idea might seem, at some point in the future it might be the perfect anecdote. Once a snippet has been recorded it can be reviewed, expanded and combined with other ideas.

Furthermore writing things down has the added benefit of solidifying your idea. Going from a thought to a written sentence forces you to think about the idea, take a stance and remember specific details.

Whenever an interesting memory or idea pops into my head I write it down. If I’m at my computer I put it directly into a document called Ideas. I use Google Docs, an online word processor which can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. If I’m not next to a computer I’ll jot down the idea and copy it into my Ideas document when I get home. I’ve started carrying a notepad specifically for this purpose. Having everything stored in a single online document makes it easy to review and protects it against being lost or corupted.

Most entries are single sentences, something brief to jog my memory. If related ideas/stories occur to me I’ll note them down as bullet points underneath. I started my document about three months ago. Now I’ve got a big collection of anecdotes from primary school, secondary school, university, holidays and all kinds of miscellaneous things.

When planning a new speech I will use this resource as inspiration. I might whittle down stories by telling several to a friend and choosing the ones that get the best reaction. Selecting two or three stories with a connecting thread or moral could lead to a well developed, and very personal speech.

Have fun accumulating this resource. It will take time, but it is worth it.

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One Comment

  1. Posted June 8, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Good blog topic! Goes for so many creative things, not just speeches.

    I have a habit of e-mailing ideas to myself and starring them in GMail, or if I’m out, writing a note on my iPhone.

    I know a comedian who always carries a moleskine and a tiny pen in his pocket, and writes copious notes in really neat handwriting.

    Its good to have a system ;-)

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