Motivational speaking has come to the forefront in recent years, especially with the success of the TED talks, and the popularity of speakers at high schools and colleges. Audiences are very inclined towards hearing speakers who not only have a positive message, but also encouragement, empowerment, and a no B.S. approach to speaking. Still, that soaring popularity might have left you searching around for speech topics that have not yet been covered over and over again by multiple speakers.
There is a little bit of a trick to this, and that is in making the information you relay in your speech your own. Getting your listeners motivated has a lot to do with how connected they feel with you. So, instead of using abstract concepts, try using your personal stories of achievement. Sure, people have done plenty of “how to succeed” speeches over the years, but they have not done your story. Let’s take a look at a few topics that might get you thinking of new and exciting ways to present them to your audience.
Life Stories of Inspiring People
Do you have a particular interest in someone like Nelson Mandela? Have you met anyone inspiring whose story and lessons you would like to share? Often times, while we know the core story of famous individuals, we have not had the opportunity to sit and listen to a powerful speaker share a meaningful story about these people.
You don’t necessarily have to make the entire speech a history lesson about this individual either. Their stories may mirror some modern day issue you are keep to speak about, and the emotion and gravity you take from their stories are sure to get people in tune with your message.
Some people you may wish to mention might include: Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Anne Frank, Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, Benjamin Franklin, Hank Aaron, Jim Henson, Martin Luther King Jr., Jesus Christ, Leonardo daVinci, Hellen Keller, Florence Nightingale, Chuck Yeager, etc.
Comedic Takes on Serious Topics
When I was in college, all of the sororities and fraternities got together to hear a speech on safe sex. It was a subject we had all heard countless times over, and nobody was particularly enthusiastic about the speech. What followed surprised everyone as two comedians – one straight man and one gay man – proceeded to convey their message of safe sex thought a hilarious stand up routine. The talk must have lasted 60 minutes, which any speaker will tell you is an eternity, but the time flew by for the audience. Make no mistake, their message was a serious one. They had both lost friends and family members to the AIDS virus. Instead of just standing up there and doom-saying though, they got their message across in a lighthearted and funny way. It got our attention.
Any subject can be made into a funny speech, just so long as you remember a few key things. Your jokes must not be directed at victims, and the main purpose of your speech has to be conveying information – not just telling those jokes. Other than that, I’m sure anyone would tell you that they’d rather sit through an hour long standup routine than a dour meeting.
Some topics you might be able to spin comically might include: Overcoming marriage troubles, parenting, overcoming financial struggles, finding a good job, living positively with a disease, coping with depression, and personal safety.
Empowering Personal Stories On a Small Scale
Everyone loves the rags to riches stories, but we shouldn’t forget that they come in different forms. They are not all centered around money. Do you have an inspiring story about overcoming an illness? Perhaps about weight loss, or turning your health around? These stories all have one thing in common, and that is how you got from a bad situation to a good one. Speaking effectively about a personal journey is attractive to listeners because they can learn from it. You have already completed the objectives they want to complete, and hearing how you did it is helpful and interesting to them.
Many times, we automatically think of the larger than life stories. How I Made A Million Dollars, or How I Ran 100 Marathons. These are certainly good and popular topics, but even some smaller, more personal stories can be very interesting to your listeners. It will probably resonate better with them too, because not everyone is looking to break world records, or become CEOs. Some people are just after your story.
Some of those topics might be: How I went from an “F” student to an “A” student, How I overcame a disease, How I started my own cupcake bakery, How I coped with the loss of a loved one, How I trained my dog to win competitions, Why I wrote this book, How I built my own house, Why I became a teacher, etc.
Stories About How to Live Better
Part of the reason people attend a motivational speech in the first place is to be motivated. Anyone could watch a diet commercial, or compare themselves to their neighbor if all they wanted to do was feel bad about themselves. What you are doing is coming at them from a completely different angle, and audiences appreciate that. They already know the areas in their lives they would like to improve, they just need some help to do it.
That is where you come in. Stories about how you improve your life can help guide others to the same outcome. Often, these topics will be more vague and esoteric than some others, but there is still a large audience looking to hear them.
Some topics might include: How I found peace in my life, How I learned to let go of stress, Why spirituality is important to me, How to avoid negativity, etc.
Udemy always has courses available anytime on the topic of public speaking. Check out “Public Speaking 101” as a good place to start, and begin improving your skills today!