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Choosing the right public speaking topic can have a significant impact on how well your speech is received. The focus of your speech may be predetermined by the venue, or you may have to come up with your own ideas from time to time. In the latter case, it is important to be able to select topics that are appropriate for your audience and still interesting to you at the same time. Here are some helpful tips on how to select an appropriate public speaking topic:

Personal Interests

One of the best ways to select a public speaking topic is to focus on topics that you find personally relevant and interesting. You will be more convincing if you are speaking about something that you’re actually interested in. It will be easier to write your presentation and find strikng facts and statistics as well. It is always helpful to add something related to your personal interests to put into your presentation.

Example: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s USC Commencement Speech

Arnold Schwarzenegger often mentions in his speeches how he succeeded in the worlds of both bodybuilding and Hollywood. His words resonated well with the audience because they heard the passion and conviction in his voice when he talked about how he overcame his own personal challenges.

Current Events

Current events make for interesting public speaking events. They are interesting to audiences because they are happening in real time and chances are that the audience or someone that they know may be personally affected by it. These types of presentations can be very effective, but they can also be somewhat painful and touchy depending on the event. In terms of current events, it is easier to gear your presentations toward more positive events as opposed to negative stories about natural disasters, violence, or political issues.

Example: Winston Churchill Speech on V-Day

Winston Churchill is largely considered to be one of the great public speakers of all time, but aside from that many of his speeches were about current events and political issues. Although many of the events that he spoke about, like World War II for example, were indeed difficult subjects, but he spoke about them in a way to provide strength, empowerment, and hope.

Focus on the Audience

Sometimes the best option is to write a presentation geared toward the audience. In order to do this, you will need to know quite a bit about them in terms of demographics and interests. For example, if you are speaking to a college or university, it will be easier to focus on topics like social media, career opportunities, and smart decision making. You should think about what types of things your audience is probably interested in and then brainstorm from there about what to discuss.

Example: Stephen Colbert’s Graduation Speech

Stephen Colbert, the famous comedian and talk show host, was invited to do a graduation speech at the University of Virginia and he focused on creating a humorous speech that would keep his audience interested. As a talk show host and comedian, much of his audience is already in the college demographic, so he crafted his speech around that and understood what would make them laugh.

Here are some resources to help you improve your presentation:

Effective Public Speaking

Start Speaking Smoothly, Fluently, Clearly, and Confidently

Pitch for Success: Learn How To Improve Presentation Skills

Selecting the right public speaking topic truly depends on your personal style, interests, as well as that of the audience. Use these ideas as a starting point and then spend some time brainstorming your ideas to figure out which ones seem to be the most promising.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

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