Monday, June 22, 2015

What do I write speeches about?

One of my Toastmasters mentees recently asked me this question. This is the advice I gave her.

The simple (and probably non-helpful) answer is "anything." Don't make the mistake of trying to come up with speech topics out of whole cloth. I once read something that radically changed how I look at preparing for these speeches: you could do the same speech for all ten CC manual speeches, just tweaking it each time for whatever that assignment is emphasizing.

So, here's a list of ideas:
  • Hobbies: what are you interested in that you think others might be? I have done four total manual speeches on different aspects of Star Trek (and discovered a few "closet Trekkies" in the process :-). I also did a speech combining public speaking skills and the Israeli martial art of Krav Maga, of which I am a practitioner.
  • Interesting things you've read about: I did a model speech (also storytelling manual speech) on St Peter from the Bible, when he denied Jesus three times and Jesus later redeemed him. I also did a speech on how to learn a foreign language, which I used for two manual speeches (CC #8 and #9).
  • Your job: what's cool, or interesting, or little-known, or encouraging, about your job or jobs you've had? I did a speech on APIs, which is a big part of my job.
  • Messages you want to get out there: my CC#10 speech, which I also used as a contest speech and as several speeches from the Storytelling advanced manual, was on women's situational awareness for self-protection. It was actually not a very good contest speech, though I won a club level with it, but it was such an important message I wanted to get it out there.

See a theme? (1) Speaking on things I know about. (2) Using essentially the same speech multiple times, tweaking it each time. I used that basic Star Trek material for four different speeches.

Obviously, each speech was different, but I only had to do the research once. Don't reinvent the wheel every speech. That's actually real-life, by the way: absolutely no speaker out there actually writes new speeches each time. You re-use lots of previous material, customizing it for the occasion and audience.


  1. Thanks Gary. Good suggestions!

    I'm just finishing a year as VP of membership for my Toastmasters club, and a few months ago we had a keen visitor who was put off joining by being fearful of coming up with numerous speech topics. It was a shame!

  2. Thanks, Craig! That's interesting. I think newcomers can be awed by people doing all these speeches, when they don't even want to stand up there. I'm just starting as President of Loudoun club, so that's one thing I'll keep in mind and try to help new folks with understanding.