Being asked to deliver a speech is a great honour, but also a great headache. Best take it one step at a time, starting off with the topic – here’s how to choose one:
Consider the occasion
- Is it celebratory? In this case, the speech will most likely be based on the person you’re celebrating. Keep it complimentary, brief and interesting.
- Is it fun and light-hearted? Whether it be a bachelor’s party or an informal dinner, the secret to a great speech lies in making the guests laugh – just try to keep it clean.
- Is it professional? Then stay on topic, keep it professional, remember your place and pay extra careful attention to the remaining tips in this article.
What role do you play in the event?
- First figure out what your purpose is – to inform, soft-soap, praise an individual, persuade or simply entertain.
- Once you know what’s expected of you, you can choose your topic and speech content accordingly.
- Never overstep – if there will be more than one speaker at the event, make a point of finding out what the others’ roles are so that you don’t tread on their soil.
Steer clear of touchy subjects
- Avoid any topics that might offend members of the audience or planning committee.
- Topics that you’ll definitely have to tread lightly around include racial issues, political topics, gender and cross-gender jokes, and religion.
- Avoid controversial topics that your audience stands divided on, for instance abortion, sex before marriage and gun control (unless of course your role is to convince them of your standing).
- When in doubt, always consider the topic from every possible person’s perspective – the boss, the grandmother, the impressionable toddler – and decide if it’s appropriate.
- Consider the ambience of the event – after all, if you’re giving a speech at a wedding, the last thing you want to talk about is death.
Put yourself in the shoes of the audience
- Consider what they know and what they don’t, as well as their level of education – you don’t want to discuss a topic that they have more knowledge on than you, or one that they’ll grasp within 30 seconds.
- Think of the types of interests your audience members might have and try to address them.
- Take into account the basic demographics (age, gender, race, location, etc.) of the audience and bear it in mind when writing your speech – for instance, people from Koekenaap might not get a joke about heavy traffic.
- What is your relationship with the guests? Are you a colleague, boss, brother, sister, daughter, stranger or professional spokesperson? This will determine the tone of your speech.
Choose a topic that you’re passionate about
- A memorably speech is always one where the speaker can deliver the message with clarity and conviction, which can only be done if you ooze passion.
- If you feel strongly about a topic, the odds are good that you have in-depth knowledge on the subject which will make for a more substantial speech.
- If you don’t enjoy researching a topic, it means that you won’t enjoy writing or speaking about it and your audience won’t be able to relate to you.
- Ask yourself: Can I answer questions about this topic, should an audience member pose one? If not, then make sure you put in enough research.
Choose a topic that your audience can relate to
- Try sticking to topics that you have personal experience on, so that you can offer a more personal perspective on it and help your audience get to know you.
- Consider a relevant current events topic – simply check out the latest news headlines and keep an ear to the office and social media ground.
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