Choose Speech Topics Easily

AKA How to defeat pre-filtering

This is one of the most common issues we hear about on a regular basis. This page will get rid of that problem for you permanently.

The Real Issue is Pre-Filtering

Pre-filtering is the practice of rejecting your own ideas before you give them shape. Unfortunately, it is a very, very common practice.

Why do we pre-filter? We are predisposed to thinking that what we can say isn't important and nobody will care. It is a side-effect of low self-esteem. I've even heard people say, "[topic] matters to me, but I don't think anybody else will care about it."

To avoid the embarrassment of delivering a speech that nobody cares about, young speakers, writers, and artists will often reject their ideas as soon as they get them. By doing it again and again, they reinforce the behavior, until they're left with "nothing to talk about".

Of course, the real issue might be that they are negatively biased towards themselves.

How could I know if my topic isn't interesting to others? I don't know what people think. I barely know what they do in their own lives. This is my own low self-esteem that is preventing me from practising my art and becoming better.

One of the easiest mindset-shifts I preach is this: change the problem to a challenge. Instead of thinking, "this won't be interesting to anyone", ask "how do I make this interesting?"

The sections below will teach you methods to choose topics easily.

My Method: POSE

This is the method I use myself for creating speeches, and it is the method I teach most often.

POSE stands for Person, Object, Self, Event.

Simply put, in any speech you can only talk about a living thing or a non-living thing. In living things, you can either talk about yourself or somebody else. In non-living things, you can either talk about an tangible (object) or a non-tangible (event).

From each category of P O S E , choose one example that you care about, and write a speech about that. This gives you 4 speech topics to choose from.

For example, with persons, I can choose my mother, because I love her. I can also choose Isaac Newton, because he is a historical figure that inspires me. I can choose Rosa Parks, as a figure who made a big change in the world that I appreciate, even though her work might not have directly benefitted me.

For objects, I can choose big objects such as my house or my car, small objects that matter to me like my glasses, or objects of historical significance like The Mona Lisa or The Gateway of India, or objects of general interest such as electricity lines or Sticky Notes.

For the self, I can choose principles. e.g. Don't lie. Make time for self-care. Commit to your work. All good things to talk about. I can also choose dreams or goals. e.g. I want to lose 15 kg. I want to travel the world eating different cuisines. I want to read 26 books a year. I can choose skills or habits, and many more aspects of my life.

Finally for events, there are any number of experiences I can talk about - from concerts and weddings to a normal workday or buying groceries on the way home. See the Victim/Witness section below for more about events.

Why I love this method

POSE gives you at least 4 different speech topics. That means you have something to work on for 4 future speeches. This method is also very mutable and expandable. When you start combining different elements, you get even more categories. Some examples of subcategories:

  • Person + Self = Relationship

  • Object + Self = Goal or Transaction

  • Event + Self = Experience or Inference

  • Object + Event = Adventure

  • Event + Event = Coincidence or Pattern

  • Self + Self = Belief

  • ...and many more. Can you come up with more?

A Method from Aalap Mehta, DTM: Victim/Witness

DTM Aalap shared this method at Division A's Apricot event on 21st September, 2019. In this method, he says that you can either talk about:

  • something that happened to you, i.e. something you were a victim of

  • something that happened that you saw i.e. something you witnessed

For example, imagine you are travelling by bus, and you had to run to catch it. That is something you were a victim of, and you can create speeches out of that experience. Some ideas from this example:

  1. Buses operate on a schedule, and we have to work around these schedules.

  2. If you're late in the morning, you might have to run and potentially put yourself in danger.

  3. Buses are overcrowded in India. There are so many people here. Overpopulation is a problem.

  4. Buses are overcrowded in India. It is an uncomfortable yet convenient way of travel.

  5. ...and many more.

Sticking to the same example, imagine you were travelling by bus and you happened to see a bike on the road. The biker looked interesting to you. You witnessed them. You can talk about that, wondering about what their life is like.

Or you saw a fruit seller give an apple to a child for free, and you witnessed it. Some ideas from this example:

  1. Kindness is not the monopoly of the rich.

  2. The health benefits of apples.

  3. Children are precious and we should care for them.

  4. ...and many more.

Speeches are an experience in their own right. When you talk about something you were a victim of or something you witnessed, you are sharing an experience you had. You give that experience to other people, inviting them to feel the same way you do. That is what community is all about.

All the best with your speechwriting!

Last updated