Beginner Basics How to pick a topic and write your first speech

Beginner Basics: How to pick a topic and write your first speech

Are you about to take up the stage any time soon?

You might have some experience with presentations before, but public speaking is a different ballpark.

Many elements go into it. However, all of it begins with content. As they say, ‘content is king.’

Therefore, it is a good idea to go through lists and ensure you are picking the best speech topic for your audience.

You might remember having to introduce yourself in front of a class or having to present in an office meeting.

The nervous memories might get you thinking that you are not prepared to give your first public speech.

But fear not! That’s precisely where we come in!

We will go through a step-by-step guide on picking a topic and writing your first public speech. 

Are you ready to set fire to that stage?

Let’s jump right in!

First things first: Breathe

It is easy to overthink your first speech. There are so many things to think of: topic, visual aids, content messaging, body gestures, etc. You might just find yourself too overwhelmed to begin.

The first thing you need to do is breathe.

Writing a good speech is an art, and delivering it is a performance in itself. There are no shortcuts here.

You may have seen many sites offering tips on writing a successful speech in 10 minutes.

However, these shortcuts are merely just dots along the way that you need the experience to fill in with.

Don’t be tempted to rush. Understand the basics well. Once you get the structure down, the speech will follow naturally.

The two pillars of a successful first speech are structure and practice, and there is no substitute for either.

Before You Begin

Before we jump into the matter’s meat, let’s discuss a few things you need to keep in mind first.

These are the questions you need to ask yourself to make sure the structure you create will align with an excellent public speaker’s basics.

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is your topic, and why?
  • What is the purpose of your speech? Are you sharing a story or looking to persuade the audience? 
  • Will adding visual aids enhance your message?
  • How long will the speech be? Is your topic too vast to be summarized at that time?

Why does having an outline matter?

An outline is an excellent way to simplify your speech writing process. It divides your work into sections and makes it easier to work with. 

When you know what you’re working towards, your thinking process will also get a lot less cluttered.

Writing a speech without an outline in mind can also cause you to have difficulty in sorting ideas. You might feel like including all sorts of things, but it can actually dilute your message.

Before you begin, create an overview so you have not only an outline but also a good idea of what you’d like your speech to convey.

This will establish clear goals for you to write your speech. A typical speech outline is simply divided into three sections.

Browse through our Complete OBC speech structure guideline to write your speech.

A basic speech format is simple. It consists of three parts: an opening or introduction, body or the main section, and a conclusion. But your outline begins with a topic. 

Picking a speech topic

Picking a speech topic for your first speech can be daunting. After all, the possibilities are quite literally endless. To help you narrow it down, try asking yourself these questions:

What are you passionate about?

Many people will encourage you to talk about current events or trends. While staying topical is good advice, for your first speech, try to stay true to something you are interested in.

This is because your excitement for your topic will help you overcome your nerves to a certain degree.

The audience will also respond well to your enthusiasm as your passion shines through your body language, delivery, and energy itself.

Will your topic be interesting to the audience?

Passion is pretty important, but so is audience analysis. Find out who you’ll be speaking to and try to find common middle ground.

This way, you can win your audience’s attention right from the get-go.

The key to getting the audience’s attention is that they must feel as though they are getting something out of it as well.

To properly assess your audience and think about their interest along with your patience.

How knowledgeable are you about the topic?

Technically speaking, you could pick any topic under the sky. However, since it is your first speech, we advise you to stick to something you are already knowledgeable about.

This will add credibility and make it easier for you to maintain audience attention. It will also give you more confidence as you take up the stage.

Who is your audience?

For a successful speech, your audience must have a good time. For this, it isn’t just your content you need to think about.

You need to analyze who is present in your audience. You can follow simple steps to do this:

  • Determine the other speakers and their topics or themes. 

This will help you understand the setting and general atmosphere of speaking, whether the setting is formal, technical, or lighter.

  • Find out how many people are to be expected.

This will also give you a good idea of the size and demographic of the audience. Things like gender, age, professions can help you map out how knowledgeable or sensitive your audience is about a topic.

  • Follow up on social media and stay updated on the events and comments around this event.

The secret to a great speech topic

The sweet spot of finding a great topic is through the answers for these three questions:

  • What is the purpose of your speech?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What type of speech do you want to give?

The answer to these questions will lead you to have a better idea of your speech. Similarly, thinking ahead about your audience and their interests, along with aligning your purpose and passion for your speech, are ingredients to a great speech.

Being this prepared will give you the confidence to handle those first-time nerves with ease. Your passion will bring in a natural element to your delivery as well. A good speaker uses these elements to deliver an enthusiastic and exciting speech. 

The end-goal here is that both you and your audience will have a good time during your presentation. This is what makes your speech not just successful but also memorable.

Here are a few handy links for topic ideas for different types of speeches:

Picking a topic to write the speech

You might’ve gotten excited while picking a topic but gradually lost steam as you got closer to writing it. This is a very common occurrence.

We tend to overshoot and think we have plenty to say initially, but when it comes down to it, we might feel short. 

In such a case, try to remember why you were excited about this topic in the first place. Finding the source of that initial spark might get your wheels turning.

It’s common to reach writing blocks even about topics that you are passionate about. This is why having an outline is so important. You can break down the top areas that you’d like to cover and go at it one by one.

The importance of enthusiasm

Many people tend to think all you need for a good speech is a good topic. This is a big myth. The audience can read your energy and respond to it. You need to be excited about your topic so that your audience can follow it.

You will need to incorporate both your voice as well as body language for this to work effectively. Sprinkle in some credibility to create the perfect presentation.

How to keep your audience entertained?

When you pick a topic that is interesting to you, you might forget to account that your audience does not share your passion.

It is, thus, your job to keep them entertained. You can certainly pique their interest with a cool topic, but maintaining enthusiasm is the real challenge.

In such a case, you need to mix a lot of interesting ingredients for your speech. Whether it is through capable storytelling or diagrams, make sure you don’t let that enthusiasm die.

Eye contact and body language can bring a lot into a presentation. The way you weave your hands in the air to create drama is actually weaving a masterful tale for your audience.

How to speak about something you don’t know about?

Since we’ve spoken so much about credibility, you might be wondering whether you’re allowed to speak about the things you don’t know. Of course, you can!

While it is certainly great to come to the stage armed with knowledge, you can use your curiosity as a tool as well.

An example of a speech under this condition can be a new hobby or something you’ve recently taken an interest in. How you can tackle this is, first of all: preparation.

Good prep can be the bridge to fix that credibility gap. Similarly, your curiosity can be a great substitute for your fevered passion.

This condition is also well suited for audience participation, provided that you handle it well. Try to give the audience some pointers and get a discussion going.

This works best for a smaller audience as the discussions are likely to be more fruitful.

Beginner Speech Don’ts to Lookout For

Now that we know all the do’s of a speech, it is just as important to know what to avoid. When crafting your first speech, here are some things you should be wary of.

Hobbies aren’t good speech topics.

Many times amateur speakers will take up the stage with topics that are centered around their hobbies.

What this does is it alienates the audience quickly. You might be interested in sharing your love of bird watching, but it is safe to say that your listeners might not share your passion.

However, this is still salvageable with skill. Your passion can be channeled to create engagement and passion.

The reason this goes into them doesn’t pile simply because it is your first speech. Delivering a speech along with winning over audience interest might be a lot to ask of your first time.

Don’t pick trendy topics that you don’t care for

This is another common trap that beginners fall into. Many speakers pick a topic only based on what is topical or trendy at the moment, even if they themselves do not know anything about it.

When you don’t care about a topic, it’ll begin to show in your presentation. You need to be passionate about the topic in order to learn about it.

Later in your public speaking career, you might be able to do more trendy topics with ease. 

If the audience asks more questions, you might find yourself nervous and unprepared. Therefore, in the beginning, it’s better not to put this additional pressure on yourself. 

Wrapping Up,

Picking the right topic for your first ever public speaking event can be a daunting task.

However, once you know what kind of speech you will be giving as well as design a proper speech structure, you are sure to be unstoppable.

When you’re taking on the stage for the first time, you don’t have to be an expert on it. You should still do plenty of research and practice to calm your nerves.

Public speaking is an art form that takes practice to conquer. So for now, be proud of yourself for dipping your feet in the water itself.

Feel free to experiment with different styles until you find your own natural element. And most importantly, have a blast!