One of the very first challenges that a person usually faces in the world of public speaking can be described in a single sentence:
What am I going to talk about in my speech?
Well, from my perspective as a comedy trainer, it’s plain as day to me that one can’t make a speech or presentation funny or entertaining unless they know what they are going to talk about in the first place.
And it appears that the overall guidance for how to create an entertaining or funny speech from scratch (or any speech for that matter) is lame at best.
Otherwise, people wouldn’t be wasting their valuable time searching for “funny speech topics” online – which is much like trying to find the best one-size-fits-all shoe that can be worn for any occasion.
So here’s what I want to accomplish with this detailed article:
1. Show you a process for nailing down your best speech topic (if this hasn’t already been determined for you by work or school).
2. Demonstrate how to easily determine the best possible talking points for your speech or presentation.
By the end of this article you should be able to quickly find more valuable core content for a speech that is not only interesting to you and your audience but…
It will also give you a solid foundation of speech material that is well suited for injecting humor if you so desire.
Also, please keep this in mind before you continue:
What I am presenting in this article is EASY to do, but there’s quite a bit of info to cover if you don’t want to waste time when it comes to nailing down the best speech topic and associated content to deliver to an audience.
The reality is this – it will probably take you longer to consume the information that I am providing you than it will to do what I am asking you to do to get the task done.
With that said, let’s get started.
Here is the first step that you MUST follow if you want to quickly determine what topic of discussion that your speech or presentation will be focused on:
The step that I have just shared with you is usually one of the biggest obstacles that a person encounters in the very beginning of building a speech from the ground up.
The problem with the common, yet highly flawed approach of trying to determine what is funny or entertaining BEFORE you even know what you are going to talk about is this:
Right now – in the very beginning of the process – you literally have NOTHING to nothing to work with yet. So to worry about that now is no different than worrying about what day to mow the lawn when you live in a high rise apartment and don’t yet have a lawn to mow.
Keep this in mind from the very beginning of the process of building your speech or presentation:
Now that we have smashed through that roadblock, let’s move to the next step…
This step is easy provided that you don’t get distracted and wander of into the weeds:
Now if you have already been assigned or otherwise tasked with a specific topic upon which your speech is to be focused upon – don’t skip this section because it contains the basic process that you will use in the next step.
Now before I give you some specific examples to review, please note:
Let’s say that you are in the market for a newer used car and decide to buy it from a used car dealer instead of a private individual. Which dealer do you think you might have a better chance of finding the newer used car that you want…
A dealer who has 3 cars on their lot or a dealer who has 60 cars on their lot?
Kind of a no brainer question, huh? Well, the same sort of thinking applies to selecting the broad overall topic that you spend your time on turning into a speech.
If you have 3-6 or more of these potential broad speech topics to choose from (after you see my examples below), then the chances are pretty good that you will nail down one that you are most comfortable and confident with when delivered to an audience.
Now your very next question should be:
OK, so how do I start the process of making a list of potential broad topics for a speech?
Here are some considerations for easily determining potential candidates for your list of 3-6 overall broad topics that could be the focus of your speech (you will only be picking one):
1. ALWAYS focus on anything that is personally interesting to you, that you are passionate about, you have a lot of experience with or something that really piques your curiosity.
No matter what this may be, it needs to make it to your initial broad topic list (which you will prioritize shortly).
Example Speech Topics
Let me give you some examples of exactly what I am talking about.
Let’s say that you grew up in a family where one parent (or both) was an alcoholic. Seems to me that you would have extensive real life experience on the broad topic of:
Living with an alcoholic parent(s)
What happens in therapy after living with alcoholic parents
Let’s say that you are a pothead and your main passion in life is getting high and scoring fast food after the fact. Some potential broad topics for your speech could be:
The benefits of medicinal marijuana
Emergency fast food basics – what to get and what to avoid
Let’s say that you have a close family member who has (or had) cancer and you were deeply involved in discovering all aspects about that disease. Some potentials broad topics for your list could be:
What you need to know about [name of cancer]
Coping when a family member gets cancer
Let’s say that you have always been fascinated by the process involved when people risk their lives to hike to the top of Mt Everest. Some potential broad speech topics that could totally take advantage of your own interest and curiosity about this could be:
The special equipment needed to climb Mt Everest
Deaths that have occurred on Mt Everest – how and why
A couple of points that I want make at this juncture:
Now you might have taken a look at the potential broad topics that I provided for examples and said to yourself:
“Some of those potential topics are pretty darn serious. I don’t see anything funny or entertaining about them at all.”
I’m going to give you a formula for comedy that you need to burn into your brain which is:
Tragedy + Time + Distance = More Objective Reflection + Comedic Viewpoint
In other words if you don’t have the time and/or distance from something that falls into the category of tragedy to you, then you won’t have the objectivity to see anything funny or even interesting about it.
Those sort of things SHOULD NOT BE ON YOUR LIST unless they are something that you want talk about and that your overall intent is an emotional, heart-felt impact as opposed to being entertaining or funny.
The reality is that this part of the process of listing potential broad speech topics should NOT be difficult at all.
As a matter of fact, it should only take you mere minutes to come up with 3-6 or more potential broad speech topics – one of which you will select to produce into a full blown speech.
Not only that, you should be having fun with this. If not, take a break and come back to it.
Now let’s assume that you have your 3-6 or more potential broad speech topics written down. The next consideration is this:
2. You need to prioritize your broad speech topic list based on the following criteria:
- Level of interest, passion, experience
- The quantity of related information available
- The quality of related information available
- The ease of locating information related to any broad speech topic on your list
The reason I’m telling you this is simple – the broad speech topic in the #1 spot on your list might not be the best choice one you start searching for associated content because there is not enough related info, the related info just isn’t very good or quality information associated with the topic is difficult to locate.
And it is worth mentioning that these attributes are directly influenced by how long your speech or presentation must be. So you might want to take a look at this article when you are done with this one:
Which brings me to the next consideration:
3. Do a quick search for information related to the first 3 prioritized speech topics on your list looking for quantity, quality and ease of locating the associated information you may need.
You should be able to EASILY do this sort of discovery process in 30-45 minutes or less. The only thing that I would add at this point is:
Don’t be afraid to use a variety of search terms in your research for any particular broad speech topic.
Not all search terms are created equally – so I would use at least 3 different search terms when looking for the content associated with your broad speech topics.
Don’t be afraid to go past page 1 of the search results to find what you are looking for.
Most people figure that if what they are looking for isn’t on page 1 of the search engine results, then it’s not there to be found. FALSE! Always go to at least page 3 of the search engine results if needed before you make any determination.
Note: If you don’t have any flexibility in your speech topic because it has been assigned to you by work or school, you may run into issues quickly finding the quality and quantity of content you need to make your speech interesting to either you or your audience.
In this case, here are some things that you can try:
- Use multiple search engines. Each search engine can display different results.
- Increase the number of search terms that you use
- Again, make sure you look for results past the first page of results.
Don’t lose sight of what you are trying to accomplish here – you are simply trying to quickly determine if your #1 pick for a broad speech topic on your list has ample associated information that you can use to incorporate into a speech – information that is quick/easy to locate and has the quality you want.
If not, go to pick #2 on your speech broad topic list and repeat.
Now if you were able to follow directions and didn’t get lost in the weeds in the process, this is where you should be:
If this is where you ended up – congratulations! You have literally completed the hardest part of this process (which isn’t hard at all if you know what you are doing).
Now for the next step in the process, which could be described as “digging up the treasure”…
Once you have your broad speech topic picked out, you need to collect the content items you need for that topic.
The talking points that I am referring to should have one or more of these attributes:
They are personally interesting, puzzling, fascinating, odd, frustrating, amazing, horrifying or otherwise touches or moves you in some way.
Note: You are still not purposefully looking for the “funny” at this juncture in determining the talking points that I am asking you to pinpoint. If you find that some of these do activate your sense of humor, great but it is NOT essential at this point.
Now pay close attention because when you do this, you are actually in the process of killing two birds with one stone with this process.
Here’s what I mean by that:
When you look for talking point items that move you in some way (interesting, odd, amazing, etc.) you are automatically ADDING INTEREST in your speech or presentation BEFORE it has been completely fleshed out (and before you have started identifying the “funny” aspects that can be identified).
How can I say that? Because the talking points that you choose to present in your speech will DIRECTLY affect your enthusiasm, energy and interest when you talk and express yourself about those things.
Keep this in mind and it will pay you HUGE dividends in the long run:
Secret: Audiences are NOT stupid – they are very aware of your level of enthusiasm, energy and interest in anything that you have to present in a speech.
What I am referring to has a DIRECT influence on how your audience receives, accepts and appreciates the information that you deliver in your speech – whether any parts of your speech are funny or not.
And this should also take the pressure off of trying to “force” something to be funny when it doesn’t really activate your sense humor.
Note: You won’t have success in trying to force anything to be funny that doesn’t trigger your sense of humor to begin with. This is a common mistake most new comedians make and contributes to them sucking on stage for extended periods of time in the beginning.
Now here’s the important part of finding talking points that are interesting, horrifying, odd, interesting, unbelievable, etc.:
These sorts of attributes tend to be the same ones that tend to activate a person’s sense of humor (the finding the funny part comes last).
Now you might be asking yourself – why do I need to find 9 talking points?
Just like when you prioritized your broad speaking topics from top to bottom, you also need to prioritize the talking points that you discover in the same manner.
The difference is that these talking points represent the actual details that you are going to reveal to your audience about the speech topic you selected.
In other words, these talking points represent the actual “meat” of the speech itself.
And just like before, not all talking points carry the same weight. Not only that…
At this juncture you really don’t know how many actual talking points you will need to address during your speech (relative to how long it is).
Will you only be able get through 3? Will you need 6? or will you need more than 9 talking points to fill the time requirement of your speech?
It’s pretty hard to say at this point because of these very important aspects that you don’t know yet like:
- How much personal experience (yours or someone else’s) will you be using in conjunction with any of your talking points?
- How much observation, opinion or speculation will you be adding to any particular talking point that you want to present?
- How many interesting factoids, anomalies, interesting statistics, mind blowing research findings, etc. are worth mentioning in association with any particular talking point that you have identified?
- How many of your talking points will allow you to easily use your sense of humor when talking about them?
Hint: It will be these items that will give your speech or presentation its true entertainment power and will usually be the basis for the comedy/humor that you want to add.
If you have consumed and applied what I have provided in this article, then you should have:
- A great broad speech topic that you are excited to talk about
- The 9 killer talking points (in order of priority) that cover the core details that you intend to cover in your speech (to the extent needed) and…
- You should have at least a couple of talking points that will allow you to easily use your sense of humor when you present them during your finalized speech
What you should really really have is a solid speech framework to run with that simply needs just a bit more work in order to be good to go for any audience you want to deliver it to.
And for the vast majority of people – if you were able to follow directions just like I presented…
You should only have about 90 minutes or so invested (including the time to read this article) in the process of creating a killer speech from scratch.
And you should have a solid framework to easily produce a full blown, finished product speech that interests both you and your audience and has the potential to be funny too.
Which brings me to this:
There is a bit more information and work involved when it comes to developing a pro level speech that generates big and genuine laughs when delivered.
That information will be provided in the course I am working on now and it won’t be any more difficult to do than the information provided in this article.