How To: Eureka! A Speech Idea!

How to find a goldmine of topics.

By Sandy Jacobson, CC

Do the 10 required speeches for your Competent Communicator award seem insurmountable? Think about it: 10 talks on 10 topics. To some of us, that’s not only a lot of talk, it’s a lot of topics. Some survive the 10-speech challenge by giving presentations that can all be traced back to a single theme. That’s not advised, because variety is a cornerstone of the Toastmasters program. Topics are as diverse as the club members themselves. Wide-ranging and engaging speech subjects will keep you vibrantly human… and talking!

So here are 10 tips for generating some great speech ideas:

1. What would you like to know more about? Ecology? Leadership? The history of luxury? Now is your chance! Writing and presenting a speech is a great way to bring your interest to life. Look into an intriguing concept and figure out what you have to say about it.

2. Observations – do you see trends? What are people looking for on the Internet? Search engines like Google provide search-trend analysis. Another trend source is new words in our living language. Consider checking out Web sites that monitor the origin of new words.

3. Adopt the inquisitive qualities of journalists. Do you read another language? Check out the wealth of topics in world newspapers at todaysfrontpages.

4. Ask, “What moves me forward at work?” Mentoring, teamwork, how to make good decisions, entrepreneurship, negotiating? Write a speech about an improvement you’d like to achieve. Break it down into steps and perhaps include how you’ll measure your success.

5. Teach. Learn a new skill and share it with the audience. Outline interesting points, tips and techniques. Show your enthusiasm.

6. What do you get lost in? What are your interests or hobbies? Do you know a lot about model-making, knitting or catering?

7. Enter another world. Choose a trade, specialty, industry, association or nonprofit and look up the sources they make available on the Internet. U.S. association directories are searchable on the ASAE Web site at

8. Check out community resources at your nearby library. You may have access to databases and electronic services, including the full text of magazines and newspapers as well as myriad other resources.

9. Talk to friends and family. What speech ideas do they have? What speeches or subjects influenced them or have remained relevant? Quiz them and see what you come up with together.

10. Put yourself in someone else’s place. Be a refugee, a farmer, or a sculptor commissioned to do public art for your city. An experiment with perspective can start from a photograph, an interview or a story. Use your imagination and research!

Be sure to consider your audience and each of the manual’s 10-project objectives, tips and evaluation guides – and then put these 10 ideas to the test. These can also work for Table Topics and other situations where you want to liven up the group and stimulate new ways of thinking. With a little practice, you’ll soon produce speech ideas that are intriguing, unique and unforgettable. Enjoy the payoff! 

Sandy Jacobson, CC, is a member of Michigan Avenue club in Chicago, Illinois.

Strike more gold with the help of Toastmasters’ “Speech Topics: They’re All Around Us” (Item 1616), available at