For the Novice: Finding Inspiration All Around You
Discover endless speech topics
in life’s everyday sources.
By Joel A. Pogar, CC
As the president of a growing Toastmasters club, I watch our members go from nervous newbies to confident speakers. Observing this transformation is a rewarding experience. I also get to see what people struggle with in their journey to becoming a Competent Communicator. Some achieve their CC very quickly, while others have a great deal of difficulty.
What’s interesting to me is the reason for success or failure. In my opinion, it’s inspiration. When you’re speaking, you have to be inspired about your topic...you have to believe in it and want to talk about it. The members on the fast track in our club – Parker Toastmasters in Parker, Colorado – are not necessarily the “best” speakers, but they are inspired to speak. They have something to say and want to tell others about it.
What is inspiration and how do you get it? I wish there was an exact recipe I could give, but short of that I’ll offer you the guidance I give new members in our club. I have given speeches on a variety of topics, and I’m often asked by new members, “Where do you get the material for your speeches? Where do you find the inspiration to write them?”
In actuality, getting the material to speak about is the easy part. Look into your own life, the daily experiences and the people who are important to you. Surely there’s material in there just begging to be spoken about. Think about your job, kids, spouse or hobbies. The list is actually endless. Let me walk you through a real-life scenario that led to one of my most popular speeches. You’ll see just how easy it is to find inspiration.
As the director for a technology company in Denver, Colorado, hiring new talent is one of my responsibilities. Last fall, I had a position open for more than 90 days because we just couldn’t find the right person for the job. While interviewing a crowd of candidates, I came across people who had lied on their resumes, failed the pre- employment drug test or even mysteriously disappeared.
An Idea Hits – Literally
The worst part of the hiring nightmare happened on one particularly bad day. A job candidate was so nervous during an interview that I thought he was going to faint. When he made it to the end of our session without passing out, I congratulated him. Too quickly, as it turned out. As I was shaking his hand by the door, he threw up on me.
I couldn’t pass up a golden opportunity to talk about the experience. With a little ingenuity, I turned that terrible day – and its frustrating background – into a comical speech that I delivered to my Toastmasters club. I called it “How Not To Get Hired.” With a little organization, vocal variety and humor, it turned out to be one of my funniest speeches ever. And it took me less than 30 minutes to write, because I really enjoyed venting about what happened.
So finding inspiration for a speech is not as difficult as it sounds. I often coach new members through their first speech, and when they tell me they have nothing to write about, I simply ask them three questions:
- What did you do today?
- What did your kids or pet (whichever applies) do today?
- What happened at work today?
After going through this exercise, people are usually surprised at the number of speech topics we uncover. This method has never failed to produce a great speech for a new member. Between your life, family and job, there’s got to be a speech in there somewhere!
Joel A. Pogar, CC, is the president of Parker Toastmasters in Parker, Colorado. He is a professional speaker, as well as a coach and club mentor. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.