Four Methods of Using Brainstorming for a Speech Topic

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Use brainstorming to determine your next speech topic.
Use brainstorming to determine your next speech topic. (Image: IT Stock Free/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Deciding your topic can the most challenging aspect of writing a speech. If you’re lucky, the parameters of your presentation are predetermined -- you’re asked to give a speech at a sales convention about your company’s product, for example. But if you have more freedom as to your topic choice, you must find an efficient way of generating winning ideas. On occasions where you’re given little or no direction as to subject matter, brainstorming is an effective creative tool.

Set a Time Limit

Get a stopwatch or alarm clock and set it for a reasonably short period of time; five or 10 minutes, for example. Get a pen and paper and start writing any topic idea that pops into your head. Do so without censoring your ideas. The important thing to remember about brainstorming is to let the ideas flow without criticism. You can look around the room for inspiration. If the TV is on, it might inspire an idea about how women are portrayed in the media. If you’re looking at your computer, it may lead you to an idea about how new software is developed. One thought should lead to another in a stream-of-consciousness fashion.

Use Your Life for Inspiration

Mentally go through the activities of your day so far. Did you have a long and frustrating commute? Think about the many speech topics that could inspire – the advantages of carpooling, the need for green fuels, the lack of responsiveness of public officials to commuter complaints. Write them down without censoring yourself. The repeat the process with other aspects of your day. Did you walk the dog? How about a speech on service animals? Write your ideas down, then, after your brainstorming session, revisit them with a more critical eye.

Meditate

Meditation calms mental chatter and clears the way for inspired thoughts. Set your alarm for 30 minutes and sit quietly with your eyes closed, breathing deeply. Try to empty your mind of the day’s distractions – this will be a challenge. When 30 minutes have passed, get a notebook and pen and start writing. Again, it’s important to “free write;” just put your thoughts on paper without analyzing their value. Brainstorming is about getting the ideas flowing – you don’t have to commit to any one thing yet.

Evaluate Your Ideas

Whatever method you use to generate inspiration, the second part of brainstorming involves narrowing down your ideas. Some questions to ask yourself when determining which of your topic ideas are most viable include, "Do I have some knowledge of this topic?" If you’re a dentist, you may feel more comfortable giving a talk on the latest materials for fillings, rather than how to grow olive trees. You don’t have to select a topic you’re already an expert on, but you should pick a topic that will interest you and that you’ll enjoy researching. Finally, ask yourself if your topic will appeal to your audience. You may be passionate about new technology in air purifiers, but your audience may not be.

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