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Introduction to Topic Selection


Brainstorming is spontaneous, random, nonjudgmental thoughts to generate a variety of potential ideas on a theme.


Related Reading:

Brainstorming & Mind Mapping


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          Choosing a topic for a speech can be difficult. There are so many interests, experiences, and things in your life; it may be hard to choose a singular topic. There are four main areas of consideration as you choose your topic. If you don’t keep these in mind, you may find accomplishing the goal of your speech is more difficult. The four areas to consider are:

  • The Speaker: that’s you!

    • Think: Is the topic one you are familiar with? Or are you unfamiliar with it? Does the topic have meaning to you? Are you going to have to do research on this topic? Is it a topic you are passionate about?

  • The Audience: that’s the people hearing your speech.

    • Think: Is the audience familiar with the topic? Or are you going to have to introduce the concept to them? Do they have preconceived ideas about the topic—positive or negative? What’s their relationship to the topic? What will be in it for them (WIIFT)?

    • Remember: To analyze your audience before choosing a topic!

  • The Occasion: that’s the environment and setting your audience is gathered in.

    • Think: Is the audience looking to be entertained? Or are they looking to be comforted? Is it formal or informal? Is it a happy or sad occasion? What is the length of time I have to speak?

  • The Topic: “Wait what? I have to consider the topic when choosing a topic?” Yes!

    • Think: Is the proposed topic relevant today? Does the topic bring value to the previous three considerations (you, your audience, the occasion)?


          The most important thing about selecting a topic to speak about with your audience is to pick something you like or that matters to you. The audience will respond according to your interest and passion. Their energy and interest feed off you.


         Avoid having a broad topic. While broad topics may help your audience identify with your speech, they often don’t provide value or can be argued against or countered easily. A broad topic may not speak specifically to your intent or goal. There is just too much information to cover in the allotted speech time to have a broad topic. Use your brainstorming technique to help narrow and focus your topic. Let’s say your broad topic is music . . . There are so many music related topics that could be talked about it may cause you to be overloaded. Perhaps, narrow it down to a genre, such as classical, rap, hip-hop, reggae, or contemporary. Then, once again using your brainstorming technique, narrow your chosen genre to an artist or song.


          Remembering the four areas of consideration for topic selection, here are some areas you might try thinking about as you select your topic:

  • Use yourself.

    • Think: What are your interests? What do you like to do? Where was your last vacation? Where would you like to travel? What is one of the best things you’ve encountered? Is there an issue or topic that raises strong feelings in you—either positive or negative—that you may want to speak about?

  • Use the media.

    • Think: What is your favorite magazine? Is it a traditional magazine or an electronic collection of articles? What newspapers do you read? Do you read them in print form or a digital platform? Do you watch any morning talk shows? Examples include the Today Show or Good Mythical Morning. What TV shows do you enjoy? Is it on a traditional TV network like ABC, NBC, etc., or is it only available on a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon Prime? What is your favorite radio station? Is it public like NPR or private like iHeartRadio?

  • Use the internet.

    • Think: What are your friends discussing on Facebook? What is trending on Twitter? Are there any interesting articles circulating your social feeds? There is a caveat with selecting a topic based on the internet, you must consider the credibility of the source.

  • Use your major.

    • Think: What made you want to major in it? If you haven’t declared a major yet, what would you like to study? What are some issues impacting your major?

  • Ask your friends & classmates.

    • Think: What interests them? What do you have in common?

    • Hint: If you don’t know your classmates, start a conversation with them in your class chat on Pops Classroom.

  • Ask your instructor.

    • Think: What guidance have they provided in class? Ask them about memorable speeches they may have heard before.

  • Use your creativity.

    • Think: There is a whole world out there, so be creative. This is your chance to investigate something that interests you. This is your chance to get people interested in the topic as well.


          Remember, if you’re bored with a topic, your audience will be too! Your topic should be of interest to you as otherwise speaking about it will be more difficult.

Review Questions

1) What are the four areas to consider when choosing a topic? 

2) What are some ways to brainstorm topic ideas?

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