Coming Up With Speech Topic Ideas

ToastmastersCompetent Communicator manual provides exceptional guidance to learn and practice how to talk about things.  Each project helps you work step-by-step building skills to become an engaging and powerful speaker.  There’s one thing, however, that is doesn’t provide:

What to talk about.

Being an issue that I’ve struggled with, I began looking into it only to find out that it’s a common problem among Toastmasters.

I’m going to share the topics I’ve used so far for my Competent Communicator speeches in the hopes that it will help inspire ideas for those fellow Toastmasters who might be reading this looking for help.

My topics were:

  • My life growing up
  • The Competent Leader manual and advice on working through it
  • Comic Book Movies
  • Enjoying the little things as a means to combat stress
  • My fear of bugs, with stories about how I’ve dealt with them
  • Speed Geeking
  • Department Store Santas
  • Taking control of your Toastmasters Educational experience
  • Ways to serve your Toastmasters club

If that doesn’t help, there was a great article on the topic in the January 2010 issue of Toastmaster Magazine.

You can also get the publication: They’re All Around Us from the Toastmasters Shop.

If all else fails, many Toastmasters’ blogs and club website will have helpful hints for finding ideas for speech topics.

I hope this helped and Good Luck!

UPDATE:  I can’t believe I forgot to mention: Selecting Your Topic from the Better Speaker Series.


Song Lyric Spotlight: One Thousand Umbrellas

Today’s Song Lyric Spotlight is: One Thousand Umbrellas (full lyrics) by XTC on their album Skylarking.

XTC is one of my favorite bands when it comes to inventive and fun lyrics.  They’re right up there with They Might Be Giants.

There are so many things I love about this song that I’m not even going to try to choose a favorite part.

The rhyme scheme is so dense and rolling that it gives a great pace to the flow of the lyrics.

Not to repeat too much from the previous spotlight, but this one also plays with water as a metaphor.  In fact, one of the delightful things about this song is that the use of metaphor is as dense as the use of rhyme.

The song begins:

One thousand umbrellas
Upturned couldn’t catch all the rain
That drained out of my head
When you said we were
Over and over I cried
‘Til I floated downstream
To a town they call
Misery oh oh misery
Misery oh oh misery

Word of the Week Wednesday: Nemesis

This week’s word is: Nemesis

Besides being the name of the Greek goddess of divine retribution, nemesis has come to mean: that which will bring about one’s downfall.  Or, in a more comic book nerd sense, one’s arch-enemy; think Lex Luthor to Superman.

Geek that I am, both the mythological and comic book aspects of the word appeal to me immensely, as does the overblown drama of it.

Nemesis is also the name given to a hypothetical red dwarf star, orbiting our sun which has been theorized to cause periodic extinction events here on Earth.

The theory of this star’s existence has been used in both a song by ’80s band, Shriekback and a novel by Isaac Asimov.

CL Project 7: Developing Your Facilitation Skills

The seventh project in the Competent Leadership manual is: Developing Your Facilitation Skills.

The purpose of this project is to practice becoming a better facilitator; helping groups of people work better together.  This is obviously an important skill for a leader to master

In order to complete this project, you must perform two out of the following four tasks at separate meetings: Toastmaster, General Evaluator, Table Topics Master and Befriend a Guest at a Club Meeting.

To complete this project, I served as General Evaluator and Table Topics Master.

As General Evaluator, I worked with the evaluation team which consisted of the speech evaluators, the timer and the grammarian.  I ensured that they all understood the responsibilities of their respective meeting roles and had everything they needed to perform them successfully.

As Table Topics Master, I made sure everyone understood the purpose and format of Table Topics and took volunteers to answer the question: “If you could go back in time and talk to yourself at the age of ten, what advice would you give yourself?”

Completing this project brought me one step closer to becoming an effective leader.

New poll

It’s time for a new poll.  Now that the content of the site has expanded and diversified somewhat,  I’d like to get your opinions on which features you’d like to see more of and get any thoughts you might have for new features you’d like to see here.

Training and Distinguished Club Program Update

As I posted yesterday, today was the mid-year Officers Training.  I attended with our club’s Vice-President Education.  Our Vice-President Public Relations attended on February 5th.  That makes three officers trained in this session and our Treasurer is attended next week.  That will give us the four required for goal 9 of the Distinguished Club Program.

The session started with a few speeches in front of everyone to share information and psych up the crowd.  After that, we split up for training by office.

President‘s training wasn’t really about teaching us how to be club presidents, since we had all been serving in the office since last July.  What the facilitator did was to go around the room and ask each President what greatest difficulties were facing each club.  We then had an open discussion where we each shared our experiences and tried to brainstorm solutions to each other problems.  My club’s issue, as I mentioned a while ago, is sparse attendance.

After President’s training, I attended a session about the Distinguished Club Program.  The structure of the program was explained, which was a bit superfluous since I’ve been focused on it since before I became President.  More interesting and useful was the discussion of working with the membership to set goals and how the club goals and individual member goals support each other.

All in all, the training was very worthwhile.  I learned a bit but, more importantly, it was a great chance to network with other Toastmasters and recharge my enthusiasm for the club.  The difference may not be as pronounced as that I saw in our VP-PR, but that’s mainly because I was already at a high level of enthusiasm (hence the blog).

Speaking of the Distinguished Club Program, our club has completed one more goal!  Our Vice-President Education has completed her Competent Leader award.  This brings our club to five points which makes us officially a Distinguished Club!

Winter Officer Training

This Saturday, I will be attending the Winter session of Toastmasters officer training.

One reason to attend this training is that each club is required to have at least four officers attend each training session, one in Summer and one in Winter, in order to meet goal 9 of the Distinguished Club Program.

Other reasons to attend are spelled out in this article in Toastmasters Magazine.  Some of these include networking with Toastmasters outside of the club and getting new ideas.

Our Vice-President Public Relations had been struggling with finding the time and motivation to present speeches and promote the club; she came back from mid-year training completely re-energized.

She’s scheduled speeches until the end of the Toastmasters year and has been full to the brim with ideas for promoting the club.

The change was almost magical and it’s gotten me really excited to attend training.

I will post an update after training, as I’m sure I will be even more psyched to talk about Toastmasters than usual.


Table Topics Thursday: Topic 5

This week’s Table Topics Thursday question is: When did your family come to this country and from where?

My family has only been in this country for around a hundred years.  So, while we’ve had a few generations here, we’re far from being members of the Mayflower Society.

My mother’s father came to New York from Ireland when he met my mother’s mother, who had immigrated from England.  He was born in 1902 and she was born in 1899.  I don’t know when they came to America, but I know they were living in the Bronx in 1930.

My father’s father came to America with his family from Latvia in 1907 when he was 3 years old.  He married my father’s mother whose grandfather was born in England in 1841 and lived in Manhattan in 1880.

Got all that?  Good.  How about you?  When did your family come to this country and from where?

From this point forward, I’ll be switching Table Topics Thursday’s to every other week to give everyone more time to mull over the questions and come up with answers.  I will also be posting each question on the home page for the whole two weeks.

Word of the Week Wednesday: Pyrrhic Victory

The word of the week of this week is: Pyrrhic Victory

Once again the word of the week is actually a phrase.  A Pyrrhic Victory is success at too high a cost, with the implication that another such success would be disastrous.  It shares a feeling of futility with last week’s word: Quixotic.

The phrase comes from King Pyrrhus of Epirus, referring to his victories over the Romans during the Pyrrhic War.

Something about the juxtaposition of the opposites of failure and success makes this phrase interesting to me.  Also, I think the spelling is cool.

I promise that next week’s world will be less of a downer.

Song Lyric Spotlight: It’s Not My Birthday

Not surprisingly, I’ve always been a fan of song lyrics, often more so than the music itself.

This being a blog about language, I’ve decided that it would be fitting to present my favorite lyrics from time to time.  Lyrics tend to grab my attention due to a clever turn of phrase, a fun play on words or just an elegance that really makes the emotional impact of the song.

Since I mentioned them in last week’s Word of the Week Wednesday,  I felt it would be fitting to feature lyrics by They Might Be Giants.

I’ve chosen one of my favorite of their songs, which exemplifies many of the qualities I mentioned above: “It’s Not My Birthday” (full lyrics) from the EP: They’ll Need a Crane.

The song as a whole is jam-packed with clever phrasing and double-meaning, so it’s hard to choose my favorite part of it but one of the best snippets would have to be:

So, I’m rattling the bars around this drink tank
Discreetly I should pour through the keyhole or evaporate completely
But there’d be no percentage, and there’d be no proof
And the sound upon the roof is only water

It’s got a terrific rhythm to it, which is perceptible even without the music and the liquid imagery adds to the “flow” (pun very much intended).  My favorite part of this verse, though, would be the use of “percentage” and “proof” for both their alcohol-related and mundane meanings.

I intend Song Lyric Spotlight to be a recurring, but sporadic feature of this blog.

If you’ve got a favorite song lyric that you’d like featured on the blog, let me know in comments and tell me what you love about it.

%d bloggers like this: