Do you have problems finding ideas for articles and speeches?
I know have had at times, and others tell me the same thing. At my Toastmasters club, for example, I’ve often heard members say they have difficulty finding topics for speeches.
But, I’ve learned, like others who write and speak a lot, to start with what I know. To use my own experiences or perspectives to make even a simple subject uniquely my own. And you can do the same.
Indeed, what seems mundane to you may fascinate someone else. Suppose, for example, you work in a fast food restaurant — tell me about the best and worst customers, or tell me about the processes and training that make it possible to go from order to delivery in just a couple of minutes.
Here’s a real-life example from my own experiences. I have a part-time job as a directory assistance operator for a telephone company, and that produces some interesting stories, like the time a woman called because the door knob to exit her borrowed apartment was broken, and she couldn’t figure out how to get out. She didn’t know who to call except Directory Assistance, and we had an interesting time figuring out a solution. Now there’s a story to get an article or speech started, and perhaps even a theme such as “Strange but true stories from a directory assistance operator.”
Then, there’s the idea of providing insights for others. If you drive a truck, for instance, you might create a Top Ten list of common mistakes you see on the streets and highways. As a professional driver, you have special insight into the patterns of amateur drivers.
Beyond your personal experiences, think about issues that intrigue you. If you’re interested, doing research and thinking about a subject will be enjoyable and easy. Perhaps you can even satisfy your own curiosity as you prepare an article or speech that enlightens someone else.
These approaches should lead you to any number of story ideas. Make a list, of say five or ten possible topics. Now, ask yourself which of them will be the most enjoyable or easiest to develop. You also might ask yourself if you have enough examples to illustrate the points that fall under a specific topic.
Now, write an outline, to set out the main themes in your speech or article. By the time you finish outlining these themes, you’ll probably have a number of new topics that could be developed into topics that stand on their own.
For example, looking back at the contents of this article so far, I see that discussing something others don’t know much about is one of the points. That would open the door to what I call the “Everybody knows” syndrome, the unfounded assumption that others know what we know. Perhaps you think that your parenting experiences are just like everyone else’s. Yet, your feelings may very well be unique and of great interest to other parents.
If all else fails, get ideas from others. For example, I subscribe to many online newsletters because I write a lot of articles myself. As potential story ideas come in I store them away in a folder, ready to be searched when I don’t have anything available in the top of my mind.
I can use the original article as the starting point, creating something new and unique by using my own experiences and ways of doing things. Or I can abstract someone else’s article in my own words, again creating something new in the process. In both cases, I’m creating something new based on my unique experiences or perspectives.
So, never be stuck for an idea for an article or speech! You already have enough experience and knowledge; it’s simply a matter of developing one of those ideas within that framework.
And here’s a bonus: If you’re writing or speaking about something that’s happened in your life, you won’t have to work hard to create the article or speech. Just follow the path through your memory.
About The Author
Robert F. Abbott writes and publishes Abbott’s Communication Letter. Each week subscribers receive, at no charge, a new communication tip that helps them lead or manage more effectively. Click here for more information:
This article was posted on March 11, 2004