What should I speak about? Nothing interesting happens in my life!
At my public speaking club and from other friends, I keep getting asked this question. I shall try to answer this question through this article.
The first rule in speaking is – speak what you know!
Each one of us is unique. We have our life experiences which shape the way we think or feel about events which happen to us. That thinking is unique. No one else in the world has the same experience as you do. So that is what you need to bring to the front. The first rule in public speaking is to speak about a subject you know. An event or situation that has influenced you. About your favorite hobby. About your parents, or someone who has influenced you.
Within Toastmasters (Non profit organistion for public speaking and leadership) we have the first speech which is called ice breaker. This is an apt project. It is all about introducing yourself to the audience, about speaking on a subject – You. You can also speak about – your childhood or your life experiences.
The next question is – how do I make it interesting?
This is a very good question. If you speak about an event which happened to you, then it is interesting to others too. For example, speak about your first day at school. Or about your experience with a school bully. There will be some experience which you can never forget. What impression did that incident have on you? How did you feel – sad, angry, happy, hopeful.
This feeling is what you should aim to convey through your speech or article.
If someone starts to tell me a story, I will listen to it with bated breath because I love listening to stories.
How to polish it up?
To convert the speech into a complete package – you need to add a beginning, a middle and an end. Consider this example – hair cut. Now the event is the horrible hair cuts that you always get. This could be the middle of the speech. The beginning could be the event where you have had a miserable hair cut and then you go into flashback mode with how you keep having horrible hair cuts; or the speech could be a linear speech. First you set up of the scene. You are going to a special event on the day and you go for a hair cut. You get a horrible hair cut and now things are really bad for you in anticipation of the big event. You then go to the big event sporting a horrible hair cut and you stand out in the crowd. The end result – you get a date or a job. Take a real life example and spice it up. Exaggerate. As a speaker you have creative license. Use it.
This thing about adding a beginning or middle or end will come with practice. The more you speak the better you get at pulling together speeches.
Usually we always look at the events which happened to us – especially the bad ones – and curse the events. I look at it from another angle. Miserable job interviews, being embarrassed in a crowd, being grounded by your parents – all these events have a kernel of speech within them.
If you don’t have any bad experience in life don’t despair. You can even use the good event and create a structure around it. If you dig deep into your memory you will find that the good event did not happen on its own. There was something you did, which led to the good event. Find such occasions and you have a speech.
For example, I got my first job because of an excellent interview and group discussion. I could do well at the interview and group discussion because my senior Navin Dutt helped me to prepare by organising group discussions. I still owe him a debt of gratitude about it.
So to summarise – find the good and bad events in your life; analyse the impact it had on you. How did it make you feel? What have you learnt from the event? Now create a beginning, middle and end and viola – you have a speech.
Remember to get better at Public speaking you need – stage time- stage time – stage time. The best place for stage time is Toastmasters. Search for a local club and join Toastmasters. At Leeds we are very lucky – we have two clubs – Leeds City Toastmasters and White Rose Speakers.
If you would like to get better at public speaking then you need to put in the effort and practice.
What else can I do?
You should always keep a note book handy and write down events which happened to you. This is like sowing the seeds. The speech will spawn from these seeds that you capture.
Go forth – speak. Share your wonderful stories. The world is waiting.