“What’s trapped inside you is eating you alive.” ~ Charles Henderson
Many times, speakers ask, “What are good subjects to talk about; what is popular today?” On the surface, this sounds like a good question, but it’s not. Why?
Imagine if you asked this question, and the answer you received was “The impending death of the personal computer in America” or “How can the Federal Government avoid bankrupting the economy.” Interesting topics, to be sure, but what if your knowledge of these subject is limited, or, even worse, you don’t really care. The world is littered with speeches given by people who lacked either the knowledge, passion (or both) about any given subject. Don’t fall into this trap.
If you don’t talk about what’s popular, what should you talk about? The quote above is a clue. There are subjects which you may have buried inside, even have deep levels of concern, passion and interest for, but haven’t had the courage to discuss. That’s where you should look. To paraphrase an old saying, “There’s gold in them thar subjects!”
I know what you may be thinking, “Michael, the topics I care about wouldn’t be of interest to anyone.” I beg to differ. While it’s true some subjects can, at first glance, seem limited in their popularity, there is a speech development tool that can connect any subject to an audience.
That tool is to share lessons learned from your topic. When you transform your passion into a teachable moment, you create a long-lasting benefit.
For example, my friend Carol recently emailed me about a family member who is involved in wood working. If this young man stands up to talk about this topic, chances are he’d have a limited audience. However, there are several life lessons he could tie to wood working. Not being a connoisseur of the subject, I can only speculate some universal concepts that could be tied to it:
Creativity – Use Your Imagination to Create Your Unique Vision;
Patience – Use the Concept of ‘Measure Twice, Cut Once’ to Save Time and Aggravation;
Sharpen the Saw – How to Ensure that You are Working with the Best Possible Tools to Do Your Job Well.
These are just three of an endless list of ideas, and I know nothing about the art of wood working. The point here is that you can take a seemingly limited subject, tie it to lessons which resonate with all people, and then develop a talk that impacts them long after they hear you speak.
The next time you have an opportunity to give a talk, don’t sweat your subject matter. Remember the words of Charles Henderson. Don’t leave your passions buried inside. Tie your interests to universal messages, and you can change the way people Think, Feel or Act.
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Learn how to inject more laughter into your speeches from humorist Phil Barth, finalist in the 2011 World Championship of Public Speaking. He is interviewed by Michael Davis, and shares his secrets about how to bring laughter to your message.
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