The creative mind is our most powerful asset — I just wish it would cooperate more when I’m trying to come up with fresh material for speeches, articles and blog posts. So when my trusty mind is not cooperating, I look for inspiration elsewhere.
Here are my favorite sources for getting ideas for topics to speak (or write) about:
Visiting the various news service websites for stories that can inspire a speech:
I personally find the Drudge Report to be one of the best sources for this because it’s up to date, uses interesting photos to go with a headline and includes unusual topics. But any news site will work — look for stories, videos or photos that inspire you. Sometimes, an advertisement on a web site can inspire you due to it’s interactivity or message.
Taking a walk around the local library and looking at the titles of books, magazines, etc…:
I spend at least a couple of hours at the library each week checking out the new materials as well as just browsing. There are literally thousands of sources of inspiration and if you haven’t been to a library lately, there’s a lot more than just books and periodicals. Most libraries carry DVDs, CDs, audio books as well as electronic resources.
Listening to talk radio:
The subjects that people are discussing on talk radio can often make good speech topics. Since I speak about communication, I often get ideas just from listening to the way two people communicate with each other. Sometimes, it’s the words that someone will use that trigger an idea. Other times, the approach to the discussion/debate/argument that a person takes will get me thinking. When I was active in Toastmasters, I’d often hear something on the radio during my commute home that I’d turn into a speech for that night.
Looking at blog or search engine stats:
If you have a blog or web site, chances are that a number of folks find you via search engines. If you have logs or statistics, check them out to see what pages on your web site or blog are getting the most hits — it might indicate a good speech topic. Also, look at the search engine queries that people are using to find your site — these might point to not only an opportunity for more posts, but also for potential speeches.
Looking at popular searches on Yahoo! Buzz and Technorati:
Yahoo! Buzz lists the top search terms that people are using on Yahoo! Celebrities tend to dominate this list but products, news stories and even technologies sometimes make it to the top. Technorati is probably a better source for most people as this lists top blog searches and you’ll be able to pick up on breaking news stories as well as other stories of interest that isn’t covered by the mainstream media.
If people are searching for something, you may be able to tie it into your topic which would create a more interesting speech.
I always visit blogs of friends and people in my area of expertise (see my blogroll) and I often find posts or something within posts that get me thinking. I often learn of things that I wouldn’t ordinarily find out about through the mainstream media. Sometimes, someone will write a post that puts things in a different perspective or takes an opinion that differs from mine — this gets me thinking about my opinion or perspective on the issue and could be something I could work into a speech.
Turning on the TV and searching through the channel guide:
Names of shows, movies and the programs themselves provide endless opportunities to inspire us for talks. Maybe someone is being interviewed on a news show or a character is doing something crazy on a sitcom — keep your eyes peeled for inspiration. With hundreds of channels, many of which have an educational theme, there are countless topics out there.
Asking others for ideas:
Yes, this actually works. Asking friends, family members and associates for speech ideas can really get you thinking. Sending out a quick email blast to a dozen or so people simply telling them you need to write a speech will result in stories about topics that people, liked, disliked and were inspired by. Posting to on-line forums works as well.
Looking at quotes:
I include an inspirational quote in my monthly e-zine (LINK) and as I search for quotes related to my topic, I often find other quotes that inspire me or get me thinking. There are a lot of great thinkers, writers and leaders out there that have inspired generations. One of my favorite sources is Abraham Lincoln — he has inspired regular folks, thinkers and world leaders.
So these are just a handful of suggestions to get the creative juices flowing. These suggestions are most helpful for casual short speeches such as speeches for Toastmasters. But even professional speakers that are looking for fresh material can find some ideas for stories, points or even an entire speech this way.
What are some of your best tips to come up with a speech topic?