Choosing a topic for a speech can be the most difficult part of developing a speech. If only you had some basic direction in which to go. Of course, a good way to start is to read my post on choosing a topic, but there’s something more you might need to consider: relevance.
Do you ever wonder why you get so nervous speaking to an audience? You might have a lot of ideas, but they usually center on the audience feeling somewhat annoyed with you up there talking to them. It’s almost assumed that the audience is this somewhat passive aggressive group of flinty-eyed individuals that stare at you in anger and boredom, just polite enough not to say anything, but certainly not nice enough to encourage you.
But, why is that? Again, it can be boiled down to one word: relevance.
Perception Is Reality
If you think an audience is upset with your speech, you may or may not be correct. You can’t know what other people are thinking. But, you can guess, and it’s usually based on something within you. Perhaps you’ve been bored and irritated with others giving speeches, and the main reason is that the topic of the speech seemed completely irrelevant to you.
So, you write a completely irrelevant speech and then get up there and wonder why you feel so nervous…
Of course you feel nervous! You should!
Well, you shouldn’t have to, but that’s because there’s any easy fix.
Make the Topic Relevant
That’s right. You can discuss almost any topic you want if you can make or prove it useful to the audience. How do you do that?
Think about your topic. What will the audience be able to do with the information you’ve given them? If you don’t know, then they won’t either. So, as you develop your topic, provide a concrete purpose by filling in the following:
After this speech, the audience will be able to _____________________.
Let’s say you want to discuss money or finances. That’s an awfully broad topic. What is your purpose? If you say that your purpose is to help people understand how money and banking work, you might narrow it down, but what can people do with that knowledge? More often than not, they will simply shrug and get busy forgetting what you said.
But, if you give it a more concrete purpose, that is, something they can actually do with that information, they will more likely remember what you said and act on it. They will also listen more intently. They may even jot a few things down to remind them what to do with the information later.
You know you have a good speech on your hands when people are sitting up and taking notes.
Relevance Is Actionable
If there’s one thing to remember that will immediately improve the quality of your speeches and that will help you to feel less nervous while addressing an audience, it’s that you must make the topic relevant. The best way to make a topic relevant is to make it actionable. Give the audience information they can use – a step-by-step set of instructions, a plan, data that will help lead to a decision, or anything that they will be able to use to their benefit.
When an audience can see how to use the information you provide, they will be much more interested in what you have to say. Once you know that, you’ll notice that your nervousness will simply disappear.