Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Don’t just get on the bandwagon! Find your own speech topic and approach

It’s easy to get into a rut, and pick a stale speech topic or point of view. Here are some suggestions for getting more creative.

Look someplace great - either very big or very small

Don’t just do a wide open Google, or Bing, or Yahoo web search. (On Google you can limit to Adobe Acrobat files by adding filetype:pdf).

Look at the huge, free PMC (PubMed Central) database of almost three million biomedical and life sciences full-text magazine articles. A keyword search there on “storytelling” led me the the article about the Giant Inflatable Colon that I blogged about on January 15th. That keyword also led me to some articles on stories told by family physicians I blogged about last August.

Don’t just look around on the open web. Go to the web site for your public library. Then search in their databases for magazine articles. Use your library card as the key to unlock a better collection of information. Those databases even have subject indexes.

Or go look at the Alltop Speaking digital magazine rack of titles for the five most recent blog posts from about 80 different places. The title for this post was inspired by a post on Susan’s Blog.  

Look at the web archives for Toastmaster and NSA Speaker magazines. For example, the November 2013 issue of Toastmaster has an article by Denise Graveline on Speechwriting Secrets. Denise blogs as The Eloquent Woman, which is listed at Alltop Speaking. 

Find something local

Last April I saw a newspaper article about a memorial honoring Jesus Urquides, a Mexican-American pioneer. Over at the public library I found Max Delgado’s 2006 book Jesus Urquides: Idaho’s Premier Muleteer. There is a wild story about how he once used a cluster of 35 mules to carry a six-ton coil of wire rope for an aerial tramway 70 miles from Challis over the mountains to the Yellowjacket gold mine. (The mosaic shown above is on the Capitol Boulevard Bridge in Boise).   

Flip things over

Instead of a “How-to” speech, do a "How-not-to” speech. My first  blog post on flip charts was Don’t be a “Flip Chart Charlie.”

Louis L’Amour wrote a whole bunch of novels about cowboys in the old American West. Then he once went completely out of that formula. Louis flipped things from West to East (Siberia), from cowboy to Native American, and from old west to the present, and created Last of the Breed

Pick a different viewpoint

Take a very long or a very short view of things. What does an extreme close-up view of the frost on my car roof look like? The lens on my decade-old Nikon Coolpix 995 camera can swivel (for things like self-portraits), so I pointed it downwards,  sat it on a piece of 2”x4” lumber, set the self-timer, and used a flashlight for side lighting. I expected mainly to see hexagonal ice crystals, but there were also lots of rectangles. The area shown is about half the original image, and is only about 0.3-inch wide.     

Find a different graphic

Speaking of self-portraits, the most “far out” one I know of (shown above) was taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover. The cartoon of a bandwagon came from the Library of Congress web site, and is from way back in 1896.


Under Find something local I mentioned a newspaper article about Jesus Urquides. I looked up more information, and on February 5th I blogged about Mules over mountains - a wild mining story from old Idaho.


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Richard I. Garber said...


For more information, just click on the research label to see the 67 blog posts on this topic.