How to infuse public speaking with the power of storytelling—Part 2

In Part 1 of this topic, we covered my basic approach—that of creating story speeches. This installment deals with the all-important inspiration behind the talk.

You and Your Audience

The premises behind delivering a speech are (i) that you have something of substance to communicate, and (ii) that there is a reason for a particular audience to receive it. There can be no point in merely inventing a topic for the sake of talking.

Now, take a look at your audience. Identify their background. What do you perceive that they will find valuable in your speech? What are their ranges of interest in the topic? Develop, for your purposes, a profile of your audience.

Now consider yourself. What expertise are you bringing to your audience? How could they benefit from hearing you speak? Why is it important for them to hear you speak?

Developing a Core Theme

It is not good enough to only have a topic on which to speak. Topics are general categories. Before you have any hope of making a successful speech, you must have a fundamental overall statement, a core theme within the topic. Until you zero in on this core theme and are able to express it in one declarative sentence, you are going nowhere.

Clear thoughts produce clear expression. Muddy thinking yields nothing of interest or substance. Work hard on finding your statement, for this is your responsibility, and your success or failure will depend on whether you accomplish this.

There are more “don’ts” associated with the initial developing of material for a speech that “dos”. Essentially, at the early stage you don’t want to inhibit your creative mind with your all-powerful censoring mind. Namely:

  • Don’t inhibit your flow of ideas by judging their worth
  • Don’t worry about how all the elements will tie together
  • Don’t discard ideas that appeal to you even if you can’t see their relevance at an early stage


Creating material on which to base a speech is an exercise in free association, lateral thinking, and random doodling. Having chose or been assigned a topic, with or without a clearly stated core theme, proceed to let your mind roll freely. Make a list. Don’t worry about being organized at this stage. Don’t judge the worth of a given idea. That will come later. Focus on the following:

  • What images come to mind regarding this topic?
  • What symbols do you associate with this topic?
  • What settings does your mind conjure up?
  • What elements pop into your head?
  • What quotes, articles, stories, famous people spring to mind?

Pouring onto paper the related elements of your topic is in itself a way of discovering a core theme. In many cases, the fundamental point of your presentation will not be clear until you have a large pile of ideas, thoughts and images in front of you. Or, your core theme may change or sharpen after this stage. That is fine.

Next time around, we’ll cover how to organize the scattered ideas and inspirations into a core message.

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