No idea? Top 5 tips for finding inspiration
Coming up with ideas for speech topics and meeting roles isn’t easy. Feeling like you need to think of something novel and interesting each time, whether it’s for a prepared speech, Table Topics Master, Toastmaster or Guest Host, can sometimes seem like a pretty daunting task.
However, inspiration can come from the strangest places, and here are my top 5 tips on where you might find it:
1. Read widely
Read newspapers, read books, read billboards and read blogs. Just read. Alain de Botton’s cerebral musings on how Proust can change your life might provide fertile table topic fodder, just as might the celebrity gossip column of the Metro on the way to Early Birds at 6.30am.
2. Talk to people
Speak to friends, family and colleagues, and to fellow Early Birds. They will often find you more interesting than you find yourself, and can be a good gauge of what a wider audience might be interested in hearing about. The part that I nearly left out of a comedy speech ended up getting the biggest laugh – all credit to my test audience for convincing me to keep it in.
Don’t feel like you have to necessarily come up with something completely new and original each time. Borrow bits that you’ve seen work well before. Even if you start with someone else’s idea, you are always going to do something different with it, because, well, you’re you. Also, chances are that your audience is going to be different, so some people will genuinely be hearing you for the first time and therefore it will be new to them.
4. Keep an ideas notebook
Ideas can decide to spew forth from you unexpectedly at any time – in a meeting, in the queue for your morning coffee, during a waxing appointment, on a Boris bike – so have a notebook or a notes page on your phone handy to catch them like a bucket after a big night out. Revisit these from time to time, as these little ideas chunks sometimes need time to develop and become fully formed. Sometimes they will never make it past the page but it’s always better to have an oversupply than an under-supply.
5. Leave it alone
Pleading with your keyboard to fill a blank page with 6.5 minutes worth of oratory genius when you just aren’t ‘feeling it’ will rarely work. A bit of controlled procrastination, like going for a run or even a change of scenery to decamp to your local coffee shop, can work wonders to blow the cobwebs out of a stale brain.
Just like John Lennon said that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, sometimes the best ideas happen when you’re busy thinking about other things.
Katherine Eyres is one of only a few Antipodeans who have left the grey skies of Perth, Western Australia, for the sunny climes of London. She moved over in 2008 and, after trialling various SW postcodes, has recently settled in West London. By day she is a city technology lawyer, by night she is a star baker and frustrated creative writer. She joined Early Bird Speakers in 2012 and is the queen of double entendres.