Before You Choose a Topic
Speech planning begins with knowing your general and specific purpose, your time allotment, your audience, and the amount of information you have available. After you read, try the exercises at the end of the section.
It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.
- Mark Twain
Being in the right does not depend on having a loud voice.
- Chinese Proverb
1. Complete the following self-inventory by brainstorming as many items as you can for each category. Think about anything you know, find interesting, or are involved in which relates to the topics below. Have you traveled to a different city, state, or country? Do you have any projects in other classes you find interesting? List them in the questions below.
- What do you read?
- What do you play or do for fun?
- What do you watch (visual media)?
- Where do you live or have you lived?
- What places have you visited (travel)?
- Whom do you know?
- What's important to you?
- If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Choose your three favorite categories from the list above and circle them. Then ask a friend what they would be most interested in hearing about. Ask more than one friend, and keep score of which item attracts the most attention. Make sure you keep track of who likes which category.
Introductory Exercises (cont.)
2. What do you know about the world?
a. What is the most populous country on the planet?
- United States
b. The United States is home to more foreign-born residents than any other country. Which country has the next-highest number of foreign-born residents?
c. As of 2008, what percentage of the world's population lived in an urban setting?
- 15 percent
- 30 percent
- 50 percent
- 60 percent
c. The world's population was about 6.5 billion in early 2009. In what year is this figure expected to double to 13 billion?Rosenberg, M. (2009, October 15). Population growth rates and doubling time. About.com Guide.
Answers: a. 3, b. 1, c. 3, d. 3.
Mark Twain makes a valid point that presentations require preparation. If you have the luxury of time to prepare, take full advantage of it. Speeches don't always happen when or how we envision them. Preparation becomes especially paramount when the element of unknown is present, forcing us to improvise. One mistake or misquote can and will be quickly rebroadcast, creating lasting damage. Take full advantage of the time to prepare for what you can anticipate, but also consider the element of surprise. In this chapter we discuss the planning and preparation necessary to prepare an effective presentation. You will be judged on how well you present yourself, so take the time when available to prepare.
Now that you are concerned with getting started and preparing a speech for work or class, let's consider the first step. It may be that you are part of a team developing a sales presentation, preparing to meet with a specific client in a one-on-one meeting, or even setting up a teleconference. Your first response may be that a meeting is not a speech, but your part of the conversation has a lot in common with a formal presentation. You need to prepare, you need to organize your message, and you need to consider audience's expectations, their familiarity with the topic, and even individual word choices that may improve your effectiveness. Regardless whether your presentation is to one individual (interpersonal) or many (group), it has as its foundation the act of communication. Communication itself is a dynamic and complex process, and the degree to which you can prepare and present effectively across a range of settings will enhance your success as a business communicator.
If you have been assigned a topic by the teacher or your supervisor, you may be able to go straight to the section on narrowing your topic. If not, then the first part of this chapter will help you. This chapter will help you step by step in preparing for your speech or oral presentation. By the time you have finished this chapter, you will have chosen a topic for your speech, narrowed the topic, and analyzed the appropriateness of the topic for yourself as well as the audience. From this basis, you will have formulated a general purpose statement and specific thesis statement to further define the topic of your speech. Building on the general and specific purpose statements you formulate, you will create an outline for your oral presentation.
Through this chapter, you will become more knowledgeable about the process of creating a speech and gain confidence in your organizational abilities. Preparation and organization are two main areas that, when well developed prior to an oral presentation, significantly contribute to reducing your level of speech anxiety. If you are well prepared, you will be more relaxed when it is time to give your speech. Effective business communicators have excellent communication skills that can be learned through experience and practice. In this chapter, we will work together to develop your skills in preparing clear and concise messages to reach your target audience.
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