examples of narrative speech topics
Examples of narrative speech topics
125 strong ideas for effective personal storytelling speeches
By: Susan Dugdale | Last modified: 12-01-2022
Narrative speech topics are topics especially designed to trigger
telling a story.
And who doesn’t love being told a good story?
They’re universally appreciated. It’s the oldest, most effective
way of emphasizing a point, illustrating an idea or recounting an
For as long as there have been people in the world, there have
been people telling them stories: story tellers.
What's on this page:
How to make best use of this page
Browse the topics and make a shortlist of any that appeal to you. (These are the ones that will immediately have you thinking of stories you could share.)
Make sure you download the printable narrative speech outline. Then take what you need from the other information. (If you've never given a narrative or storytelling speech before, read all of it!) It's here to help you put together the best speech you possibly can. ☺
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A personal story is a powerful story
The most powerful stories to tell are personal. They’re the game changers,
the significant events: meetings, accidents, cultural jolts, and life
lessons that have made an impact.
They’re stories about family, our
children, love, marriage, politics, education, work, living in
society, philosophy, the natural world, ...
In telling these stories
we reveal aspects of ourselves: sharing our innermost thoughts and
To give a good narrative speech, one that fully engages our audience
we need to:
- choose a meaningful story with
strong characters they can relate to in a situation they’ll
recognize and identify with
- use vivid language enabling them
to easily picture and feel what’s happening
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A definition of the word 'narrative'
A spoken or written account of connected events; a story:
"a gripping narrative"
Word with similar meanings: account, story, tale, chronicle, history, description, record.
(Definition from Oxford Languages)
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Choosing the right narrative speech topic
Because narrative speeches are often stories about ourselves we need
to think carefully about what we share and with whom.
Some subjects are sensitive for many
reasons. And what could be completely appropriate in one setting
could be quite wrong in another.
As the giver of the speech, you’ll
want to be clear about what you’re sharing and why.
Additionally, an emotional narrative
speech exposing your own deeply felt and unresolved issues would be
difficult for an audience to witness.
They’d want to help, send you to a
therapist, leave... People do not want to feel embarrassed or
uncomfortable on your behalf.
The right narrative topic idea is one
you know your audience will want to hear, fits the speech purpose you’ve
been given, and one you feel comfortable sharing.
Should you decide to use someone else's
story for your speech be sure to acknowledge whose it is and where
you got it from.
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Getting from topic to speech
Once you’ve decided on your topic, the next step is developing a
story outline. That involves carefully thinking through the sequence
of the story, or what you’re going put in it, scene by scene and
why, from beginning to end.
To help you do that easily I've put together a printable narrative speech outline. To download it click on the image below. (The pdf will open in a new window.)
outline will guide you through each of the steps you need to
complete. (Instructions are included.)
Rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal
Once your outline is done, your next task is rehearsing, and then rehearsing some more. You’ll
want to know before you give the speech that it:
- makes sense and can be followed
- grabs and holds the audience’s
attention, is relevant to them,
- and easily fits the time you’ve
Rehearsal lets you find out in a safe
way where any glitches might be lurking and gives you an opportunity
to fix them.
It also gives you time to really work at refining how you tell the
For instance, what happens if this part is said softly and
slowly? Or if this bit is delivered more quickly, and that has a long
pause after it?
And what about your body language? Are
you conscious of what you’re actually doing as you speak? Do you ‘show’
with your body and how you use your voice, as well as ‘tell’ with
The way you tell a story makes an enormous difference to how it is
received. A good story can be ruined by poor delivery. If you make
the time to practice, that’s largely avoidable.
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The difference between an anecdote and a story
Many people share an anecdote thinking they’re telling a story.
They’re not. Although they have similarities, they are different.
An anecdote is a series of facts, a brief account of something that happened. It is delivered without interpretation or reflection. It’s a snapshot cut from a continuum: a slice of life. We’ve taken notice because it was interesting, strange, sad, amusing, attractive, eccentric...to us. It captured our attention in some way.
"Last night there was a gorgeous girl in
the bar wearing a red dress. She ordered a brandy. After she
finished her drink, she left."
In contrast, a story develops. It
travels from its starting place, goes somewhere else where something
happens, and finally arrives at a destination. A story has a
beginning, a middle and an end. It moves. Things change.
Here’s the same anecdote example
reworked as a very brief story. The person telling it is reminiscing, talking about the past to girl called Amy.
"Last night there was a girl in the bar
wearing a red dress—so young, so gorgeous, so full of life. Seeing
her whirled me back to us. You and me and that song. Our song: Lady
in Red. “The
lady in red is dancing with me, cheek to cheek.
nobody here, it's just you and me.
where I want to be.”
The complete and abrupt shift from
present to past overwhelmed me. Thoughts, feelings, memories... At
twenty-five and twenty-six we knew it all and had it all.
When I looked up, she’d finished her
drink and gone. Oh, Amy! What did we do?"
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Narrative speech topic ideas: 40 firsts
Often the first time we experience something creates deep lasting
memories. These can be both very good and very bad which makes them
an excellent foundation for a gripping speech.
We love listening to
other people’s dramas, especially when they’ve gone through
something significant and come out the other side strengthened – armed with new
- The first time I stood up for
- The first time I drove a car.
- The first time I rode a bike.
- The first time I fell in love.
- The first time I felt truly
- The first time I realised my
family was different.
- The first time I understood I was
different from other kids.
- My first day at a new school.
- The first time I felt truly proud
- My first date.
- My first job interview.
- The first time I realised no
matter how hard I tried I was never going to please, or be liked, by
- How I got my first paid job.
- What I did with my first pay.
- My first pet.
- My first real fight- what it was
about, and what I learned from it.
- The first time I tried hard to
achieve something and failed.
- The first time I realised some
people are not to be trusted.
- The first time I was away from
home on my own.
- The first time I had to ask a
stranger for help.
- The first time I experienced what
it’s like to have someone close be either seriously ill or die
- The first time I was ill and was
taken to hospital.
- The first time I felt utterly
filled with happiness.
- The first time I was sincerely
impressed and influenced by another person’s goodness.
- My first pin up hero.
- My childhood home – what I
remember – the feelings and events I associate with it.
- The first time I realised the
color of my skin, or the shape of my body, or my face, or my gender,
or anything else about me, made a difference.
- The first time I tried to
communicate with someone who did not speak my language.
- The first time I saw snow, the
sea, climbed a mountain, camped out under the stars, walked a
wilderness trail, caught a wave...
- The first time I visited another
country where the language, customs and beliefs were vastly
different to my own.
- The first time I understood and
experienced the power of kindness.
- The first time I told a lie.
- The first time I understood how
fortunate I was to be me.
- The first time I realised my goals
and aspirations were attainable.
- The first time I realised having
enough money to do whatever I wanted could not buy happiness.
- The first time I realised that
some people were always going to be better at some things that I
- The first TV show/film/book I
loved and why.
- The first time I really understood
I was prejudiced.
- The first time someone stepped up
for me – what that felt like, and what it changed.
- How first impressions of people
and/or an event are not always right.
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40 tell-a-story speech topics
Here's another 40 narrative speech suggestions. Give yourself time as go through them to consider suitability of the stories they trigger. Would what you're thinking of suit your audience? Does it fit your overall speech purpose?
- How I learned to stand up for
my own beliefs.
- How my name influenced who I am.
- My favorite teacher – why, what
did they do? How did that make you feel?
- When and how I learned being adult
does not mean being grown up.
- Why winning is important to me.
- What terrified me as a child.
- How I learned to manage my anger.
- What people regularly assume about
me and how that makes me feel.
- How having an animal to love made
me a better human being.
- How humor defuses tension.
- What it feels like to rebel
against authority, and why I do it.
- My learning break through.
- How I discovered what meant the
most to me.
- How I learned my family was poor,
rich, odd, ...
- When I fully realized the
importance and power of community.
- What I learned through living
through my parent’s divorce.
- My experience of being an
- My favorite way to unwind.
- A decision I made that I now
regret and why.
- How goal setting has helped me
- My safe place.
- What being unfairly punished
taught me about myself.
- Rituals that serve me well. For
example, always cleaning my teeth a particular way, always sorting
my clothes out for the following day before I go to bed, always
making Christmas presents for my family, ...
- What money means to me and why.
- How being a parent fundamentally
- What being the underdog taught me.
- Why I chose my own path, and not
the one my parents wanted for me,
- Why family celebrations are
important to me.
- Why I adopted a child.
- What religion means to me.
- What marriage, friendship,...
means to me.
- What needing to be helped has
- Why and how I support giving back
to the community.
- Tricks I use to get myself to do
things I know I should do but don’t really want to.
- What I do to manage fear or
anxiety of public speaking.
- How I learned to stop biting my
finger nails or stop some other behaviour driven by nervous anxiety.
- How I learned to stop feeling like
my job in life was to make my parents or anybody else feel happy.
- What having a job as a young
person taught me.
- The complications of being the
favorite child in your family.
- The difficulties of having to
choose between friends.
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35 more narrative or personal story speech topics
- The time I made an assumption
about a situation or a person and got it entirely wrong.
- What being totally and suddenly
out of my depth in a situation felt like and the consequences.
- A lesson I learned the hard way
that helped me become a better person. For example: over spending,
driving too fast, drinking too much, being caught out in a lie...
- Important things I learned through
keeping old people company.
- What I learned through losing a
- What coming face to face with my
own mortality taught me.
- How the language of kindness
transcends language and cultural differences.
- What being ashamed of my own
behaviour taught me.
- How I unknowingly broke local
cultural customs while overseas and what happened
- How taking revenge for a wrong did
not right it.
- The silliest unnecessary risk I’ve
- How first impressions are not
- How pretending to be strong (fake
it until you make it) can work very well.
- What I really wanted my parents to
do for me and they didn’t.
- How our clothing influences how
other people perceive us.
- My earliest memories: what they were, how they made me feel.
- Why I became disillusioned about
- Why I decided to go into politics.
- The influence of music on my life.
- A personal phobia and how it
impacts on my life: fear of spiders, fear of the dark, fear of
- The impact of peer pressure on
- What I’ve learned about
- How I lied in order to cover for a
friend and what happened.
- My most embarrassing moment and
how I survived it.
- The worst day of my life: what it
- How I know peer pressure can make
us behave in ways we don’t really want to.
- How I learned to read people.
- Why saying thank you is important.
- Random acts of kindness and
- Being lost in a strange city.
- What I learned through genuinely apologizing for something I did.
- How the way a person speaks influences what we think about them.
- How a mentor changed my life.
- The most thrilling exciting thing
- How being a leader and being
looked up to felt.
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Other resources for narrative speeches
Pages on this site:
Offsite storytelling speech resources
Toastmasters Project | Connect with storytelling – Level Three
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