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Interesting speech topics

Finding the perfect topic for your audience and yourself

By: Susan Dugdale | Last modified: 07-16-2019 | First published: 05-01-2010

I know when you're trying find the most interesting of speech topics it's really easy to get completely either over, or underwhelmed, with subject choices. You have my sympathy!

(And my help! Keep reading, keep scrolling down and you'll find out how to select a truly interesting speech topic as well as a large number of them for you to choose from.)

Cartoon girl thinking about what speech topic to chooseSonia pondered. What were the really interesting speech topics? It wasn't "anti-smoking" even though she hated being around people who smoked or "lowering the drinking age". Nah. They'd been thrashed. But what about "cats" or "comic novels"...?"

It can seem like the hardest part of giving a speech is deciding what topic to choose!

Do I do this? (Mmm. Cats? Nope. Everybody's heard about them.)

Or do I do that? (Comic novels? Might be onto something there.)

And will anybody like what I have to say enough to listen?

The answer to that question is that an audience will give you all their attention provided you select something they'll want to know about!

Please don't be boring!

If you care about your audience and you really want to offer them something they'll find interesting, please don't choose a topic that's already been covered a squillion times already!

Some subjects like lowering the drinking age or the harmful effects of cigarette smoking have been done over, and over, and over again. Even though the topics are relevant because the issues surrounding them haven't gone away, most people are aware of what they are.

It's quite likely they will have already sat through umpteen variations on them. They do not need another from you. That would bore them silly.

Image: A very bored boy sitting listening. The text behind him reads: Oh, that's so interesting. Please do go on talking on and on and on and on.

So what are GOOD original speech ideas?

Interesting speech topics are principally a combination of three ingredients.

  1. Your personal enthusiasm for the subject you've chosen
  2. The subject's appeal or relevance to your audience
  3. And the twist, angle, or perspective you bring to the topic

If you can apply all three elements to the speech topic you choose it's much more likely to be interesting.

In fact even those "boring" topics like the dangers of cigarette smoking or lowering the drinking age can be brought alive by your treatment of them, IF you have something new and relevant to say.

What does your teacher long to hear?

I taught high-school level English for many years and over that time listened to hundreds of speeches.

Those students I gave an A grade to got them because their:

  • topic was interesting. They'd either found an original angle to present known material or found a "new" topic.
  • speech was tailored for the audience. It was relevant in terms of information and personalized.
  • presentation was well structured. It had a good opening, body and conclusion.
  • delivery had been rehearsed. They knew their speech. The use of props or additional material was appropriate and well integrated into the flow of the speech.
  • audience listened and enjoyed what they heard.

You are welcome to use my speech evaluation checklist as a guide to help you prepare an A grade speech of your own.

Put your spin on these interesting speech topics

Social media

Using a "how-long-has-this-form-of-media-been-around" scale, online social media like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and Pinterest have only been with us a comparatively short time. Yet the growth has been astronomical!

Facebook made its public debut in 2004, a mere 14 years ago, and according to its Wikipedia page, has 2.2 billion active users monthly as of January 2018.  Its use as a vehicle to reach people all over the world is extraordinary. The power and influence Facebook users are able to exert is unparalleled. As a society we've never seen this before.

Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Whatsapp although newer players in the space share to a lesser degree similar capacities.

Older electronic media, TV and radio, couldn't reach into the personal private lives in the same intimate one to one, person to person way. Neither could print.

What do these changes mean for society?  What will happen to old-fashioned face-to-face communication skills?

Look over these topics carefully. Ask yourself what aspects of them you'd find interesting to explore. Our increasing reliance on varying forms of electronic communication is new and our scientists, psychologists, and doctors are only beginning to understand its impact on our behavior.

Image: young girl with badge showing Facebook thumbs up icon on her tee-shirt. Background text: Please like me, please like me, please like me...

Interesting social media topics

  • Facebook kills face to face conversation skills
  • Texting is necessary for social survival
  • An online friend can be just as real and valuable as an offline one
  • Is online media responsible for the breakdown of real-time relationships?
  • What did people do BEFORE there was social media to build and maintain networks?
  • How to explain the value of social media to people who don't use it
  • How to avoid being cyber bullied
  • Rules for forming online friendships or relationships
  • Spelling skills are dead. Long live txt speak!
  • What will be the next major social media development?
  • Rules for using social media responsibly
  • Publicly "liking" or "not liking" a person's posts  can cause anxiety
  • What is real news and what is social media gossip?

Visiting yesterday

The importance of history is frequently debated. Those against digging around in their own or anybody else's past often use the saying "Life is best lived looking forward" to explain their stance. What they want to avoid is becoming stuck in history, bogged down by old traditions or beliefs that inhibit a person in some way. "That was then, now is now" they say.

Crimes against humanity: ethnic cleansing, genocide, state terrorism, racial discrimination, and religious persecution are all examples of events people often want to leave in the past because untangling them, acknowledging and accepting responsibility and finding an equitable way to move forward can be exceedingly difficult for all concerned. 

In contrast here's a fairly trivial example. Something as ordinary as a woman wearing shorts was quite extraordinary in the 1940s. Some city councils in America actually banned women from wearing them in public!  Can you imagine what life would be like for women if we'd held on to that? Today we have moved on. A woman wearing a pair of shorts is no longer a crime or a disgrace.

(Click this National Public Radio link When wearing shorts was taboo to find out more.) 

Those who believe that understanding and knowing our history is important say, to use the words of Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, that "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."

They argue that to know who we are, what we are doing, where we are going, and how our actions may impact on other people, other communities, countries or the world we need to thoroughly understand our past. That means looking carefully at the lives and times of our ancestors. 

I believe understanding our "yesterdays" helps us build better "todays" - richer futures for everyone. 

Attitudes change and as they do, so too does what society accepts as "normal". 

The topics here are focused around the history of family and community life.

Dive into them and you may just find them compelling- really interesting, giving you new insight and maybe, appreciation, of what went before, and what you have now. 

Image-retro 1950s-children crossing the road going to school.Text: Historical Myths Number 63 - School days! The happiest days of your life!

Interesting historical speech topics

  • What Grandma/Grandpa did for fun and recreation 50 years ago
  • What Grandma/Grandpa did to earn a living when they finished their schooling
  • At the same age as I am now my parents were doing XXX and my grandparents were doing XXX (compare and contrast across 3 generations)
  • Our town's history - why it was built where it is, who lived there, how it's changed
  • Headline stories from our local area 20/50/100+ years ago
  • How festivals and important events (birthdays, weddings, Christmas, Easter...) were celebrated in my family many years ago
  • Food fads or food fashions - how have they changed over the years?
  • The history of my first name/surname - where it came from, what it means and how it's changed over the years
  • A walk through a typical 1950s/1960s/1970s school day. Were they really "the best days of our lives"? 
  • Word fashion (the current slang) - what's in, what's out. Examples from bygone eras and present day.
  • The origin of place names - how they began, why they stick or change
  • An overview of jobs that soon will be, or are already, no longer required because modern technology has replaced the need for people with automated processes
  • What was the latest music 20/50/100 years ago?
  • This day in history - a slice of major events from around the world for the date you are giving your speech

Just plain weird

Things, natural or man-made, are often labeled weird or strange because we have never seen, considered or experienced them before. These "new" things become objects of fascination triggering responses varying from awe to disgust. Either way, "good" or "bad" weird jolts a person out their accepted ordinary/normal world, challenging them to consider something different.

Weird things can be really interesting and stimulating!

Image: tiger-budgie Test: 100% pure weird

Weird speech topics

  • The weirdest invention - when and why it was invented, and who by
  • The strangest sports - where they are played, who by and how
  • Quirky fashions - the oddest clothing fashions from history and today
  • Fact or fiction? Collect 3 or 5 interesting true stories to retell that superficially appear unbelievable.
  • Trivia = little bits of often useless information. Why does it fascinate?
  • Research and present 3 little known gob-smackingly, awe inspiring facts about the functioning of our bodies
  • Urban myths - what are they, examples, how are they spread and why are they believed?
  • Animals, birds or insects - what are the weirdest, where do they live, what do they eat?
  • Weird beliefs - research and present a selection of the oddest (to you) beliefs. See if you can explain how and why these beliefs became established. 
  • Why do records like the largest man in the world, the longest fingernails, or the greatest number of pies eaten in an hour fascinate people?
  • How many other people share your name? Where are they in the world and what do they do?
  • Weird coincidences - Is it fate, the super-natural at work, or is it really a series of freak coincidences? Examples!

Trading places

Image: vintage drawing of a man swinging from a rope upside down. Text:Good life lessons - getting a different perspective, looking from another angle.

Age old wisdom says there would be fewer misunderstandings and arguments if we learned to see the world from the each others perspectives. We would be less quick to judge, more tolerant and more understanding if we saw and felt how it was to walk in the shoes of another person.

Looking from a different perspective broadens and deepens our thinking.

The topics suggestions below span personal through to major world events. Ask yourself, how would it be if I was there or if this person was me? What would I think? What would I feel?

From another perspective speech topics 

  • In XXX {insert the name of a country eg Japan, Samoa, Chile} in XXX {insert the year or century eg the 19th century} a day in the life of a person my age would be ...
  • A day in my Mother's/Father's life at the same age I am now. Where did your parents live? Town or country? In a house or an apartment? How did they get to school? 
  • Retell an historical event as if you were there and part of it. Choose an event you find interesting eg. the fall of the Berlin Wall, granting women the right to vote, the death of Martin Luther King ...
  • Tell how a major invention or medical break-through changed lives as if you were there. Eg. the development of the smart phone, bionic prosthesis, laser surgery ...  
  • If I was {insert a word of your choice - eg. homeless, physically challenged in some way - blind, deaf, reliant on a mobility scooter ...} my experience of the world would be changed. How? What issues would you face? How would you meet them?

What were the beginnings or the origins of...?

There is a story behind everything and some of them are really interesting!

For instance the Christmas tradition of kissing under mistletoe (a plant that grows on trees) dates way back to the time of the Druids who thought it had mystical powers. It was supposed to bring good luck and keep evil spirits away.

In Norse mythology it signified love and friendship, hence the kissing! And, dear reader, of course there is more to find out. Enough to prepare an interesting, entertaining speech.

The same applies to all the other topic suggestions below.

Interesting speech topics - dozens of ideas to choose from!

Topics exploring origins

  • Christmas celebrations or any aspect of them eg. cards, carols, gift giving, special food ...
  • Easter celebrations (or any other widely observed customary celebration)
  • Table manners or eating etiquette. How do "good" table manners vary from culture to culture? Why were they developed in the first place? 
  • Common sayings eg. "to be born with a silver spoon in one's mouth" or "the salt of the earth"
  • types of music eg. rock and roll, jazz, hip hop ...
  • postal stamps or money
  • softball, grid iron or any other sport
  • the current governmental system
  • zodiac signs
  • Beauty Queen pageants
  • modern warfare
  • education - schooling in your country or your area
  • card games or chess
  • advertizing
  • television soaps. What's the story behind  those long running TV serials?
  • print - books, newspapers
  • journalism

Avoiding the procrastination trap

The time is now! 

Having looked through all these potentially good speech topics please don't fall into the procrastination trap!

Tomorrow - (definition) - When everything finally gets done. Eg. I'll do this speech tomorrow!

Make yourself a short list of at least three possibilities and thinking about your audience, the main purpose of your speech and your personal interest or enthusiasm for each of them, whittle your list down to the best one.

Points you'll want to consider as part of your decision making are:

  • the time you have to prepare your speech
  • how much you know about the topic already. Do you need to do lots of research, or some? Is the research easy to do?
  • the angle you intend to use - is it persuasive, informative, humorous, unconventional, potentially shocking or upsetting, quirky? How does that fit with your audience's needs and if your speech is for a classroom assignment, the guidelines you have been given?

More places to find interesting speech topics

If you really are stuck for a topic that resonates with you check these sources out.

  • newspapers
  • magazines for specialist opinion pieces
  • the top news sites, blogs - for commentary on political events, natural disasters, social issues
  • radio - community, country and world news plus commentary and analysis
  • television for documentaries and indepth reportage
  • bulletin boards in your own community - for current topical events eg a meeting to discuss the implication of closing the local mine or the impact of raising the cost of public transport
  • your family and friends
  • Listening to the conversations around you and observing closely what you see.
  • This site! Click this link - speech topics - to find many more pages full of interesting speech ideas.

To prepare, structure & deliver your speech use these pages:

  • how to write a speech 
    You'll find full explanations and examples of the step by step process needed to get you safely from choosing your topic to presenting the speech itself.
  • voice image 
    Did you know your voice is an important part of giving your speech? The quality of your voice can make the difference between being listened to and not. Go to the voice image page. Read and follow the links to find out how you can optimize your vocal delivery.
  • vocal variety
    Use tone, pitch, pause and pace to deliver your speech effectively. An interesting speech topic is a great start. It would be shame to waste it and the work you've done through weak delivery!