If You Need Material for Your Next Speech Here’s How to Find It
“Help! I have to give a speech and I don’t know where to start!”
I get this a lot.
If you’re looking for inspiration for your speech, whether it’s for a wedding, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, or other special occasion, don’t panic. Ideas for material are everywhere; you just need to know where to look.
There are obviously many ways you can brainstorm what you want to say and how you want to say it. To get your creative juices flowing, here are a few best practices to consider.
Put pen to paper
Get a pad of paper and a pen (or open your laptop) and spend 20 minutes writing things down. Write down any memory or feeling you have about the guest of honor. Write down funny stories or heartwarming experiences you’ve shared. Write down funny one-liners or signature expressions they tend to say. Make a list of their favorite people and things. Don’t stop to over-analyze or criticize what you’re writing. Just keep writing whatever comes to mind.
Zero in on qualities and stories
Try to hone in on 3-5 specific qualities the guest of honor possesses. Make a list of their most redeeming characteristics and think of supportive stories or examples that showcase this trait in action. These anecdotes can be funny, heartwarming, or both. Just make sure they are relevant and entertaining without being embarrassing!
For example, if the bride and groom are known for their compassion for others, write down the time you joined them at Habitat for Humanity, even if you were helpless with the nail gun. If your child is known for their competitive spirit, write down the story of when they fell on top of the referee diving for a ball.
Look for themes and patterns
When you’re finished brainstorming, review what you wrote down. Were there any interesting patterns or themes that emerged? Is there one story or anecdote that made you smile (teeth and all) or laugh out loud? When I was writing a toast for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s wedding, what stuck out the most was the fact that my sister-in-law bought 1,000 boxes of girl scout cookies from my daughter as corporate thank you gifts. I used this nugget as a framework to showcase how creative and family-oriented she was, two defining aspects of her personality. At the end, I wished them both a life as sweet as 1,000 boxes of cookies.
Make it personalized
Think of creating a speech like you’re building a case. Your argument is the theme you’re introducing, and the stories are your evidence. The more personalized the stories, the better. Personalization is what will make this not just a good speech, but your speech. This extends to your personality as well. Don’t include things that you wouldn’t say in ordinary conversation. You want to sound like you!
My biggest piece of advice is not to wait until the last minute to start this process. When you put in advance time and thought into finding the right material, you’re going to be much better prepared when it’s time to take the microphone. Working ahead of time will reduce stress and give you enough time to tweak and rehearse the finished product so that your words are remembered for all the right reasons.