Three Strategies for Unexpected Speaking Topics

One situation that worries many speakers is being asked to make an impromptu speech without preparation. This is not really such a difficult situation because normally you will be asked to speak about some topic on which you have something interesting to say. If you founded a startup you will be asked to talk about your company and you should be able to talk about that topic without any extra preparation. What you can and should be doing is to anticipate likely topics and prepare the core messages for each of them.

But what if you are asked to speak about a subject where you have no knowledge or expertise? In any normal situation you best bet would be to explain why you can't talk about that topic and either offer to speak on another topic or suggest another speaker. The only real-world case where you might reasonably be asked to speak about any random topic would be in a competition or to win some kind of bet. This sounds very challenging but it is not as hard as it might appear, mostly because the choice of topic is never completely unpredictable. You can also apply some simple strategies to preparing for this kind of situation if you expect that you will ever need to.

Detective Strategy. Surprise speech topics are never truly random and you will be able to predict a number of likely candidates and prepare for those. It’s very likely that the topic you are asked to speak about comes from current affairs because most people are likely to be aware of them. You can look through Google News to find possible ideas to research.

Mathematician Strategy. Another approach is to prepare ideas for speeches on general problem solving and then simply try to connect the chosen theme with one of these general outlines. In other words you take the new problem and try to relate it to an existing problem that is already solved — the go to method of generations of mathematicians. For example, if you are asked to speak about some major change in your industry you can build it around a parallel case in another field.

Professional Speaker Strategy. The simplest approach, though, is to use the technique of professional speakers and speechwriters and simply gain so much experience talking about different topics that you can prepare a speech about any topic and any position with very little advance warning. This takes years of practice but if writing speeches is part of your job you get paid while you are learning it.  You can augment this basic speech writing skill by amassing a repertoire of useful facts, stories and examples. 

By applying these strategies anyone can master the art of delivering an interesting talk on a random topic with little time to prepare. At this point you will probably have lost any residual fear of speaking and come to enjoy it.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, interactive workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about professional speaking you can contact Andrew Hennigan on 0046 73 089 44 75 or


Popular posts from this blog

Dear Best Regards: How to Start and End Your Emails

Reverting to Emails: Confusion and the Indian English Language

TED’s Magical Red Carpet