Topic Considerations

topics illustration

For Your Information

The average audiobook utilizes a conversational speaking rate of around 150 words per minute (Williams, 1998 ). That means a five-minute speech should consist of about 750 words.

Naturally, when people get nervous, they speak a bit faster, but this number provides a good starting point for estimating how much writing is needed for the time given. Knowing this helps with narrowing and focusing topic selection, so that a speaker can avoid choosing topics that are too broad to fit within the time constraints given.

As speakers continue the process of narrowing and refining the topic of the speech, they should keep certain considerations in mind. First, remember to abide to any time restrictions placed on the speech. If the allotted speaking time rests on the brief end of the spectrum, such as 6–8 minutes, the speaker will likely want to avoid selecting topics that are too broad in scope. Such topics run the risk of exceeding the allotted speaking time, putting the audience into a state of information overload where they no longer feel compelled to listen, and/or overwhelming the speaker during the preparation phase. Conversely, avoid topics that are too narrow in scope, as they present the possibility for the opposite consequences: failing to reach the minimum amount of time assigned or presenting information that falls well beyond the audience’s comprehension level, which again, can cause attention spans to falter.

Ideally, in a speech to inform, the topic will have a fresh, unique, and innovative quality to it. Avoid trying to inform an audience about information they already know, but at the same time, avoid going overly deep into a topic without presenting background information first. Finding the perfect topic, as well as determining the level of complexity for the information, is part of the art of learning audience-centered speaking. The next chapter will examine methods to gather information about the audience so that a speaker can carefully tailor the information presented to their needs and information levels.



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Messages that Matter: Public Speaking in the Information Age - Third Edition Copyright © 2023 by North Idaho College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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