Turning Your Topic into Main Points for Your Speech: Tips & Ideas

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  • 0:01 Generating Main Ideas
  • 0:32 Brainstorming Main Ideas
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cathryn Jackson

Cat has taught a variety of subjects, including communications, mathematics, and technology. Cat has a master's degree in education and is currently working on her Ph.D.

Once you have a topic in mind, it can sometimes be difficult to decide on main ideas. This lesson will show you brainstorming techniques to help when you get stuck in the speech writing process.

Generating Main Ideas

Aiden is working on a speech for his beginning speech class. He wants to talk about tornadoes and has developed his specific purpose statement: 'To inform my audience about tornadoes.'

Now, Aiden is stuck. He isn't sure how to continue developing his speech. He knows there is a lot of information about tornadoes, but he isn't sure how to put this together into a well-organized speech. He can do this by generating main ideas. In this lesson, learn how to generate main ideas using various brainstorming techniques.

Brainstorming Main Ideas

Once you have identified your topic and developed a specific purpose statement, it is now time to brainstorm main ideas. If you are unfamiliar with how to develop a specific purpose statement or if you are having a hard time selecting a topic for your speech, check out our other lessons in this course for help!

A main idea is one part of the topic of a speech to be discussed in detail. Most speeches have two to five main ideas that are discussed during the course of a speech. Main ideas are a way for speakers to break down the pieces of their topics into manageable parts. To find main ideas to discuss in your speech, you will need to employ some brainstorming techniques.

Brainstorming is a technique of creating ideas by free association or research of words and ideas. There are many methods you can use to brainstorm your topics. These are a few that I find to be the most effective in generating main ideas:

  • Personal inventory
  • Clustering
  • Mind mapping
  • Researching

Personal Inventory

Aiden can start his brainstorming by creating a personal inventory. A personal inventory is a collection of your experiences, interests, hobbies, skills, beliefs, family interests, and other information that is specific to you. Aiden may have already used this technique to generate his topic: tornadoes. This technique is a great way to generate topics for speeches. You can also list all of the parts of a certain topic that interests you. For example, this is the inventory that Aiden creates based on his experiences and interests.


Aiden can also use clustering. Clustering is a technique that requires the speaker to brainstorm things under nine different categories: people, places, things, events, processes, concepts, natural phenomena, problems, and plans and policies.

Since Aiden already has his topic, he can list all of the concepts he already knows about tornadoes. Now, Aiden can separate and organize these topics to create sub-topics. Aiden thinks about what he knows for each topic and writes down everything he knows and wants to know about tornadoes. He can use this list to begin organizing and developing a speech. Aiden may decide to talk about the causes of tornadoes, the types and strengths of tornadoes, and the damages that can happen as a result of the tornadoes. He may also choose to use his own personal experience with tornadoes as an attention getter in his introduction.

Mind Mapping

Aiden's friend, Lindsey, is still having trouble brainstorming ideas for her speech. Aiden suggests that she use a technique called mind mapping. Lindsey knows that she wants to create an informative speech covering figure skating; she just isn't sure what specifically she wants to talk about. She decides to try mind mapping to help her make a final decision and to generate some main ideas for her speech. Mind mapping is a visual way to group and generate ideas. Lindsey thinks about what she knows about her topics and what she wants to know more about. Lindsey creates this mind map.


After mind mapping, Lindsey begins to do some research on her topic. She finds a lot of information about the different moves in figure skating. She decides to use her research and her mind map to create a speech over the different jumps, dance styles, and partnering lifts in figure skating. She also decides to incorporate some of the famous figure skaters in history that are known for the different jumps, dance styles, and lifts.

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