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Public Speaking with Time Limits: How to Prepare

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  • 0:01 Narrowing Your Topic
  • 0:41 Types of Topics
  • 2:28 Using Limiters
  • 4:24 Using Approaches
  • 6:17 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.

It can be overwhelming at times to find a topic that is just right for the speech you are giving. A great way to decide upon the best topic for time limits is to determine if your topic is too broad, too narrow, or if it is a focused topic.

Narrowing Your Topic

Logan is preparing a speech on a historical event that occurred between 1960 and 2010. He decides to cover political scandal. As he starts researching his speech, he comes up with many examples of political scandal and lots of research on the topic. However, Logan is overwhelmed with the amount of information he has. He only has eight minutes to speak. What can he do to narrow down his topic?

Well, this lesson will help you understand what Logan can do. You'll learn the differences between a focused topic, a broad topic, and a narrow topic. You will also learn some techniques for narrowing your topic and focusing it to meet time limits.

Types of Topics

Logan has a very broad topic. A broad topic is a topic that covers too much information to be discussed within the time limits of the speech. It is also possible to have a topic that is too narrow. A narrow topic is a topic that does not have enough information to be discussed within the limits of the speech.

For example, if you were to give your speech over how to create an email account, you would have a very short speech. Although this is important information to know, it is something that can be covered in only a minute or two. A better topic might be a speech over the benefits and uses of emailing programs today or the pros and cons of different email accounts, which would both be what is called a focused topic. A focused topic is a topic that covers the appropriate amount and content of information for the limits of a speech.

Be careful when trying to narrow your topic. You want to have a topic that is focused; something that you can go into detail just enough to inform or persuade your audience but still hold their attention. The research that you do on a topic can help serve as a guideline on whether or not your topic is too broad or too narrow. It is important to always do research as you are trying to narrow down your topic. Don't just randomly come up with ideas; research them first!

Topics that yield a lot of research that have many subareas are a good indication that your topic is too broad. A topic that yields very little research or is a small section of another, bigger topic, is a good indication that your topic is too narrow. There isn't a set standard of measurement on a narrow or broad topic, but if you start getting overwhelmed by too much or too little information, then you'll know that you don't have a very focused topic.

Using Limiters

One way you can narrow your topic for time limits is to use limiters on your topic. The following limiters can help you focus your topic so it becomes more manageable:

  • Time period
  • Place/location
  • Person/group
  • Aspect/event

Logan already has a time period for his topic: he must speak about an event that occurred between 1960-2010. This is an example of how you can use time period to limit your speech topic.

Another way to limit and focus your topic is to identify the place or location of your topic. Logan could talk about political scandals all over the world but that would be a very broad topic. For his speech, Logan wants to limit his topic to political scandal in the United Kingdom.

You can also limit your topic by identifying the person or group of people. For example, Logan can limit his topic by picking a certain person that was involved or affected by political scandal or a group of people that was involved with or affected by political scandal. Logan decides to do his speech over the political scandal in the United Kingdom involving the Conservative Party.

Often, limiting your topic by a certain aspect of that topic or an event that occurred will allow you to go more in-depth and be able to analyze the topic more thoroughly. Logan is already required to select an event as part of his class assignment. Now that he has narrowed his topic by time, place, and group, he can select an event that meets all of the criteria. After conducting some research, Logan finds an event that matches his topic: a political scandal, the time: 1960-2010, the location: England, and the group: the Conservative Party. Logan decides to give his speech over the 'homes for votes' scandal that happened in the UK in the 1990s.

Using Approaches

In addition to using limiters on your topic, you can also use the following approaches to narrow your topic:

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