Choosing Presentation Topics

Picking a topic is one of the hardest parts of putting together a presentation, and it is one of the most important. Getting off to a strong start with a good topic that you find interesting will make the research you need to do to put together a strong presentation fun, it will make it easier for you to speak passionately to your audience, and it will make it easier to put together a presentation the audience will listen to.

Brainstorming Topics

Step one is coming up with a large number of topics to evaluate. I generally recommend that students consider at least 100 topics in for each presentation they give in my classes. Coming up with that many topics can be difficult, so I put together some tips for brainstorming topics.

Evaluating Topics

Once you have an extensive list of topics, then you want to evaluate them. When evaluating topics, be sure to consider:

  • The assignment
  • Your interests
  • Your expertise
  • The audience

Topics that are more specific are nearly always better than general topics.

Topics to Avoid

After many years of experience teaching Public Speaking, I’ve learned that there are some topics that rarely result in high-quality student work. I strongly advise you to avoid the topics listed below.

Controversial or Political Issues

Examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Gun Control
  • Gay Marriage
  • Abortion
  • Euthanasia
  • Death Penalty
  • Marijuana
  • Evolution
  • Social Security
  • Any Religious Belief
  • Paying College Athletes
  • Title IX
  • Lowering the Drinking Age
    • Actually, anything to do with drinking (even “wine is good for you”). I’m tired of hearing about drinking.

Things People Already Know They Should or Should Not Do

Examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Getting Enough Sleep
  • Wearing Seat Belts
  • Regular Exercise
  • Hand Washing
  • Blood Donation
  • Organ Donation
  • Tobacco Use
  • Drug Use
  • Not Driving While Distracted (ex: Texting)
  • Voting
  • Anything About Diet, for example:
    • Eating Healthy Diets
    • Drinking more Water
    • Eating Breakfast1
    • Eat This
    • Stop Eating This
  • Any “Green” Topic, for example:
    • Recycling
    • Conserving Water
    • Conserving Electricity
    • Reducing Fuel Usage
    • The “Scary Chemical” Presentation2

Speech Topics That Are Not Creative or Unique

Examples include (but are not limited to):

  • The “Disease of the Week” Speech
  • Nanotechnology
  • Genetically Modified Foods
  • Genetically Modified Organisms
  • Vaccination
  • Pet Adoption
  • Animal Cruelty
  • Animal Testing
  • Fraternity/Sorority Speeches

  1. Especially since there is no scientific evidence that clearly demonstrates a benefit to eating breakfast unless you are hungry.3 ^
  2. Especially since everything is a chemical.4 These arguments are brilliantly satired by Tom Way in his advocacy against “Dihydrogen Monoxide” (H2O – plain water) on his website.5 ^
  3. Carroll, A. E. (2016, May 23). Sorry, there’s nothing magical about breakfast. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/24/upshot/sorry-theres-nothing-magical-about-breakfast.html ^
  4. American Chemistry Society. (2017). Chemistry Is Everywhere. Retrieved October 2, 2017, from https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/whatischemistry/everywhere.html ^
  5. Way, T. (n.d.). Facts About Dihydrogen Monoxide [Satire]. Retrieved October 2, 2017, from http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html ^
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