How I found my story – Svetlana Sapelova

Svetlana turned her 5th speech into words. How I found my story – Svetlana Sapelova

I had a crisis. A crisis of ideas. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to talk about at our Toastmasters meeting, and the time was not on my side. I was nervous and had to act fast.

Usually, when I prepare my speech, the hardest part is to come up with a topic, and figure out what I want to talk about and how I want to talk about it. All the rest are just technical details. If the idea for a speech inspires me and I feel connected to it, the rest is easy. That time I had really absolutely no topic whatsoever.

Thus I decided to go down the line of least resistance, and give a speech about how to find an idea for a speech. I made a little research online, and of course, it turned out I was not the only one faced with such challenge. In fact, this happens to all the speakers, regardless their public speaking experience.

However, there is a difference in how experienced speakers and beginners handle it. Beginners usually go down the rabbit hole of focusing on the fact that they don’t have a topic, what makes even harder to come up with one. On the contrary, veterans know and use some tricks that help them to solve the problem.

The first and I believe the most important thing to know, is that the best speeches and the easiest to make, are the ones that are based on your personal experience or are somehow related to it. It doesn’t really matter what kind of speech you deliver as long as you can relate to it.

And after you decide what kind of speech you want to make (educational, inspirational, entertaining etc), think about what part of your life you can use in it. It doesn’t really matter if someone had the similar experience. It’s the perception that matters the most, and the perception is unique for each and every person.
And now: how do we find the story?

One of the best methods is to break your life into time periods or areas and think about each of them in the context of the speech.For example, you list the time frames of your life: childhood, puberty, student times, high school times, secondary puberty, adulthood. You can also break them down into smaller pieces: the first year after graduation, last year of the kindergarten (well, if you remember 😀 )

Describe highlights of each period with one sentence. For example, “last year of high school” – the year when I started thinking about the meaning of life, “last year of the kindergarten” – I finally realized Santa wasn’t real. Make a list of these sentences, and see if there are some periods of your life that you can relate to the potential speech. You can even go further and categorize them. Let’s say, in the last year of kindergarten you realized Santa Claus wasn’t real, and on the first day of high school you saw that good grades aren’t always given to the best students, but to the luckiest.

Both of these situations might be kind of eye-opening and in a way, life-changing, and they might be used in a speech about “How to cope with life imperfections” 😀 Instead of time frames, you can break down your life into different areas. Family, friends, close friends, not very close family, hobbies, jobs, vacations… Similarly, you describe each area. “close friends” – people with whom I discuss the meaning of life on Saturdays. “Family” – people who never seem to understand me. And then you might think about a topic “Why strangers understand you better than your own mother”.

When I was doing this exercise, figured out there were times for a change in my life. Some of the changes were big, like moving away from home, or changing a job, while some other times I was fine with just changing my routine: to start exercising in the morning or learn a foreign language. This gave me the idea that I could make a speech about changes: “how to figure out when a small change is enough or there is a need to make a big shift”.

Last but not least: when you come up with a topic, don’t rush and sleep over it. See if next day you come up with better one, because as Dalai Lama says:
“Sleep is the best meditation”

Avtor: Svetlana Sapelova
Foto: Martin Cimerman