Tuesday, Jul 27th

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You are here: Guidance For Prepared Speeches

Prepared Speeches

Getting Started

Interpreting the theme
Speakers may interpret the theme in any way they wish, but may not use the theme as the title of their speech. Themes for the IPSC are deliberately broad and do not suggest any specific subject area. Speakers should avoid trying to second guess any notional ‘intention’ behind the theme (there is none!), and should choose a topic they want to speak on, rather than a topic they feel they should speak on. Finally, speakers should remember that the audience and the adjudicators will be hearing approximately 50 speeches based around the same theme, so an original or creative interpretation of the theme, with an interesting or memorable speech title, is likely to be rewarded.

Choosing a topic and a title
Many speakers attempt to think of a title that is connected with the theme and then try to construct a speech around that title. It is usually much more effective to choose a topic that they want to write a speech about first (either something they already know a lot about or something they would like to learn more about), and then find a connection between that subject area and the theme. An interesting title is very often something that simply comes to the writer during the researching or writing process (or indeed after the speech has been constructed in its entirety).

Speakers should consider the following when choosing a topic:
Am I interested in the topic? – Speakers should never write a speech on a topic or subject area that they are not interested in. Enthusiasm is difficult to fabricate and without it speakers can’t hope to maximise their marks under Expression and Delivery. Conversely, many speakers also try to avoid writing a speech on a topic or subject area that they have very detailed knowledge of, as the inability to get all their knowledge into a five-minute speech can be quite frustrating. For those reasons, speakers often try to strike a balance between the two extremes; i.e. they choose a topic or subject area which they don’t know a lot about but which they are interested in.

Will my topic capture the interest of the audience? – The audience and the adjudicators do not necessarily have to be interested in the speaker’s topic to be persuaded by the speech. Speakers should try to make their speech more engaging by demonstrating the relevance of their arguments to the audience and the adjudicators (e.g. The allocation of government resources may seem like a boring topic to some audience members until one considers that the topic could be linked to the availability of teachers or hospital beds. Similarly, intellectual property law may be something that few people are interested in until one considers its link to illegal downloading.).

Will I be able to research my topic effectively? – Speakers will need a certain amount of evidence to support their arguments and persuade the audience. The speaker’s topic must be one which they can research effectively using the resources available to them (the school or university library, the local library, the internet etc.). Researching the topic area is important; not only for the speech itself, but for the question period when the speaker’s background or ancillary knowledge of the issues is put to the test.

Will I be able to discuss my topic in the limited time available? – Some topics or subject areas are particularly obscure or otherwise unfamiliar and would require a significant amount of explanation to make the information accessible to the audience and the adjudicators.

For example, it would probably be impossible to convince an audience that ‘The Meiji Restoration in Japan was unfair on the daimyos’ in five minutes. The speaker would have to begin by outlining the state of Japan before the restoration, then explain what a daimyo is, and then present analysis of those two descriptions or explanations to prove that the daimyos suffered wrongly as a result of the restoration.

Any background, contextual or technical information required should not take up more than a few sentences of the speech. If such information requires elaborate explanation, speakers should consider refining their topic.

Brainstorming
Initial brainstorm – One way for speakers to decide on a topic is to write down as many words and ideas as they can think of that are connected with the theme in 60 seconds. Another method is to take individual words from the theme (or various different permutations), put them into a search engine (e.g. Google) and see what kind of results come back. A similar exercise involves taking individual words from the theme (or various different permutations) and putting them into an online dictionary or thesaurus. The resulting definitions, synonyms or antonyms may inspire an interesting idea for a speech.

Secondary brainstorm – Once the speaker has decided on a topic for the speech, it is useful to go back and brainstorm again; writing down all the words and ideas relating to that topic that come to mind in 5 minutes. This process will help the speaker to identify all the possible arguments which they may want to use in their speech. It will also help the speaker to decide how best to group those arguments. Finally, it will help the speaker identify arguments which they may not be able to use in the speech, but which may be useful when answering questions.

Research
Once the speaker has decided on a topic for the speech and has taken the time to think about all the possible angles or arguments, they should begin researching in more depth. Even where the speaker has prior knowledge of the topic, it is important for them to broaden their perspective as much as possible, and to ensure that the evidence and information they use in their speech is reliable and up-to-date.

Speakers should bear the following points in mind when researching their topic:
Different types of sources – Speakers should aim to utilise fact-based resources (e.g. encyclopaedias), academic resources (e.g. journals or reports) and opinion-based resources (e.g. newspapers or news websites).

Up-to-date information – Speakers should ensure that the information they are relying on to support their arguments is up-to-date. The internet (e.g. Google) is invaluable for checking that the information already obtained (e.g. a journal or newspaper article) is the most up-to-date information available.

Multiple sources – Speakers should aim, where possible, to have more than one source of evidence, particularly where statistics are involved. It is generally unwise for a speaker to allow one piece of evidence, from one source, to underpin an entire argument in their speech.

Anecdotal evidence – Anecdotal evidence (personal stories, myths, memories etc.) is generally unpersuasive, as it usually lacks clarity, certainty and universal applicability. However, depending on the nature of the speech and the style of the speaker, anecdotal evidence can sometimes be used to great effect (particularly if the speaker’s primary goal is to entertain or inspire empathy in the audience; anecdotal evidence can be used to demonstrate the human dimension of an issue).