Finding Original Content in a Busy Industry

Most public speakers do not have a full time staff of writers coming up with their material. Most public speakers are not Standup Comedians. However, that does not mean we should give up trying to develop fresh material for use in our speaking. Nothing keeps an audience's attention any better that good, fresh material. Nothing loses an audience any quicker than tired, old material. How can you develop the first and avoid the second? This article will offer some suggestions.

1. Listen to Other Engaging Speakers.

Before you crucify me, I am not suggesting that you copy another person's material! You can, however, learn from other speakers how to develop good material. You can often learn what kind of material to avoid. Some things to watch:

  • The way a good speaker engages with their audience.
  • The way they work their material into their presentation.
  • What type of material seems to work the best.
  • Take notes on what you learn and then ask how you can emulate those lessons in your next presentation.

2. Use Personal Illustrations and Observations.

The observant public speaker never need lack for material. Regardless of your topic, life will provide you with material. Get in the habit of recording illustrations you see, read and hear. There are several ways you can do this:

Carry a voice recorder, or use the voice recorder on your smart phone. Many of these can email this audio file. Send it to yourself and store it in a file under the appropriate heading on you computer.
Carry a notebook. Of course this requires keeping track of your notebook! There is a benefit to this method. Make it a habit of transferring the notes from your notebook to your computer each day if possible. This has the added benefits of multiple records as well as helping the illustration to be lodged in your brain more quickly as a result of having to retype it.
The worst method is to trust your memory. If you try to remember every illustration you see, read, or hear, you will forget most of them. Trust me.

3. Look For Material On Purpose.

I recently read a book on investing. In that book, the author encouraged the reader to always be on the lookout for a good investment, even during the normal course of daily life. In fact, the author claimed that for the investor to become successful, looking for investments should become a part of their daily life. The same is true for public speakers. (Did you notice how I just used a book I just read to provide a timely illustration?)

The successful public speaker will make looking for material a part of their daily life. Where can you look for these illustrations? Here is a short list:

Home life. - Be careful here not to abuse the goodwill of your family. Make sure that you are not sharing things too private or embarrassing. For example, if you are asked to speak at your child's school on Career Day, that might not be the best time to tell embarrassing stories about your kids in front of their peers. Use personal family illustrations carefully. However, used properly, there are no more powerful illustrations than personal illustrations.

Waiting rooms. - Waiting rooms are hotbeds of material. People around you will speak loudly on their cell phones and to those around them. You can pick up some very useful illustrations from these conversations. Magazines offer another great source of material. Almost every waiting room has a stack of magazines. They don't have to be current. Just pick one up and read it. Magazines can be found in the waiting rooms at the offices of Doctors, Mechanics, Accountants, Lawyers etc.. Look for articles that provide material and illustrations on various topics. Record those illustrations while you wait. I have taken pictures of a clipping with my smartphone, written notes on a scrap of paper, and even, well...ripped out the article I was reading. (Certainly not the best advice.)

Online news and magazine sites. Some of these require a subscription, but can be an invaluable source of information and material. A great option for tablet users is an App called Zite. Zite is a news and magazine aggregator. It is like Pandora for magazines and blogs. It does not pull from major news networks, but instead it pulls from blogs, and online magazines. The more you interact the smarter it gets at bringing you the content you are looking for.
Online illustration websites. These are plentiful and free in most cases, but remember, other public speakers are reading the same sites and if you are looking to stay fresh and original, these may not be the best places to get your primary content.

If you are dedicated to gathering material for your public speaking presentations, you can do so. You will have to do so consistently and on purpose, but you can do it. Hopefully this article gave you some ideas. Do you have any that we may not have mentioned? Let us know, or leave a comment and share your favorite method for gathering material.