When we’re assigned to deliver a presentation, teachers often ask us to pick the topic ourselves. Answering the question What should I talk about? or What are the most interesting topics? can be as tough as preparing and delivering the presentation itself.
So what makes an interesting topic? What are the elements that your chosen subject should have in order to captivate the audience?
I believe that any good speaker can capture the audience’s attention no matter what the topic he’s addressing. It’s all about making people understand what’s so fascinating about your talk. Still, some times we want to focus our attention on a topic that is motivating and adapted to the circumstances.
Anatomy of Interesting Topics
Whatever topic you choose, make sure it has all of these 3 characteristics: reach, novelty and a twist.
Reach means that the topic is not super specific, in the sense that a lot of people can relate to it. Be careful about presenting advance physics concepts to an audience mainly interested in Geology. You could, however, deliver a presentation convincing geologists of how important quantum physics is in their own field.
Novelty refers to the innovation side of your talk. Make sure you present something they never heard about, or at least never heard from your specific perspective. Captivating an audience is also about having an unique voice and not settling for common points of view.
Adding a twist to your topic is another way of making it interesting. Introduce a personal anecdote, tell a story, crack a joke, combine two completely unrelated topics (Quantum Physics According to Scooby Doo) and so on.
A few examples or topics obeying to these 3 rules are the ones which:
- Explain a complex or frequently misunderstood concept from your field in layman terms. E.g. The Internet of Things and How It’s Affecting Us Daily or What is Quantum Mechanics?
- Raise awareness towards a global issue, whether it’s in Healthcare, Environment or Social Sciences. E.g. What can we all do to prevent cancer? orHow is our waste affecting the oceans?
- Tell a story from your life that impacted it like no other. We all have exciting episodes to share with audiences, just make sure they involve danger, surprise, change, fear, sadness, loss or happiness. What have your life taught you?
- Write a stand up comedy piece or just try to study an existing one and make people laugh. Comedy is a vehicle for change and, while it gets people laughing, it sometimes carries deep messages.
- Report a recent project you’ve been working on to the audience. Are you a painter? Talk about your passion for painting and the techniques you use to create your art. Are you a scientist? Describe how you got into it and what you’re working on right now.
The Best Types of Presentations
- Share experiences, in form of a story, report or case study
- Offer value, in the form of knowledge, a service/product, a new insight
- Disrupt, i.e. challenge the general opinion about a subject
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