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The first rule, and perhaps the best rule, is to start with what you know. Not surprisingly, that opens the door to lots of good possibilities.
Suppose you work in a fast food restaurant; tell me about the best and worst customers, or how it's possible to go from order to delivery in just a couple of minutes.
Next, think about issues and ideas that interest you.
Having a keen interest makes researching and thinking about the subject enjoyable and easy. Perhaps you can even satisfy your own curiosity as you prepare an article or speech that enlightens someone else.
Then, there's the idea of talking about something others don't know much about.
Let's go back to our fast food restaurant example. Just about everyone knows about fast food restaurants as a customer, but only a relative few know what happens on the other side the counter
In the same vein, the way you express your ideas can make them unique. Perhaps you consider your parenting experiences no different than everyone else's, yet, your perspective may be unique and of great interest to other parents.
This should give you a field big enough to come up with any number of story ideas. Make a list, say five or ten possible topics.
Now, ask yourself which of them you would enjoy developing further. You also might ask yourself whether you have enough examples to illustrate the points that fall under a specific topic.
Now, write an outline, to set out the main themes in your speech or article. By the time you finish outlining these themes, you'll probably have a number of sub-topics that could develop into topics that stand on their own.
For example, looking back at the contents of this article so far, I see that discussing something others don't know much about is one of the themes. For me, that would open the door to what I call the "Everybody knows" syndrome, the unfounded assumption that "...others know what I know."
If all else fails, get ideas from others. For example, I subscribe to many online newsletters because I write a lot of articles myself. As potential story ideas come in I store them in a folder, to be searched when I don't have anything available in the top of my mind.
I can use the original article as the starting point, creating something new and unique. Or I can abstract an article in my own words, again creating something new in the process. Another possibility: take several articles that discuss the same subject and do a comparison or compilation.
In summary, don't let yourself be stumped when you need a topic for a speech or article. Mentally review things you know a lot about, especially topics other people don't know much about.
Somewhere in there you'll find a topic. And, as you develop your topic, you'll likely find several others areas that could evolve into stand-alone topics, too.
Robert F. Abbott writes and publishes Abbott’s Communication Letter. Learn how you can use communication to help achieve your goals, by reading articles or subscribing to this ad-supported newsletter, an excellent resource for leaders and managers, at: http://www.communication-newsletter.com
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