Public Speaking Class: Develop a Topic (Part 2)
In the previous article, you have already learned how to identify common social issues. Our next step is to learn a few basic strategies to make these common issues a bit less obvious and predictable by examining the ideological problems behind them.
If you’ve ever gone for a cheeseburger or bubble tea, you’ve probably asked yourself the following question: is this delicious object I’m holding really all that bad for me? The sad truth? It probably is. But even though you know all about the negative impact of junk food on your health from your Biology class, we often become desensitized to the problem because we don’t always see the effects in our personal lives right away, or fully grasp the scale of the problem across societies. And we don’t blame you! It’s easy to get caught up with school, sports, or movies and let everything else take a backseat.
Most people feel the same way about common social issues. They might recognize that poverty is a serious problem, or that domestic violence affects millions of families around the world, but may never realize, or have time to process in great detail, how these problems directly relate to their lives.
For this reason, it’s important to learn how to reinvent common social issues in a way that helps people better recognize the ideological problems that lie at their core. But before we get to that, let’s first clarify what we mean by the word “ideology”.
Encyclopedia Britannica defines ideology as “a system of ideas that aspires to both to explain the world and to change it.” In other words, ideologies describe how human beings think about and interact with the world, and how our thoughts shape our behaviors and actions. Your job is to help your audience understand how ideologies can sometimes go wrong, giving rise to many of the common social issues you’ve identified.
There are three steps to identifying ideological problems within our society.
First, think of a specific social issue and brainstorm a list of actions, behaviors, and attitudes associated with it. For example, if you know that child obesity rates have been climbing in recent years, you can start by asking yourself who or what might have caused the situation to worsen. Maybe you want to focus on the actions of fast-food companies that take advantage of people’s addictive behaviors and tendencies. Or perhaps you’d prefer to discuss the attitudes of working parents who rely on the convenience of microwave dinners or take-out orders to feed their children.
Step two is then to broaden these actions, behaviors, and attitudes into general statements that aren’t specific to any one issue. You can do this by replacing the individuals or organizations responsible for the actions, behaviors, or attitudes you’ve identified with general pronouns. So, instead of saying that working parents choose the convenience of fast-food chains, you could broaden the issue by explaining that people in general often choose convenience over the health of their families.
Finally, describe contexts in which the actions, behaviors, and attitudes you’ve identified might be harmful. Think about other situations in which people prefer convenience over health. Even though we know that junk food is bad for us, we still order that second cheeseburger, in the same way that most people believe that climate change is a cause for concern but still drive diesel-powered cars. Others go outside without a mask on during a pandemic, even though they know the virus is highly contagious.
May now you’re thinking, “Yeah that’s totally right! Why are people so weird?”
Well, that’s what Original Oratory is all about, exploring how and why these actions, behaviors, and attitudes come about, what makes them so problematic, and what we can do about it. The problem of obesity isn’t just about our health, and climate change isn’t just about the environment. Rather, they’re all a part of a larger ideological problem – our obsession with and increased reliance on convenience.
Look at that! You’ve now reinvented the way we look at common social issues, by exploring the underlying ideological problems at their root.
So, let’s recap. You’ve learned a public speaking skill by developing a topic through identifying common social issues, those that matter most to your audience. Then, by brainstorming associated actions, behaviors, and attitudes and expanding them out into broader contexts, you’re now able to cast these issues in a new light. And maybe, the next time you grab a bubble tea – you’ll stop and examine how your own ideologies inform your choices.