Thoughts and Ideas on Informative Speaking
Topic choice is a very important element in a good informative speech. In general, we see a lot of Hi-Tech and Bio-Tech topics in the outrounds at national tournaments. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1) these topics are less familiar to your audience and therefore you are more likely to actually be telling them something they don't already know (thereby informing them), and 2) these topics are usually more complex and they require (and allow) the speaker to use more communicative skills to convey the information to an audience in a manner that they can readily comprehend. In short, the topics are new/fresh and challenging. The downside to many of the Hi-Tech/Bio-tech topics (and I have been writing this on ballots a lot) is that with many of them there is virtually no chance I will come in contact with them in the next ten years or even in my lifetime. In the early 1990's I heard a speech on "Robo Doc" and new advanced robot that could do gall bladder surgery all by itself. To the best of my knowledge they are still not standard issue at any hospital I have ever been too.
In the last few years we have started to see a shift toward more "everyday/under your nose topics" that are advancing at nationals. This may result in a backlash against the high tech / bio tech topics but that is yet to be seen.
The other topics that often do well are the "right under your nose" topics. Things like "Yogurt" are interesting and provide us with information we might actually use. The audience can relate to the topics and may find the information provided practical. The idea is that you are providing them with new information about something they thought they already knew about. The down side is that some judges (especially younger judges who have recently been competitors) see these topics as less "sexy" than tech topics and there is always the chance that one or two of your judges will happen to have a great deal of information about your given topic.
One of the most difficult parts about doing informative speeches is finding the right topic. If you want to do a "right under your nose" topic the best place to look is, well, under your nose (save the emails suggesting that you want to run a lips informative OK). Look around at things you find interesting or things we take for granted. The key is when you are done the audience should really be saying "Wow, I had no idea...."
If you want to go the tech topic route the topic finding will be a little more research intensive. I have always been a big fan of Discover magazine. Once a year they publish a top ten list of cool new inventions and discoveries. We usually see about half of those inventions in out rounds at nationals. The down side is that many people know about this resource and use it. National Public Radio and the BBC also run stories on great topics (both informative and persuasive) and are worth keeping on your radio dial buttons. But if you don't spend much time listening to the radio you can check them out on line at http://www.npr.org/ and http://news.bbc.co.uk/default.stm respectively. Many news shows have their own web sites too. CNN, Dateline NBC, 48 Hours, and 60 Minutes are on the web and waiting (click on names to go to the web pages). Most other news programs are out there too. Some have full transcripts, some just have blurbs. But they are a starting place for research. Check out the Research Links for more ideas on where to find topics
Language in Inform
The language of informative speeches, as with many forms of speeches, is critical to its success. In informative speeches we often find the need to use analogies or metaphors to help the audience understand a foreign or abstract concept. You will notice that some of the sample informative speeches (OK, most of them) use popular movies as introductory and transitional materials. That is helpful in getting the audience to feel comfortable and familiar with the topic. It also has a tendency to lighten the topic just a little.
Humoris also a helpful linguistic tool. Humor "livens up" an otherwise potentially boring speech. The speaker is viewed as personable and confident because of the use of humor.
"Kicker" One of the things I find very effective in informative speeches is what I call a "kicker." That is one brief, fantastic line about the topic just before the preview. The line can be fun/humorous like in the hydrogels speech where the speaker says "So to understand why the July 1, 1999 Discover quips that hydrogels are a lot like Jell-O let’s first..." or more serious like a speaker saying "so today, in order to better understand why this new development is being touted as the single greatest development since the computer, we will...."
Putting it all Together
You may find the common organizational formats and sample outlines on the basics of writing a good speech page helpful.
Sample Informative Speeches
Cancer Immune Mouse