It is a special skill to be able to express yourself in a short amount of time. There's no purer expression of that skill than the one-minute informative or persuasive speech. Writing the one-minute speech takes a lot of practice, and it can take a lot of help to say something meaningful in so short a time. Let's dive in and explore what you'll need to deliver a 60-second pre-written or impromptu speech.
Why One Minute?
It's all about concision. For an informative speech, being able to state the facts at your disposal within a minute means you've trimmed the subject down to the points that truly matter. For a persuasive speech, being able to communicate your opinion, give facts in support, and come to a meaningful conclusion in 60 short seconds is a vital personal and professional skill.
Any job requires effective business communication. Employers prize workers who can speak and write clearly without wasting time.
However, writing and delivering a one-minute speech isn't just a job prep assignment. Clear expression requires clear thought. Clear thought requires knowing what you want to say, condensing it into a clear thesis, and supporting it with facts. That's not just a job skill; that's a life skill.
Done in 60 Seconds
Not ready? No worries. That's why you're here. Just follow this step-by-step guide to the perfect one-minute speech.
Step 1: Know the Parameters
The first question is simple: informative or persuasive? "Informative" means "just the facts." It's all about having your listener walk away with details they didn't have before. You're not making an argument. You're stating things that are verifiably true.
"Persuasive" is a bigger category. Any speech with an argument that can be contested is a persuasive speech. It can be as minor as "peanut butter and jelly vs. peanut butter and fluff" or as major as a presidential debate.
Step 2: Thesis Statement
Every piece of worthwhile communication has a thesis statement, including this one. For this article, the focus is on how to give a good one-minute speech.
Once you figure out your thesis statement, you effectively have a 10-second speech (or less). Distill your fundamental point down to one sentence. Lead with it. Everything else is support. Note that in an informative speech, your thesis should be a plain statement of fact. The thesis of a persuasive speech should be a clear argument.
Step 3: Get Structured
You've got your thesis, so you know how to start. Next, write your conclusion. Think of your conclusion as a mic drop: I told you. Straight facts. No arguing with me.
That is equally true whether you're giving an informative speech, which literally is straight facts, or a persuasive speech. "It's clear that the YourDictionary 6-Step Approach is the best possible way to prepare for a one-minute speech." That's a conclusion.
Once you've got an introduction and a conclusion, all you need is support. Write a few sentences that link the intro to the conclusion by summarizing your strongest points. Get that and you're done!
Step 4: Tell Time
Well, we say "done." If you were actually done, there wouldn't be more steps. Once you've gotten your thesis, support and conclusion together, you're done writing the one-minute speech. Preparing to actually speak is a different challenge entirely.
The main constraint on this kind of speech is time. According to the speech expert Daphne Gray-Grant, people generally speak at 125 to 150 words per minute. That's a good benchmark for a pre-written speech, but be sure. Time your delivery beforehand to be sure you're within your 60-second limit. You can then choose portions of your speech that you may need to cut (or bolster) for time.
Step 5: Fillet Your Filler
Speech filler is just a part of spoken language. If we could go back in time and hear Abraham Lincoln give the Gettysburg Address, I guarantee we'd hear the occasional "um" or "er." It's just the human condition.
That said, every moment spent saying "like" or "so, uh" is a moment not spent delivering your speech. The only way past that is practice. If you have time to prepare your speech, you're not done once you finish writing your 125-or-so words. You're done when you've spoken it aloud a dozen times and identified the places you want to add emphasis, the places you should slow down and speed up, and above all, the places you tend to say "um." Undo the "um."
Step 6: Get Ready, Stay Ready
As often as not, your one-minute speech will be impromptu rather than prepared. Fear not. Every piece of advice we've given can be done in your head, on the fly, as well as on paper beforehand.
All you need is the structure: thesis, support, conclusion. Once you've drilled yourself hard enough that you can build that structure in your head, you won't have to get ready. You'll stay ready.
10 One-Minute Speech Topics
These topics, evenly divided between informative and persuasive, should serve to prepare you for one-minute speeches on major or minor subjects.
Informative Speech Topics
We picked the following informative speech topics for three reasons. First, there is a definitive answer for all of them. Second, that answer can be stated, supported and summed up in 60 seconds. Third, we have pages to help you with all of them. Links are included for your convenience.
- What are the biological differences between a centipede and a millipede?
- Who were the three authors of the Federalist Papers, and what roles did the authors go on to play in American government?
- Define satire and provide historical and modern examples.
- Give a short list of simple machines and provide examples of their use in modern technology.
- Describe the differences between Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture.
The most important issue in any informative speech is getting your facts right. Be sure to check your sources, including those linked above, before writing any speech.
Persuasive Speech Topics
If the Internet has taught us anything, it is that absolutely any subject can start a debate. We've provided five topics, great and small, that should prepare you for a one-minute persuasive speech on anything.
- The US and Soviet "space race" was a waste of money and time that could have been better spent on domestic issues.
- Colloquial language deserves a more prominent place in schooling, as writing colloquially provides clearer communication than outdated formality.
- Of all the world powers, the European Union is best suited to lead the world on humanitarian issues such as housing refugees and providing foreign aid.
- Brazil's 1970 World Cup team was the greatest team ever to play football.
- Tea should be drunk without milk or sugar.
Following the guidelines and practicing with the prompts above should prepare you to write and give a one-minute informative or persuasive speech on almost any topic. One-minute speeches are a great way to identify and correct bad habits in your speaking style, and to improve your ability to improvise and think rigorously on short notice.
For more of our help with public speaking, take a look at our tips on speech writing. Between that article and this one, you should be prepared for short and long speeches alike.