Impromptu Speaking - Abstract Conversation


Abstract conversation involves discussing topics that do not restrict the speaker to think in a particular direction. The speaker is free to fly in any direction with his thoughts. E.g. ‘Black’.

For a topic like ‘Black’, the average speaker might stand there wondering about the beautiful color which has no shades, no hue and yet, is elegant. He might also speak about ‘black’ as a color, what it represents in his life and where all does he/she see that color. But that’s it.

This is a major problem with the speakers who can’t think of innovative ideas on abstract topics: they adhere to the literal meaning and don’t think out of the box. They cling to what the topic conveys, in general.

As this topic “black” has nothing to do with anything of geo-political concern or social or environmental concern, instead of interpreting it as just an ordinary color, the truly engaging speaker will transform it into something serious as ‘the apartheid’. The speaker can also think of the space - its void and black color. In other words, the speaker gets the license to interpret the given topic any way he wants.

Innovation in Thinking

One unique feature about the abstract topics is that they give the speaker the freedom to think and imagine. The speaker can shape and mold the topic in any way he/she wants. It’s the widening of thoughts that’s the most important here.

Most often than not, abstract topics appear in the form of famous quotes or idioms or proverbs. “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink” is a proverb and is an abstract topic.

This topic is not related to geo-politics, education, business, society or environment in particular. However, it can be shaped into a topic on any of these. An average speaker will just talk about what the proverb means and how forcing someone to do something cannot help the person. Someone may even cite the example of criminals, whose character doesn’t change much even after spending years of self-introspection in prison.

Can’t We Think of Something Innovative?

Can’t we think of endless number of campaigns Indian freedom fighters did to threaten the British, to no avail? Can’t we think of the engineering students in most parts of the country who are forced by their families to study engineering, but they end up learning nothing because science does not interest them?

These topics don’t need a concrete conclusion, unless it is a topic for debate. For topics like ‘Black’, the speaker needs to focus on ideas, rather than shaping the opinion of the listeners. The ending of the speech can be open ended as the aim is not to have a key takeaway, but to delve deeper into various facets of the topic.

Application of Abstract Topics

Abstract topics are a must for essay writing contests. Moreover, these days even the group discussion for campus placements and B-school selection rounds happen around abstract topics. Debates can be fought around abstract topics too. For instance, consider a topic ‘Does an early bird always catch the worm?’ The debaters can speak at length on the topic.

Participants can talk about how entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates started early in their life and got successful, and how that helped them grab opportunities in business. Another side to the debate could be the cases of Sanjeev Bhikchandani or Boman Irani, who started a bit late in their careers, but still managed to achieve acclaim in their respective professional fields.

In this world that respects experiment over theory, it’s important to prove the practicality of this tool. Let me see an example. Suppose the topic given to us is ‘Black’. First, define the topic in whatever way it is convenient to you. For a person from science background, he/she will begin with a scientific definition of the term, which has to be comprehensible to a layman.

“Black, the color which absorbs all the wavelengths of the universe, is one color that surrounds us in all forms.”

This sets the context of the speech. Now, move to each parameter slowly with proper transitions. Let me show you how the content of the speech will develop hereafter.

A few examples of abstract topics are as follows −

  • Beauty is only skin deep.

  • Don’t judge a book by its cover.

  • Red and blue.

  • United we stand, divided we fall.

  • Strike the iron while it is hot.