Being able to find humor, stories, quotes and other speech material when you need it is very important. It is very frustrating to know you have a piece of material, but you can't find it. Some type of system of organizing all this material is essential to efficient preparation. A file and cross-reference system will help you keep track of your material. I use both a computer and hard copy filing system. Both have advantages, so don't worry if you don't have a computer.
On the computer I keep separate files for all the different topics I cover in my presentations and also for the different parts and categories of speeches like Response to Introduction and Openings. You can also do this with three-by-five cards or in a regular file box or cabinet.
I make files for categories of specialty humor like roasts and toasts and I also make files for the different parts of a talk like response to introduction, openings, and closings. When I'm preparing a talk, all I have to do is open the file on that topic and pick the information I want to use. I copy this material to another file named for the group to which I'm speaking.
Some information in my topic files may be duplicated in other topic files. This is basic cross-referencing. For instance, one of my signature stories about my dog, Freeway, makes several different points. It can be used as a customer service story, to illustrate going the extra mile, reacting under pressure, or thinking quickly. Since it is a story involving an animal, it could be told to a group of animal lovers. Consequently, this story shows up in many of my topic files. I also use file folders in a filing cabinet to keep cartoons, clippings, gag items, etc. that do not lend themselves to input on the computer. Even though this filing method is slower than using the computer, it has several big advantages.
The first advantage is that my filing cabinet has never once malfunctioned in 20 years. It has never had a hard drive crash. It has never given me a general protection fault (computer lingo for BIG PROBLEM). I have never had to sit for hours with a technician while it was being serviced. Never once has it been difficult to find a file. It even works in a thunderstorm and when the electricity is out. The second big advantage is that having hard files and a big box of miscellaneous material forces you to look through the material to find what you want. When you do this, you will see many things that you forgot you had. Maybe it's time to revive some of the old stuff.
Using a computer has some big advantages too. If I am in hurry, I can locate material quickly and copy it directly where I need it. Also, when traveling I can take all my speech reference information on a few floppies or a lap top computer in case I get another talk while I'm on the road.
Another important organization and sales tool has to do with cataloging your material. Immediately after you talk to a group, log your material so you don't repeat any jokes or stories if you are invited back. Professional speaker Larry Winget gave me this great tip. Keep a master log of all your best material, humorous lines, stories, and jokes. It can be used as a sales tool.
After a presentation, check off all the material you used. Show the master log to the meeting planner. Tell the planner if he or she has you back, you won't use any of the material you used this time. They will be impressed at seeing how much more you have to offer.