How long should a commencement speech be

How Long Should Commencement Speeches Be?

Public speaking is an invaluable skill that everyone should have. While every interaction you have in your life will not require you to give a speech, the intrinsic abilities carry over to your behavior and interpersonal skills. So, this guide will be all about how long should commencement speeches be and how to craft an effective one.

The ideal length of a good commencement speech should be between 5 to 10 minutes. But you should not go over 18 to 20 minutes. Do not rush during the speech either. That will not create an impact and make sure to think of your audience as well.

Writing a short speech is not that easy, though. You need to deliver value within a short amount of time. But do not worry. It is not that hard when you know how to do it.

What Is a Commencement Speech?

A commencement speech is a speech given to students who are graduating. It really is as simple as that. There are some nuances, though. This speech is mainly given to students who are graduating from secondary education. It can also be given in similar institutions and is common in many parts of the world.

Technically commencement means a beginning. But people might get it confused to mean something is ending since it is usually given when students are finishing their studies. But this is to signify the beginning of their bachelor’s or master’s.

In some cases, a commencement is an actual ceremony. Students are awarded degrees (or diplomas). The person who is giving the speech is referred to as a commencement speaker. You will see notable people giving these speeches. Usually, they are influential political leaders or important citizens who give these speeches.

How Long Should Commencement Speeches Be?

The general rule of thumb is to keep it reasonably short and lively. A good commencement speech should be between 5 to 10 minutes as the fundamental goal is to keep the audience engaged and make it memorable.

There is no point in going on and on only to have the audience’s attention and interest getting lower and lower. Try to keep it between 5 to 10 minutes. But it should not go over 18 to 20 minutes. 

You should craft an engaging and inspiring speech within these minutes. The benefit of giving yourself a time constraint like this makes you more efficient in what you say. You will avoid unnecessary fillers and address the audience with value. They will love to listen to what you have to say.

I recommend not to keep the speech too short. And it should also not be too long. A speech that is too short may come off as vague and superficial. In contrast, a very long speech will cause people to lose interest. Hitting the sweets spot is important here.

How Long Should Commencement Speeches Be

How To Craft a Good Commencement Speech

When writing your commencement speech, you need to keep a couple of things in mind. These tips and best practices will help you stay on the point and engage the audience in a meaningful way.

1. Know Your Audience

Honestly, this tip applies to any public speaking engagement and not just commencement speeches. A typical ceremony might have people with different backgrounds and interests. Knowing your audience is vital. 

Having a general feel for the room is important. That way, you can craft a speech that will be meaningful and appropriate. 

Do some research into the crowd. Before the actual speech day, try to know who will be attending. You do not have to get absolute specifics. A general idea will be good enough.

2. Tasteful Humor

A bit of humor is important too! You do not want your speech to be too boring and dry. This way, it will not have a lasting impact. A short speech without any spice or humor to it will still feel tedious to sit through. And it might not be remembered either. 

That being said, I do not mean that you have put on a stand-up comedy performance. Injective some tasteful humor along with the point of your speech is the recipe for success.

3. Think About the Graduates and Speak for Them

It is completely fine to have some personal experience in your commencement speech. But do not overdo it. Try to think about the graduates and what they might relate to. If your speech is only in the first person, then people might not feel invested in it. 

When you share a personal story, you should also frame it in a way that lets the graduates know what they should take away from it and what they will learn. You cannot just think about yourself here.

4. Avoid Sensitive Topics

There is absolutely no reason to talk about sensitive topics. You do want to make it awkward. Avoiding topics like religion, politics, and race will keep you on the safer side. You should not also negatively comment on others’ points of view or lifestyle choices either. 

Avoiding sensitive topics and critical differences altogether is the best thing to do here. So, be more sensitive and inclusive when writing your speech.

5. Practice, Practice, and Practice

Speaking of writing your speech, you should also practice it. Writing it the day before and thinking you will own the day during the ceremony is not always the best way to go about it. While you may be a fantastic public speaker, having some practice will make you much more comfortable during the actual speech.

So, remember to practice your speech beforehand. You can stand in front of a mirror and give a speech to yourself. Better yet, you can get a friend or a family member to act as an audience.

Having some practice will help you deliver the speech with confidence. You should articulate what you say and not just murmur. That looks very unprofessional. Practice is the way to get rid of the jitters and nervousness.

6. Do Not Rush & Keep Time

Lastly, you should not rush through your speech either. Although I did tell you to keep your speech relatively short, rushing through your speech will make it very awkward. Take your time but do not drag it for too long. 

Avoid repeating the same things over and over again. You should respect everyone else’s time but also not be too fast that you do not even get the point across.

Difference Between Commencement and Graduation Speeches

Commencement is often used as a synonym for graduation. There are some differences, though. Commencement ceremonies are only ceremonies to celebrate the fact that the students have completed all the requirements for a specific degree. You most likely will not receive a diploma at that time. That is reserved for when all the grades are officially updated and posted.

Graduation speech, on the other hand, is more official. It states that you indeed have completed all the degree requirements. Students can graduate in any semester if all their requirements are completed. However, there will be one commencement speech throughout the year.

  • How to Prepare and Deliver a Great Memorized Speech

    How to Prepare and Deliver a Great Memorized Speech

    A memorized speech can be a real nightmare; We easily forget most things even setting schedules and alarms, or asking a friend to remind us about important things to do proves to be a challenge sometimes – now imagine memorizing an entire speech. Today we will learn a bit about how to prepare ourselves and…

    Read More…


  • An Easy Guide to All 15 Types of Speech

    An Easy Guide to All 15 Types of Speech

    We keep learning that there are three types of speeches, informative speeches, persuasive speeches and special occasion speeches. However, I believe and know that there are many more such as debates, motivational speeches, forensic speeches, impromptu speeches, eulogy, and so on. Here’s a growing list of over 13 types of speech and tips on how…

    Read More…


  • 10 Public Speaking Tips for First-Timers

    10 Public Speaking Tips for First-Timers

    Are you looking for amazing, easy-to-follow public speaking tips for first-timers? Perhaps you have an interview coming up, or an academic presentation or, a business topic to present to your audience. Going up on a stage for the very first time can be somewhat tension-filled. My First Time Speaking in public Experience I did some…

    Read More…


Wrapping Up

By now, you should know all about how long should commencement speeches be and how to craft an effective one. Always put your audience in mind. The speech is for them and not for you. That does not mean you should not have any personality or originality.  

A good commencement speech balances all of these things and one that is short and lively.

Similar Posts