You were chosen to make the graduation speech of your class, you were pleased by the trust placed by your colleagues, but now you face a problem: the blank page of Word waits to be filled with inspirational words.
First thing, breathe out and relax; everyone who has ever made a graduation speech has faced the same situation. It is not easy to write the text, but the most challenging part comes later: delivering the speech.
Remember, we said hard, not impossible. In this article, you will have the opportunity to learn more about the graduation speech, how to write it, and how to deliver it.
What is a Graduation Speech?
The farewell or graduation speech is an essential element of the graduation ceremonies. It is usually taught by the class speaker (the student with the highest grades in the graduating class). It summarizes the college experience and inspires and encourages the crowd to face a new reality: the labor experience.
This is part of a series of more than fifteen posts on all types of speeches, such as persuasive speech, oratorical speech, informative speech, funeral speech, and many others. If you are interested in learning more, please click here to check all types of speeches, tips on how to deliver them and topic examples.
Let us now dive into the tips on how do you write a graduation speech that becomes memorable and raises the spirits of all of the audience.
7 Steps for Writing an Inspiring Graduation Speech
1. Understanding the goal
The official speaker’s speech must fulfill two objectives:
- It must convey a “send” message to the members of a class of graduates;
- Must inspire them to leave the school ready to embark on an exciting new adventure.
You were probably chosen to make this speech because you proved that you are an excellent student who can fulfill the responsibilities of an adult. Now it’s time to make all the students in your class feel special.
2. Choose a subject
Develop your text based on a theme that means a lot to graduates. Some common themes in graduation speeches are the difficulties overcome, the transformations the class passed, or the friendship between students.
When preparing your speech, think about your shared experiences with the class and the people you shared them with. This should include popular and quiet students, course and brain clowns, principals, teachers, rectors, and other school staff.
It is essential to make everyone feel like they have played an indispensable role in this shared experience.
- If you have limited experience in certain aspects of school life, ask for help collecting names and important events that you may not know about. Are there clubs or teams that have won awards? Volunteer students in the community?
3. Set a Three-Act Structure
Every traditional narrative is structured into three acts: beginning, middle, and end (or introduction, development, and conclusion). Speech is also a narrative, a story.
A graduation speech shouldn’t be too long; it has to be at most 10 minutes.
- In the introduction, thank parents and teachers for their presence and creatively present their theme; it is worth investing in an impact phrase to open the speech and draw the public’s attention.
- The development should be the longest part, in which you should sift through your theme and turn memories or a specific one into a lesson this crowd must take as a lesson.
- In conclusion, you can propose a reflection on students’ professional future and make the final thanks. Here also fits a striking phrase or exciting to pull the applause.
4. Hook the audience
Graduation speeches usually combine harsh and humorous elements; start by greeting your audience with a “hook” that grabs their attention. For example, you might say, “Last year was full of surprises” or “This senior class has broken records in unusual ways.”
Organize your speech on topics that describe these elements. You may want to start with an event on everyone’s mind, such as a basketball championship season, a student featured on a television show, or a tragic event in the community.
Then focus on the other highlights, contextualizing them and explaining their importance. For example:
“This year, Linda Goldberg won a National Merit Scholarship. This may not sound like much, but Jane has overcome a year of illness to achieve that goal. His strength and perseverance are an inspiration to our whole class.”
5. Reference jokes or quotes
Create anecdotes to illustrate your shared experiences. These short stories can be funny or moving. You could say: “When the student newspaper published a story about the family who lost their home in a fire, our colleagues gathered and organized a series of fundraising events.”
You can also add quotes from famous people; these quotations work best in the introduction or conclusion and should reflect the theme of your speech.
6. Prefer to talk about your personal experiences
When writing and pronouncing the speech, try to exemplify the subject with your own experiences.
Share your feelings and experiences during graduation. Talk about what has marked you and your colleagues and the most significant rewards of this journey.
Be empathetic when choosing which experiences you will share – choose those that are compatible with the reality of all colleagues.
Here are some questions that may help you:
- How have I changed since I started studying to this day? And my colleagues?
- What is the most important lesson I can take from all the time I’ve spent here?
- What are the most memorable stories of our time together?
- What challenges will we all face in the next step of this journey?
7. Be charismatic and speak with enthusiasm
A memorable speech is not made of far-fetched words and seriousness. The speaker’s charisma and the creativity of the text will be able to win the public’s admiration.
The important thing is that your speech transmits naturalness. Use formal language, but without excess, mixing moments of relaxation and seriousness.
Try to add a touch of humor with intimate jokes or expressions that indicate the companionship of the class; this will make your speech more attractive and light.
Remember, this is a moment of celebration; as much as the speech has a strong emotional appeal, don’t forget that you need to convey happiness.
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3 Examples of Inspirational Graduation Speeches by Women
1. Michelle Obama
The former American first lady has already become known for the speeches that stir crowds, which moved many during her campaigns.
During the 2016 presidential race, in which she supported Democrat Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump, Michelle was responsible for the phrase “when they go low, and we go high,” repeated among democrats.
Her graduation speech at the University of California at Merced in 2009 was no different. Michelle got applause from students talking about times of difficulty and how it is possible.
“When times get tough and fear sets in, think of those people who have paved the way for you and those who are counting on you to open the way for them.”
“Never let insecurity or fear dictate the course of your life; hold on to the possibilities and project yourself beyond fear.”
“Cling to the hope that brought you here today, the hope of workers and immigrants, of settlers and slaves, whose blood and tears built this community and made it possible for you to sit in those chairs.”
2. Ellen DeGeneres
The comedian leads The Ellen Show, an American TV show, and has already received the National Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a United States citizen can have.
In one of her graduation speeches to students at Tulane University in New Orleans, shortly after Hurricane Katrina, she told of how she lost everything she had before achieving success.
And how she got back on her feet after being kicked off her show by turning lesbian, today openly defending LGBT rights.
“When you grow up, you realize that the definition of success changes. For many of you, success means being able to take 20 shots of tequila. For me, the most important thing in life is to live it with integrity and not give in to the pressure.”
“Do not try to be something you are not. Live your life as an honest and charitable person; contribute somehow. So, to conclude my conclusion: follow your passion, stay true to yourself.”
“Never follow anyone’s path. Unless you are lost in the forest and see a path – then, for God’s sake, follow that path. Don’t advise because they’ll come back to you.”
“Don’t take anyone’s advice seriously. My advice to you is: be true to yourself, and everything will be fine.”
3. Oprah Winfrey
It’s hard to describe Oprah Winfrey in a nutshell: executive, TV presenter, award-winning actress, billionaire, and one of the most active people in the world of philanthropy.
She’s, above all, a great communicator. In one of the most humorous graduation speeches at Agnes Scott College, an American college for women, Oprah put this ability into practice to encourage young people to build something she calls a “life of substance.”
“If I could leave you with a message, it would be this: the biggest reward is not financial – despite all the amazing shoes you can buy – because a closet full of shoes doesn’t fill your life.”
“What it fills is a life of substance. And the basis for a life of substance is what is true for you. What do you represent?”
TIPS TO PREPARE FOR GRADUATION DAY
- Read and reread the speech several times, both to identify points to be corrected and to know the text;
- Usually, the speech is read to forget no important part, mainly because it is a moment of great emotion. However, this preparation will allow you to do it with more confidence;
- Train the speech at home, with friends and family. This is a way to feel comfortable talking to other people and managing the time, intonation, and rhythm.
A graduation speech shouldn’t be too long: it has to be at most 10 minutes. In the introduction, thank parents and teachers for their presence and creatively present their theme. It is worth investing in an impact phrase to open the speech and draw the public’s attention.
References and Further Reading
16 Best Graduation Speeches That Leave a Lasting Impression. Teen Vogue.
How to write a great graduation speech. OUPBlog