How to Write a Graduation Speech
Writing a graduation speech is never an easy task, as you need to consider including certain elements to inspire your colleagues.
Whether you are chosen to speak at the commencement exercise or are at the top of the class, there are tons of memories that you may want to share with all the people there.
Writing a graduation speech can be exciting and daunting at the same time.
How to write a graduation speech? When it comes to writing a graduation speech, you need to start it out by thanking people. Keep it short and sweet. Most importantly, you need to inspire your fellow students. These are the keys to having the perfect graduation speech.
Below, you will find some of the things you should and shouldn’t do when writing your graduation speech.
You need to keep these key pointers in mind to come up with a significant and concise graduation speech. Let’s get right into it.
Secrets to Writing a Memorable Graduation Speech
Writing your graduation speech comes with a lot of expectations and responsibilities.
This is not the time to write about your life’s existential crisis. Rather, it is the perfect time to share the knowledge you would like to impart to your colleagues.
After all, you are still figuring out yourself, and you want to talk about what you’ve learned. Here are key pointers that you should consider when writing your graduation speech:
Start With Gratitude
Let’s face it: You didn’t graduate all by yourself. You did it with the help of people in your life who supported you. This is the perfect time to show some gratitude and humility by recognizing your parents, teachers, and some of your friends.
It might be possible to thank a specific person you spent the majority of your student life with. This can be your coach, your counselor, your favorite teacher, or your parents.
Thank them in front of everyone and show them how happy and thankful you are for their huge support. Also, use this opportunity to encourage everyone to find someone instrumental to their success.
Use the Internet
Modern technology has been getting more progressive. One of the best things that ever happened in humanity was the introduction of the internet.
Use it to look for famous speeches online, as they can be great guides and inspiration. You can check out some of the best graduation speeches on YouTube, like those from Oprah and Barack Obama.
Seeing how other people deliver their speeches will inspire you to write your own.
Keep It Short
When you are asked to write your speech for a commencement exercise, it means that your voice matters and your school has given you the opportunity to inspire your fellow students.
But it is important to know that you should not go overboard, as people are not there to watch you speak on and on. They are present to celebrate this special day with their friends and family.
You do not want people to get bored and check their watches during your speech. It is recommended to write a speech that can be delivered in no more than 10 minutes unless you’ve been given specific instructions.
Just think of how long you usually sit still when you are watching a YouTube video. The popular ones are not that long, which is why you should think about it.
Be an Inspiration
A commencement exercise is not only about getting your diploma. It is about looking forward to what lies ahead in the next chapter of your life.
This is a perfect opportunity to address your fellow students, engage them in an open discussion, and ask them to think about their future. Inspire them to develop their skills and achieve their goals in life.
Convey the message that as long as they put their mind to whatever their goals are, they will achieve them.
Be More Specific
When it comes to writing your graduation speech, details can help your writings be more interesting.
Guide the audience through your specifics. You have the responsibility of taking them on your academic journey with you.
There is nothing particularly interesting if you start with, “You know, starting as a freshman here in this big school, I always found myself lost and apprehensive about the future.”
You can rephrase that and add more details to be more personal and relatable.
So, instead of that, take the audience on a journey with you by writing something like, “You know, it still fascinates me how all of us changed in the last four years in this academy.
During my freshman year, I could barely reach my locker, and I was always lost trying to find English class.
Today, I can proudly say that I can reach my locker, and I can find any class on this campus. And if all that is true, imagine what our lives will be like for the next 5 to 10 years.”
Gather the Right Resources
Before you can start writing your graduation speech, you need to find inspiration from different high school and college graduation speeches. Commencement speeches can be found all over the internet.
If you go to YouTube and search for them, you will get many results from different personalities and celebrities.
There’s a list of graduation speeches categorized by message, school, and the speaker’s name, courtesy of NPR. You may also read some of the most encouraging quotes from famous graduation speeches to spark quotes for your own address.
Give It Structure
All stories have a beginning, middle, and end, which works well in your graduation speech. You should be thoughtful about how you will start and open your speech, which is key to grabbing the audience’s attention.
Next is to plan out how you can keep their attention to and, finally, how you will tie it all together to deliver a perfect ending.
Practice Out Loud and Often
In terms of writing and delivering a graduation speech, an improv speech is probably a no-no. It is not the way to go when you are supposed to be giving some inspiration and advice on one of the most important days of your life.
Make sure to write the speech and practice it out loud and often. This way, you won’t end up repeating the same things you said a couple of moments ago.
Infuse Your Personality
Writing and delivering your graduation speech will all come down to your personality. In 2016, Harvard University graduate Donovan Livingston gave his speech in spoken-word poetry, which is an interest of his.
His message comprised common graduation themes like the power of education, following passions with your degree, and reaching for your ambitions. His delivery also changed the way people heard the ideas.
Think about how you can convey your speech so that it aligns with your personality.
End It With a Bang
Make your speech end with a bang and save all the best bits for the end. This will be the most memorable part, so make sure it gives that impression. It should be what most people actually remember.
Some people end their speeches with a quote. Some provide anecdotes, a memory, or words of wisdom from their lives. The climax can be a funny story, but it can also be an open-ended question to your listeners.
The Don’ts of Graduation Speech Writing
Graduation can be quite overwhelming, especially if you are asked to write a graduation speech for your fellow students. This includes writing the material and delivering a speech.
It can be daunting for many people. This is because not everyone is made for giving speeches. However, the good news is, you can prepare your speech so that it is meaningful and enjoyable, even if you don’t actually enjoy it.
Here are some of the things that you should not do so you can deliver a perfect speech for your graduation ceremony.
Don’t Make It All About You
If you have achieved the highest rank among students, congratulations—you did the impossible. But, to be honest, nobody wants to hear about how you made it to the podium and they didn’t.
This is not to say you can’t infuse personal observation in your speech. Just be careful to not turn your speech into a “My Life in High School” type of speech.
In fact, instead of mumbling and constructing your speech in your room, why not go out and talk to your classmates or teachers? Find out what they are interested in knowing, what has inspired them, and what they will remember the most.
Your graduation speech should not be about all the students, not just you. It will be amazing to have a speech that is a collective memory of different people.
Try Not to Use Famous Quotes
When it comes to writing, you should avoid getting famous quotes from different people or celebrities. Famous quotes are great for yearbook entries but not for graduation speeches. Remove all those famous quotes as much as you can in your speech.
You are the graduation speaker, and people want to know what you have to say. The crowd does not want to hear some famous quotes that probably have been used many times in different speeches.
Don’t Write What Is Expected
If you write what is expected of you, what’s the fun in that, and what is the point of people showing up?
If your speech is predictable, the odds of the audience getting bored are close to a hundred percent. Just be original and authentic so that people will listen to your voice.
Don’t Say Anything You Will Regret
In fact, you should not say anything that you will regret 10 minutes after saying it. A student who is selected to be the graduation speaker is the kind who has always set a good example and has the best academic background.
With that being said, there are still a few who will take this opportunity to take a controversial stand, like calling out teachers or the administration or making an inappropriate joke.
Do not be that person. Instead, write a speech that you can show to your own kid 20 years from now.
Don’t Focus on the Narrative Too Early
When it comes to brainstorming for your speech, linking your thoughts is not as important as you think. You should not focus too much on the prose and polishing when you didn’t have an outline to begin with.
You can use pen and paper to list your thoughts and ideas. Start this in your notebook and try not to use your computer.
This is because you can get easily distracted if you use one of these devices. It will be fine if your thoughts are all over the place. You can easily group them later.
Writing and delivering a speech is not an easy task, and it can become quite challenging for any person to do perfectly. But as cliché as it sounds, your speech is about connecting with your fellow graduates one last time before you go your separate ways.
As a plus, you can think of this as a stepping stone if you plan to pursue a career that involves public speaking.