Special occasion speech writing: Graduation speech writing
Do you need to give a graduation speech? Here’s how to make yours memorable.
After four years of hard work, it’s time to go off into the world with pride, and start to make a mark. Graduation is an important event in a life, and a good speech can properly commemorate the occasion, and motivate others into looking ahead, while still looking at the past.
Be sure to write out at least most of your speech. Having notes will keep you from stuttering too much. It will also be a safety net if you’re nervous. Also, the worst feeling is remembering too late something important that you wanted to mention, and notes will help prevent that. Don’t be boring and read your whole speech, though. Maintain eye contact with the audience, and don’t be afraid to say something if it comes to you out of the blue.
Any good speech has structure: a beginning, middle and end. First of all, introduce yourself, and inform you as to why you are speaking. Why are you, of all people, addressing the assembled?
A joke after your introduction is always a good way to break the ice. Be sure that it’s an innocuous joke, nothing that will offend anyone. Make a joke about the town or the weather. Try something general, like “A door never closes without another opening. This door has closed – unfortunately, you have to pay rent to enter the next.”
The middle of your speech should have some kind of unifying theme. What do you really want to say to the graduates? (This can tie in to why you were chosen to speak.) Things have changed a lot since the journey of education began. Mention what is different about the town, about the people. Hopefully, everything has grown and improved.
You can also be idealistic. What needs to be changed about the world? What responsibility do you give the graduates? Try not to be too controversial, but there are always general problems no one will object to you addressing.
Have you seen a quote recently that inspired you? Recite the quotation and tell what it meant to you, and what it should mean to everyone else. The great thinkers of the past have a lot to say, and it’s always nice to be reminded of that. (Plus, it’s a good way to fill up time in your speech.)
Don’t be afraid to be sentimental. It’s an emotional time for everyone, graduates and parents. They are eager to have you pull at their heartstrings, and just about anything you say will do that.
Have you met a truly remarkable graduate? Another common technique is to spotlight a specific graduate who has overcome some kind of adversity. This person is praised, while the rest of the assembled are urged to follow their example.
In case you are nervous, don’t be. You’re there to fulfill a specific purpose, and no one is expecting your speech to be more eloquent than you can muster. Just like a graduation speech on TV, you can say nearly anything, and people will applaud at the end. Just speak from your heart, and everything will be okay.
The end of your speech should build from the middle and climax on something inspirational. Usually people are clapping and shouting when the speech is almost over, so try something like, “So we salute the class of 2004, and we know the best is yet to come!”
When you end your speech, everyone will be cheering, and the graduates will be excited, and you will have done your job admirably.