Graduation Speeches        


        If you're a Valedictorian, you've probably seen it coming - but these days, you never know who might be asked to speak at graduation from any level of education!  These can be tough - it can be a pretty high-pressure situation, with a huge and complex audience.  You've got to entertain classmates (kind of an instant popularity contest - ugh), please parents, and not be too offensive to teachers and faculty.  And then there's the pressure to say something, anything, that's actually "memorable."  Yikes.  Well, here are some pointers:


  • Find Common Ground - Any given student in the audience may have had quite a different experience at the school than you had.  If you're up there talking about a certain sport, club, class, or pastime, watch out - not everyone did that stuff!  Think hard and try to come up with some areas of common experience for everyone at the school.  You should be able to find a few to at least mention.  Oh, and if you ARE the valedictorian, definitely avoid talking down to anyone.  It's a good way to get hated...


  • Find Entertainment Value - You've got to get some laughs - even the best "inspirational" graduation speech falls short without a bit of humor.  These could be stories from your time at the school - or of other peoples' exploits!  School traditions, legends, and public figures (teachers?  YES!) are all good fodder here.    


  • Find a Message - It's okay for graduation speeches to be rambling and poorly structured for most of the speech - but you should definitely end with a well-thought-out message.  Think about what you really want to tell people - what wisdom you'd want to impart to them.  Because this is your chance!  This part will almost always be the end of your speech.  And hey, this message can be of further use - it can be memorialized in graduation announcements sent out to friends and family, or the quote can be framed and hung on your wall as future inspiration.


  • Assemble, and Practice - Again, it's definitely okay for graduation speeches to be loosely assembled from stories, random thoughts and memories, etc, and capped with a good message.  Just get it all down there, and make sure the intro and the end have some zing.  Then, practice!  As with all speeches, it's best if it doesn't sound written-out;  one way to accomplish this is to not actually ever write it out.  Just bullet points, not complete sentences.  Anyway, test the delivery with classmates, parents, or whoever will listen, and get advice.  Though most people don't consider themselves tutors of public speaking, most people do know good stuff (and bad stuff) when they see it!


       There are a couple of example graduation speeches on this site that you can check out for reference;  the samples are My Graduation Speech and Kate Jackson's Graduation Speech - enjoy, and good luck!