Writing Your Graduation Speech

The Gradshop guide to preparing a speech for your graduation ceremony

Being chosen to speak to your classmates at the graduation ceremony is an incredible honor. It can also be a very difficult and stressful responsibility, even for those who are comfortable and experienced speaking in front of others. It’s a big occasion! Here are a few tips to help you create a memorable speech to entertain and inspire your entire graduating class.

Step 1: Decide what your focus will be

To put it simply, it’s just not that easy to figure out what to say! Our best recommendation is to stick to one theme or combine several. But don’t skip around too much or you’ll lose people. Include quotations from your favorite celebrities or motivational figures and remember to coordinate with fellow presenters to ensure that each of you offers a unique perspective without duplication of information!

Below is a short list of compelling topics and themes for you to consider:

Overcoming Adversity: We may not think about it much, but some graduates have had to overcome huge obstacles just to walk across the podium. This presents a great opportunity to honor a classmate and remind everyone in the audience how proud they should be. Your Classmates are Unique: Every single graduating class includes some truly interesting and diverse personalities. From athletes to artists to intellectuals and comedians, celebrate the diversity of your university by providing examples of what make your class such a multi-faceted group. Friendship: Friends are a huge part of the high school experience. Now, many of you are headed in very different directions. Reflect the power of these special bonds with a nostalgic perspective. Memories: In four years, much has happened and a lot has changed. Celebrate and enjoy the funny, emotional, scary and moving moments with your class from each of your 4 years. Make them laugh! Life Pathways: What path will every graduate take after high school? Some students don’t know what they are going to do, but others have a very clear path in mind. This topic is a good opportunity to stress the importance of following one’s dreams. Reminiscing: Remember all of the friends that have come into and out of your life since you began your schooling around age 5 or 6. Much time has passed, but the memories remain. What will the world be like when today’s Kindergartners graduate? The importance of making a Difference: There is much good to be done in this world. When combined, the positive force of combined positivity could change everything. Thank those who mean the most: Whether it is a teacher, parents, fellow student or other, giving thanks to those that inspire can be an important and compelling topic. Congratulating others in your class: Consider ending your speech with a nod to others in your class. Graduating is a big deal, and they have earned the recognition Give solid advice: Be careful here as advice needs to be impactful and sincere to connect with your audience and have meaning. But providing with advice for fellow graduates or future generations can be a great way to wrap up a speech.

Step 2: Review, Re-write and Edit

First things first! Sleep on it. After you’ve mostly re-written your speech a few times, it’s time to get some other opinions. Ask a teacher, friend or family member to read what you’ve written and provide feedback. Be careful and consider if anything you have written could be taken out of context. Now is the time to remove any and all content that could be offensive or inappropriate. When in doubt, cut.

Step 3: The Use of Visual Cues

A few tips for visuals – Don’t base an entire speech around a good visual. Write first, search for visuals second. Including photos of classmates is a great way to involve your audience. Include as many as you can, but be very careful not to use images that may embarrass an audience member. If you are working with another presenter, be sure to practice your visual cues to ensure that everything goes according to plan.

Step 4: Rehearse. Then Rehearse Again

You’ve got to get intimately comfortable with your speech, and know which words to emphasize without sounding forced. Rehearse repeatedly, and do it out loud. Even though it can be awkward, try to enlist others to practice giving your speech to. It helps to get a little nervous before you actually get up on the stage so you can deal with your nervousness in a private setting first.

If you start panicking up on stage, or going blank remember that those in the audience want you to succeed. Take deep breaths, mentally backtrack to the last point you were making and resume from there.