Giving the graduation speech at the end of high school is an exciting and sometimes overwhelming task. Also, it is something that most speakers enjoy. It is intended to provide a persuasive, moving and ultimately encouraging harangue, in which not only will the audience be fondly bid farewell, but will also be encouraged to move on and achieve their most ambitious goals. This is an important task that the speaker must accomplish with a speech. However, you can do it as long as you plan and prepare your speech before getting up to speak.
Part 1 of 3: Planning the speech
Step 1. Read other graduation speeches
A good way to prepare for what you will do is to guide yourself from the people who have already done it. Find other great graduation speeches and pay attention to the topics the speakers bring up and the jokes they tell. You don't want to copy them, just look for ideas that reflect your experiences or possible themes that you can use.
Some famous examples include Steve Jobs at Standford 2005, J. K. Rowling at Harvard in 2008, and David Foster Wallace at Kenyon in 2009
Step 2. Search for a topic
Your speech should have a point, something that you try to express to your colleagues. Once you've found a topic, you can build your speech around this idea. A theme will make it easy to know what to include and also what not to include.
- When searching for a topic, consider what it is you want the audience to get out of the speech. Maybe you want to inspire people or maybe you try to reflect on the good times. This is an important aspect of the topic.
- Some good possible topics include "Find and follow your passion", "You don't need to be perfect", "If you think and believe you can, you can" and "Be selfless and give." Try to find something that you can draw from your own experiences and the experiences of your classmates.
Step 3. Make a draft
Before you sit down to write your brilliant and insightful message, make a rough draft. Include the central theme, then all the points you're going to make to back it up. It also leaves room for jokes and stories. Having a rough draft will help you remember all the points you want to make, so that you don't forget any when you start writing. It can also show you the length of your speech and perhaps make you notice the things you need to edit.
Step 4. Talk to other students
This ceremony is not just for you, but for everyone. Keep in mind that each person's school experience will have been a little different. Talk to other students, even people you don't have friends with or don't know well. Find out about how they experienced school days and what kind of memories they will take with them.
Step 5. Remember your audience
This speech is for you and your fellow graduates. While it would be a nice gesture to thank your teachers and parents for contributing to your graduation, remember that you and your classmates are the main focus. Make sure you speak to them primarily.
If you are not sure how your speech will turn out, imagine yourself listening to it. Is this the kind of speech you would like to hear at your graduation? If you're not sure whether you enjoy it, your classmates may not enjoy it either
Step 6. Keep it short
Your speech is just one part of a larger ceremony, and people probably won't want to hear a half-hour speech about the nature of friendship and the universe. Keep your thoughts short and direct. Also, if you don't like making speeches, keeping it short will make you finish faster.
- Talk to the principal or a teacher to get an idea of how much time you have. They may not set a certain time on you, but they will probably give you suggestions about how long you can take giving a speech. If they don't have good guidelines, then you can give a 5-10 minute speech.
- To help yourself when writing your speech, remember that the average speaker reads approximately 120 words per minute. This represents less than 1 double-spaced page with a 16-point font, which is recommended because it is easier to read.
Step 7. Put your most important message last
Most likely, the audience will not pay attention to all of your words. Make sure to leave them with the central idea, even if you need to restate the idea that you presented at the beginning. This will be the last thing everyone hears, making it probably what they remember most about your speech.
Part 2 of 3: Include the Important Parts
Step 1. Thank people
Even if your speech is for the entire graduating class, take a few moments to thank people specifically for what they did to help you get there. You can make a list of names, including those of your parents, your teachers, and your friends. Just remember to be brief and turn your attention back to the graduates.
One way to make this more accessible to the rest of the class is to end this section by encouraging or reminding other graduates to thank someone as well
Step 2. Include some jokes
Including a few lines in your speech that encourage laughter will help you and your audience feel comfortable. It can also briefly distract people's minds from the most important topics you'll be talking about. You don't have to be the "class clown" to be able to tell a good joke. Just stay relaxed and confident in your presentation, and if people aren't laughing, move on.
- One style of joke is the funny and inspiring quote, like Will Rogers' quote: "Even if you're on the right track, you will be run over if you sit still", or Ben Franklin's: "You will find the key to success under your alarm clock. ". These smart lines can be a good starting point for your speech and introduce your big topic.
- Look for specific stories in your school. These can help you personalize your speech and refer to things that most people know. You can make a joke about a construction that took a long time at your school and say that "the future is built hall by hall."
- You just need to include a few jokes. This is a graduation speech, not an audition for your career as a comedian.
- Remember to write and rehearse them, as well as the rest of your speech. Do not forget the jokes or make mistakes in the auctions on the big day.
- Be careful with your jokes. Your audience will include teachers, parents, grandparents, and siblings (including your own), so make sure your jokes are appropriate for everyone.
Step 3. Reflect on the past
Focus at least part of the speech on the things that you and your classmates did during school time. Graduation is a time to celebrate everything you've done, including finishing high school.
Be sure to mention specific accomplishments. Think of sports tournaments, awards, charity events, anything that you or your classmates have accomplished during your time in high school. The more examples you can include that don't involve you, the better. You are celebrating the accomplishments of the entire class, not just yours
Step 4. Talk about what's coming
Graduation is also a time to look to the future. Spend some time talking about what will happen after graduation. Since you don't really know the future, this section can be a bit more vague and ambitious. Remember to stay positive and think about the good things to come.
As the student with the best grades, you are likely to go to college after graduation. This may not be the situation for everyone in your class, so don't forget to mention the other possible paths (like getting a job or serving in the military). If you don't know what kinds of things your classmates will do after graduation, you might ask them when you talk to them
Step 5. Tell a personal story
A good way to illustrate your topic and link your story to past experiences is to tell a personal story. Think of an experience you had in high school that taught you the great lesson you address in your topic. If it includes your friends or other people in the audience, even better. This is a good way to personalize your central theme and let your classmates know about your particular high school experience.
If you don't have a specific funny story about yourself or your friends, consider talking about how you changed during your time in high school. Think about how you felt in your first year, how you got lost or couldn't find your locker. A personal story is a good way to add a bit of self-deprecating humor, as long as you feel comfortable telling a story that doesn't look good on you
Step 6. Avoid cliches
Although it is good to have a topic, avoid using ideas and statements like "The real world", "The future belongs to us" or "Today is not the end of your education, but the beginning." These types of statements are overused. Furthermore, they are so obviously true that they end up losing consciousness. Hearing these kinds of statements can cause your audience to stop listening to you, which you definitely don't want.
This means including some quotes. A good quote or two from famous people can be helpful, as long as they relate directly to your main point. Remember that people want to hear you speak, not recite a list of famous phrases
Part 3 of 3: Give the speech
Step 1. Practice your speech
Graduation day shouldn't be the first time you've recited the speech out loud. Practice a few times in advance, whether it's in front of a mirror or with your friends. This will let you know how long your speech is (and if it's too long), it will also let you know what it sounds like when reciting it out loud.
If you can, recreate the setting as closely as possible. Wear your cap and gown so you feel comfortable in them and practice on the podium or at the graduation venue, if possible. The more familiar you are with the setting, the more comfortable you will feel making the speech
Step 2. Keep your composure
You should not lose control during the speech. If you feel a few tears coming up, try taking a deep breath and hold on to the podium to distract yourself. Graduation is an emotional time for everyone involved, and it is understandable that your throat tightens when you think of your friends and peers.
Letting go of a tear or two may be fine. You can cover it up by blaming allergies or jokingly saying that there is a lot of dust in the room
Step 3. Enjoy it
This is a great moment for you and it should be one that you are also proud of. That said, your peers probably won't remember most of what you'll say. No problem. If anything, this may take some of the pressure off you feel. Relax, have fun, and stick with your main ideas. The most important thing is that you find a message that interests you and that you think is important.
- Remember that you were chosen to give the speech for a reason. This is a unique opportunity to speak as the representative of the graduating class, so do your best.
- Bring a copy of your speech. Even if you don't have a problem memorizing it, practicing in front of the mirror or with your friends is a bit different than doing it at graduation. Even if you think you know everything by heart, bring a little reminder, just in case.
- Avoid doing things that distract you while giving your speech. This means turning off your phone, making sure you don't have a loud keychain or coins in your pocket, and not chewing gum while talking. This will make it harder for people to hear you and pay attention to your words.
- Many high schools will review your speech before you give it to make sure you don't touch on any controversial or inappropriate topics. It is not a good idea to present a speech to the school and then give a completely different one as a way to avoid censorship.
- Avoid plagiarism. This is your speech, not an opportunity to use someone else's. Make sure your work is original. With so many speeches available online, it can be tempting to copy one; However, remember that it can also be easy for people to discover you.