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How to Nail that Graduation Speech


Prom season’s just about over and done with. The next big fuss? Graduation. Are you ready for your commencement exercises? Got your gowns on the ready? Before you head to the salon for the graduation hairstyle, make sure you have no pending requirements that would block you from walking up the stage and getting your diploma. But if you’re set to give out speeches that day, then you might be feeling the jitters. The fear of public speaking is one of the most common fears anyway.

Shake it off, and instead look forward to it because it’s your chance (yet again) to show your public-speaking skills. In a few week’s time you’ll need a job, and you don’t know who’s attending the graduation. So give the best graduation speech ever. Here’s how!

Know how long your allotted time is. Are you given 30 minutes or an hour? Ask early on about the time so you’ll know how long your speech should be. You can’t give justice to your speech if you run out of time when you still have much to say or if after your speech you realize you still have 10 more minutes and you just blabber.

Determine the message of your speech. What do you want to say to the audience? Amidst your happy thoughts, your speech should first and for all be one cohesive composition revolving around one thesis statement.

Include milestones of your student life. Make sure to recollect on your student’s life so your speech will appeal to your colleagues. Make sure you express these events in the way your colleagues can relate most to you.

Do away with cliches. Try to construct other catch phrases other than the usual. Quoting the oft-quote quotes would make sound unimaginative and even boring.

Practice the delivery of the speech at least twice, in front of the mirror to study your gestures, and with the use of a timer to see how you manage your time.

Here are more tips on public speaking.


One Response to “How to Nail that Graduation Speech”

  • Very good advice. You mentioned, if you have the jitters, “Shake it off…” I’m not sure if you meant it literally, but I would. The jitters, trembling knees and quivering voice is all due to the body preparing us to fight a danger or to run away from the danger. The body, rushes oxygen and energy (in the form of glucose) into our muscles to fight or flight. One of the best ways to reduce the jitters is to Shake it off,” – literally. Before coming on stage, shake your arms and legs, run in place (quietly) or take a quick jog around the building to dissipate the oxygen and energy in our muscles.

    You are very right in that we need to “Know how long your allotted time is.” I might suggest that the graduate prepare 2 speeches. One for the allotted time and one which is about 10 minutes shorter (assuming the speech is at least 30 minutes long). Invariably, with a series of speakers at a graduation, or any other event, the time frame gets extended and the whole event drags on and on. How refreshing it would be to have the next speaker come to the lectern and speak for 10 minutes less than expected. Who will be remembered most during the graduation. No one remembers who talked before Abraham Lincoln or what he talked about for 2 hours, but everyone know of Lincoln’s 2 minute speech at Gettysburg.

    One final point. I totally agree with the rest of your comments. Focus on the message, not yourself. Include a story about yourself. Very important because stories are remembered, not necessarily the point you wanted to make. Certainly, cliches should be avoided, and practicing your delivery is quite important. Rather than practicing in front of a mirror, if you have a camcorder, I would encourage using the camera. Practicing in front of a mirror, tends to limit the full flow of your body language and “mirroring” will not help with your voice modulations.

    Most of all, enjoy your graduation and look forward to a bright future.

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