When you look back at your college days, one of the occasions you’re most likely to remember is your graduation day.
Graduation ceremonies are bittersweet – on the one hand you’re excited and proud to see your years of hard work pay off, on the other hand, you cannot help but get teary-eyed with the thought of leaving your college and friends to step out into a whole new world.
Yes, the dichotomy is real.
No graduation ceremony is complete without a speech. It’s meant to tie together your experiences in college and thank all those who helped you through this journey while looking forward to what’s ahead.
Now, that the countdown to your graduation ceremony has begun, it’s time to start working on that crucial speech. In this article, we will show you how to write a great speech and suggest some creative graduation speech ideas for you to take inspiration from.
How to Write a Memorable Graduation Speech and Get a Standing Ovation
The best graduation speeches are those that are poignant and leave a lasting impression on the audience. You want to be able to tug the emotional strings, captivate people and leave them feeling inspired with your speech.
The most important aspect of an outstanding speech is its content. While you can practice delivering the speech multiple times, it’s the writing that defines its success.
Aiming for a standing ovation? You must. Here are seven ways to write a memorable graduation speech and win over your audience.
When you sit down to work on your graduation speech, you’re either overwhelmed with all that you want to say or you’re just plain blank. Either way, you’re stuck and don’t know where or how to begin.
Let’s take it step-by-step.
Start with brainstorming themes or notable experiences from college that would make for a great graduation speech. Go back in time, and reflect on your experiences.
Think of the successes, failures, accomplishments, disappointments and lessons you’ve learnt – and note them all down.
At this stage, all you should do is jot down every little thought or idea that comes to mind.
You can also take to mind mapping tools to organize your thoughts better and bring your ideas to life in a more structured manner.
Narrow down on a theme and stick to it
Now that you have all the ideas laid out, it’s time to pick a theme. Yes, this one’s a tough and crucial step because you need to be able to select a theme that gives you the scope to craft and deliver a wonderful speech. Apart from that, also consider your audience and time frame.
The last thing you want is to realize you’ve chosen the wrong one midway through writing.
Having one centric theme is important because it gives your speech structure and purpose. While you can touch upon a couple of experiences, they need to all tie back to this one theme.
If you’re having trouble deciding which one to go with, we’ve laid out seven winning creative graduation speech ideas further below in the article.
Once you choose a theme, make sure you commit to it and don’t go off track.
Grab the audience’s attention early
Whether it’s writing an essay or delivering a speech, hooking the audience from the word ‘go’ is imperative. That way, you generate interest early on and have them invested in what you have to say.
“How do I start my graduation speech” you may wonder.
You can start with an inspiring quote, a funny memory from college, an interesting anecdote or a thoughtful question.
Cracking the first few sentences of a speech is always challenging and time consuming. So, it’s a good idea to come back to it in the end and spend enough time coming up with a hook that truly engages the audience.
Structure the speech effectively
A well-structured speech is one that flows in organically and accentuates the storytelling. It forms the backbone of your speech, giving the audience reasons to remain invested.
The speech you write needs to have an introduction, body and conclusion. The first part of the speech needs to be about introducing yourself and throwing light on the purpose (or theme) of your speech.
In the body of your speech, you need to elaborate on the central theme by stating relevant examples or experiences. You can mention notable incidents or turning points that led you to be the way you are.
Finally, conclude the speech with the lessons learnt or what you took away from the incident (or your years in college). Make sure you end your speech on a memorable note because that’s what sticks the most with people.
Sharing anecdotes is all about narrating relevant stories stemmed from personal experiences. They are an important tool to use while delivering speeches because they instantly help you connect with the audience and captivate them.
That’s not all, studies also indicate that stories are easier to recall because they can activate up to 7 areas of the human brain.
Anecdotes infuse your speech with greater meaning and emphasize on the point you’re trying to make.
Here’s a video by Simon Sinek which demonstrates how you can tell stories in a meaningful way while delivering a speech.
Let your personality show
Regardless of whether you choose to memorize the entire speech or make bullet points for better recall, it’s important to add a touch of ‘you’ in the speech.
Let your personality show through your writing and speech delivery. For instance, don’t try to be extra funny or sound like an intellectual only to impress.
It’s essential to be yourself while writing your graduation speech because anything other than that comes across as pretentious.
What’s more, with your family, friends and teachers being part of the audience, you need to be doubly careful that you’re coming across as authentic and genuine because that’s the only way you can strike a connect and make an impact.
Practice! Practice! Practice!
No amount of practice will ever be enough when it comes to delivering a graduation speech in front of a huge audience.
So, once you’re done writing and are confident about the flow, structure and content, get down to practicing it in front of the mirror and the people around you. Pay special attention to your hand gestures, talking speed and pauses because they impact delivery.
If you have memorized the speech, make sure you don’t sound robotic. You need to speak with emotion and earnestness.
Make a Lasting Impression with these 7 Creative Graduation Speech Themes
One of the most challenging parts of writing a graduation speech is choosing a theme. If you’re feeling uninspired or stuck, here are seven creative graduation speech ideas that you can take inspiration from.
Overcoming adversity is a theme that will resonate with most people. We may run away from adversities but the truth is that that are part of our life.
Under this theme, you can talk about a few challenges you faced during your years in college, what you went through during that time, how you found the courage to rise above them and the positive impact it had on your life.
Overcoming adversity is all about being resilient and turning those challenges into opportunities. So, talk about your journey such that it infuses hope in people.
Here’s Michelle Obama delivering her commencement speech at City College of New York wherein she speaks about the importance of overcoming adversity.
“Dream big to achieve”, they say and what better time to reiterate that when you’re on the brink of stepping into a major new phase in your life.
‘Dream big’ is about believing in endless possibilities. It’s an inspiring thought that encourages people to not be afraid to chase their dreams and that no dream is small or hard to achieve.
You can also speak about what (or who) motivated you to dream big – was it a professor, a book you read, a movie you watched or a turning point in your life?
Watch Denzel Washington speak about dreaming big during the commencement at Dillard University.
Never Stop Trying and Learning
This theme calls out to every person who has felt demotivated or has feared failure at some point in their lives. It’s about perseverance and not letting obstacles stop you from achieving greatness.
You should also highlight the importance of being lifelong learners. After all, life is the greatest teacher and we must never stop learning, irrespective of age or experience.
Believe in Yourself
Another creative graduation speech idea that’s universal is ‘believing in yourself’. Self-esteem is not something we learn in school or college but is an exceptionally important part of our lives.
Talk about the importance of self-belief, how you were earlier and what led you to look inwards and believe in yourself.
If you don’t believe in your capabilities, are ashamed of yourself or keep comparing yourself to others, there’s no way you can progress in life. Moreover, this is the time (when you’re moving out of college and choosing a career) to remind yourself (and your batchmates) to strive to become better versions of yourselves.
Here’s Mindy Kaling sharing practical advice on how to be confident and achieve your goals during the commencement at Dartmouth.
A lot of us spend our lives fearing failure without realizing that in failure lies success and growth. What matters is how you choose to perceive failure – you can get bogged down or you can take it as a learning experience and move forward.
So, if you choose this as a theme, do talk about some major failures you’ve encountered and how they altered your perspective. There is nothing more inspiring than listening to how one conquered their fears, and learnt from their failures.
Watch Oprah Winfrey deliver her address about embracing failures at Harvard University.
Power of Positive Thinking
Positive thinking is an attitude and way of life that has the power to bring about change.
Taking inspiration from this theme, you can speak about how one cannot control what happens to them. In fact, what is in our hands is the way we react to situations.
So, talk about how positive thinking has transformed your life and what sowed the seeds of optimism in your life.
Here’s Victor Antonio speaking about optimism and success during the commencement at the University of Phoenix.
Deal with Change
The fact that change is the only constant in life is possibly one of the greatest life lessons. The faster we realize that, the better it is. We need to learn how to deal with change and embrace it as it comes. Resisting it only makes it harder.
Think about the major upheavals or changes you’ve gone through right from your freshman to senior year. What setbacks did you encounter and how did you deal with it?
Nobody enjoys change or uncertainty but your speech needs to be about how embracing change enables you to thrive.
Here’s Meryl Streep’s commencement at Barnard wherein she talks about the importance of dealing and embracing change.
Writing and delivering a graduation speech in front of your entire batch, teachers, family and friends is certainly unnerving. What helps is having a solid speech which will give you the courage and confidence to go out there and give it your best shot.
So, follow these seven tactics and creative graduation speech ideas to craft a graduation speech that is sure to impress.
Graduation is a milestone and there should be no place for compromise when it comes to the speech. If you’re worried you can’t do justice or are short of words, we at Writers Per Hour will be happy to help.
Our team of competent speech writers can write a well-structured, custom graduation speech to meet your requirements and deadline. So, write to us the next time you are in need of a graduation speech and let us deliver one that will get you a resounding positive response.