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From Start to Finish: A Comprehensive Guide On How To Write a Graduation Speech With Example

 

Writing a graduation speech can be daunting. It’s natural to want to give the best speech possible to commemorate such an important milestone in your life. But How to write a graduation speech that is worthy of the day?

This page will be a comprehensive step-by-step guide for how to write a graduation speech that inspires and motivates. It will walk you through everything you need to know, how to write a graduation speech that leaves your audience teary-eyed.

At the end of this page, I have written a sample graduation speech using this guide.

I have spent days asking how to write the perfect graduation speech. I remember the banging of my head on my desk in frustration when I was preparing for my graduation speech. The reason for this paranoia was that I too, just like everyone else, wanted to give the best speech possible to commemorate such an important milestone of my life.

The amount of time and energy I had spent in preparation for my graduation speech prompted me to put up this page.

So here it is:

The number 1 problem which everyone faces when setting out to write a graduation speech is where to start?

Well naturally before you start preparing your speech you will need to know what you want to talk about. You can call this a theme, a topic, an idea, or the subject of your speech. At this stage, it can be a one-liner or even a word that describes what you want to talk about.

Again I know it is easier said than done. That’s why I have listed some approaches to help you figure out the topic of your graduation speech.

There are different approaches you can go by, but I will write a few which helped me.

How to write a graduation speech around your Core beliefs.

The first place I will recommend you to look for inspiration is your core beliefs. If you very strongly believe in something then talk about it. This could be what you stand for. Or what you will always stand for? Or what do you advocate? Maybe these beliefs are human rights protection, prevention of female objectification, and child labor, or maybe you believe in socialism or the importance of family structure.

The idea behind talking about your core beliefs is that you are genuinely passionate about them, and you will most likely have enough to talk about them.

How to write a graduation speech based on Timeline.

I like to call this a timeline-based approach in deciding what to talk about during your graduation speech. Evident by the name you will pick up a moment or time and will talk about that time and how great or challenging that period was in your life.

You can pick a period from your past to describe a challenge or a beauty of it and how it impacted your life and what lesson it has for others as well.

Or

You can pick a goal in the future which you want to accomplish and what motivates you in selecting this goal and how it will impact your life or people at large.

To help you better understand, I have listed some examples. These examples sound generic but the actual events which happened to you will be unique for your audience.

For the past based graduation speech, some ideas are:

• A problem you faced to get to this position

• You had a certain difficulty, but you didn’t give up

• You faced trauma but still, you graduated or accomplished a goal.

• What drove you, who motivated you, who built your passion, who never lost hope in you, who built your character and gave you confidence?

• What was your journey to get to this point?

• What took you to get here?

• What were your expectations?

Remember: The purpose is not to tell your biography or how great you are. The purpose is to inspire with the underlying qualities which kept you going.

If you don’t want your speech to be sentimental you can always talk about:

• How fun your experience was

• How you will miss partying

• How greatly have you lived your life here

• How amazing your friends, teachers, and institute were.

• How helpful everyone’s contribution was in your graduation.

• You can go with funny events or can make very light fun at the expense of the audience. (Never insult.)

• How has this time here changed you into a better person?

• How do you overcome your shortfalls

These are some past-based graduation theme approaches. Similarly, you can decide to talk about the future:

• Your goals

• Your optimism and how you plan to change the world.

• You always dream to follow your passion, and now you are one step closer

• You have an ideal personality who inspired you; now you can follow the lead.

• How you will miss this time, place, and people.

• How you have learned to dream big and now explore

• No one is perfect, how you make mistakes, you will keep making mistakes, but this place taught you how to learn lessons from mistakes.

• You look forward to stepping into the world.

• How guest of honor is your ideal and why do you appreciate them and want to follow the lead?

These are some of the examples I call a time-based approach in deciding how to write your graduation speech.

Note: you don’t have to pick only one. You can relate a past event to achieve a future goal.

How to write a graduation speech based on characteristics of value.

This one is simple really. When I was deciding how to write my graduation speech I came across this approach. In this approach of deciding your graduation speech theme, you can pick a characteristic and talk about it. In this case, you pick a characteristic value, and you start building your thoughts around it.

It can be:

• Value of Truth

• Importance of love

• Need of Courage

• Humbleness in sacrifice

• Lessons in failures

• Struggle for passion

• Never giving up

How to write a graduation speech on the beauty of your passion.

Here you find anything you are good at. It doesn’t have to be some sophisticated idea or any well-praised concept. It can be anything you are good at.

It could be:

• Music

• Arts

• Reading

• Writing

• Drawing

• Games

• Any creative idea

• Participation in social causes

• Spirituality

• Painting

• Gardening

Maybe you are passionate about gaming, or you have an interest in building stuff, or you like to experiment, or you have a sense of empathy and want to participate in social causes, or you have a knack for health and well-being.

The point is it could be anything you like to do, which gives you happiness or a sense of fulfillment. You have to find out the good sides of this passion and talk about it. Link your source of happiness to real-world scenarios.

I mean there is a legendary speech about making a bed every day and how this one task is so great.

How to write a graduation speech on delivering a point or argument.

The last approach I would recommend is delivering a point approach. Here you decide an end goal of your speech first then you build your argument around that goal. You have seen something wrong, or you would like some practice to change. Or in your view, a certain thing is not value-added but time-consuming or a method is not creative but laborious, and you would like it to change.

You get the idea of what I am talking about. You may want to talk about human rights, and freedom of speech, you want to sound an alarm and talk about the environment, or you want to talk about any other modern-day problem.

Here you have a point which you want to make. You will build your speech around that point. For example, you believe that home assignments are a waste of time.

These are some approaches you can use to decide what you want to talk about. You can be creative and mix them or stick to one area.

Now that you have your main idea, let’s start planning your graduation speech.

Before you start writing your graduation speech there are some factors you need to know and understand when you are planning to write your graduation speech. We will figure those out during the planning process of the graduation speech together.

Time and place

What time is your speech?

The first thing you need to know is which day, and where you will be delivering your speech. Usually the place of your graduation ceremony. It may be on campus grounds or in any other venue.

But you need to know the time in a different context as well.

Here you formally need to know at least three times for your graduation speech. Write that down for your reference.

• First: Obviously what time is the speech?

• Second: how much time is allotted to your speech?

• Third: how much time do you have until your speech?

How much time is allotted to you?

You need to know how much time is allotted to your speech. You need to know that to prepare your speech. You need to know to create enough material to cover that time slot. Not too short, not too long.

My rule of thumb is at the planning stage when you are writing a rough draft for your speech your draft should have enough material to cover at least double the allotted time. You will need to consult with the organizers or graduation committee about how much time is allocated to you?

How long should a graduation speech be?

Ideally, a graduation speech should be between 5 and 7 minutes long. That’s just enough time to deliver some inspiring words without dragging on (or putting your audience to sleep!).

Of course, each situation is different. If you’re the valedictorian or salutatorian, you may have a little more time to speak. And if you’re speaking at a smaller graduation ceremony, your speech may be shorter.

No matter how long your speech is, make sure you spend some time thinking about what you want to say. A well-written and well-delivered speech can be a memorable way to end your time as a student and start your new chapter as a graduate!

How much time do you have to prepare for your graduation speech?

The third and most important one is to know how much time you have for planning. You know this by allocating your time to your daily most important tasks.

Know the Audience

This is tricky and an important factor to know before you write your graduation speech. Audiences come in all shapes and sizes. Know your audience before you start talking so that they feel welcome at the ceremony. You need to know who you will be addressing during your graduation speech.

The common attendees are:

• Graduates

• Top students

• Parents

• Faculty

• Guests

• And special guests

But keep in mind that among the audience all these people can also be

• Media Personalities

• Influencers

• Potential employers

• Govt. officials

• Ethnic or minority groups

Beware of those who are attending, You don’t want to sound insensitive or hurt someone or a group of people’s feelings. For example, with a religious audience, you don’t want to talk against religion. Or might want to omit any jokes about physical features, or people with disability conditions if you have the same people in your audience.

The second important thing to know about your audience is that you do not want to be specific to a small group of people. People of all ages and beliefs can be there, so avoid making specific cultural references to target only a small group of people. Instead, talk in broad general terms.

There could be potential employers among the audience. You don’t want to sound cocky or to be remembered as arrogant. I mean it is entirely possible that a month later you are attending an interview and find out that the interviewer knows you already from your graduation speech with a bad impression.

Tone when delivering your graduation speech.

This is important to know and decide. What will be your tone of speech? Do you want to sound formal or informal? Passive or assertive? Passionate or optimistic? Humorous or serious or do you want to keep it conservative or motivating?

This might sound overwhelming but it is not. A lot of this has to do with the theme of the speech.  What I suggest is to choose according to your personality. Do you like to convey your message through humor or are you an optimistic person? But whatever you choose please keep it consistent.

Having said that When practicing your graduation speech, it is a good suggestion to keep the tone upbeat. This is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates, so the speech should be motivating and inspirational.

However, it is also important to be respectful and sincere. The graduation speech is an opportunity to thank the teachers, staff, and administrators who have helped the graduates along the way. It is also a chance to offer some advice and words of wisdom to the graduating class or future graduates. Whatever tone is used, it should be genuine and reflect the speaker’s excitement for the future of the graduates.

Avoid Cliches during your graduation speech

The Next thing in your planning stage is to avoid cliche. Everything has a place and time. Not everything should be said at all sittings. You might want to go political, or you might want to go activist. Even Though nothing is wrong with it, you don’t want your whole speech blaming others.

In my opinion, if you can avoid it please do avoid it. The reason is not to discourage you from speaking up regarding social issues, but the reason is you just “graduated”. You have a diverse, more senior audience in front of you. Do, if you have to, refer to a certain issue or show your commitment towards it. But please do not give a lecture to your audience and make them feel responsible. You just freshly graduated and most likely you have not done anything substantial to change the problem you are talking about.

Some other cliches are:

1. “This is the best day of my life!”

While it’s certainly an exciting time, your graduation isn’t necessarily the best day of your life. There are many other great days ahead, so try to avoid this clichéd line.

2. “Follow your dreams!”

This is another well-meaning but overused piece of advice. While it’s important to have dreams and goals, be realistic about what you can achieve.

3. “You’re the future!”

This may be true, but it’s also a bit daunting. Instead of putting pressure on yourself, try to focus on enjoying the present moment.

4. “It’s not goodbye, see you later!”

This may be the case for some people, but others are moving on to new chapters in their lives. Don’t try to force a sentimental moment if it doesn’t feel genuine.

5. “You’re going to change the world!”

This is a lot of pressure to put on someone. Instead, encourage your fellow graduates to focus on making a positive impact in their communities.

By avoiding these clichés, you can make your graduation speech more unique and personal. Instead of giving empty platitudes, focus on sharing your own experiences and lessons learned. This will make your speech more meaningful and memorable for both you and your audience.

Distribution of your graduation speech

One thing which you need to consider is that your speech will be part of the record. It might be printed in a college journal, yearbook, or newspaper and will most definitely be recorded. It will be part of the internet or your collection. It is such a prestigious opportunity that you would want these words to be simple but memorable. You don’t want to waste this opportunity just for being funny or by roasting your friends or school.

Be very careful if you are using facts and quotes in your graduation speech.

Make sure that you know your facts and stats if you are using them in your speech. Make sure you know the authenticity and origin of quotes if you are using them. Make sure you attribute the quotes and facts to the right person or institute.

Start your graduation speech With a hook statement.

You only have a few minutes to make an impression, so you’ll want to start strong! Grab your audience’s attention with a compelling story, quote, or statistic related to the topic of your speech. Idea is to use bait to hook your audience with you throughout your speech. They would want to know how your story will relate to what you are saying.

P.S – Hook statements are super fun, super engaging and can really turn the mood of the audience. This is a quality everyone should know regardless of this particular context of graduation speech. This article of American express explains it beautifully with examples.

A video example of using a hook statement.

An excellent example of this is this speech. 2015 World Champion: ‘The Power of Words’ Mohammed Qahtani, Toastmasters International

The Power of Words’ Mohammed Qahtani, Toastmasters International

Note how the speaker’s first words and actions hooked the audience before he said a single word.

Write your graduation speech as You Talk

One of the biggest mistakes people make when writing speeches is trying to sound overly formal or ‘preachy’. Remember, this is YOUR graduation speech—it should reflect YOUR unique voice and perspective. It should bring out your persona.

Use Personal anecdotes in your graduation speech.

A great way to connect with your audience is by sharing personal stories or anecdotes that illustrate the main point of your speech. For example, if you’re giving a speech about resilience, you could share a story about a time when you faced adversity and how you ultimately overcame it. Just be sure not to make your stories too long—remember, you want to keep things concise!

A video example of using personal anecdotes.

Watch this video for a brilliant speech and notice how the speaker used little personal experiences to draw conclusions and delivered his speech brilliantly.

University of Texas at Austin 2014 Commencement Address – Admiral William H. McRaven

End your graduation speech on a High Note

Just like you want to start strong, you’ll also want to end strong! Leave your audience with something memorable—a call-to-action, inspirational quote, or final thought that sums up the main point of your speech perfectly.

Edit, Edit, Edit!

Once you have a draft of your speech written out, take some time to edit it for grammar errors and clarity issues. Then, ask a friend or family member to read it aloud, so you can get feedback on how it flows and sounds before delivering it on graduation day!

Alternate the source of information

The fact is you are not the first person to give the graduation speech and most likely will not be the last person ever. Hundreds before you have been to the place where you are now. They had to prepare for their graduation speech and where did they go for inspiration or to get the idea?

The same place where you are, The Internet.

The point is most of the things which are on the internet have been said and done. Most of the stories have been told, and most of the quotes have been said. So what should you do?

Change the source.

Get your inspiration from another source. From a real event, an incident, a book you like, a poem you used to sing, or a song stuck in your head. Anything which no one has thought about.

One of the great sources of inspiration for me is my older relatives, Grandparents, or uncle. Take a break, sit with them, and listen to their stories. They have lived years of more life than you. You can simply let them talk about their golden days or ask them specifically about an idea.

The good news is that there are plenty of places to look for inspiration when it comes to writing a graduation speech. Here are just a few of them:

Your life up to this point:

One of the best places to start when it comes to writing a graduation speech is by looking back at your life up to this point. What have been some of the biggest highlights? What lessons have you learned along the way?

Your future goals:

Another great source of inspiration for your graduation speech is to look ahead at your future goals. What do you hope to accomplish in the next phase of your life? How can you inspire others to pursue their dreams?

Your favorite quotes:

Another great way to get inspiration for your graduation speech is to look at some of your favorite quotes. Whether it’s a motivational saying or something more lighthearted, a great quote can often capture the essence of what you want to say in your speech.

Your favorite books:

If you’re a reader, then one of the best places to look for inspiration for your graduation speech is in your favorite books. What messages do they convey that you feel are significant for your fellow graduates to hear?

Your favorite movies:

Like books, movies can also be a great source of inspiration for your graduation speech. What scenes or dialogue from your favorite films can you use, to illustrate the points you want to make in your speech?

These are just a few of the many places you can turn to when you’re looking for inspiration.

So here we are. We have our main theme. We have the necessary attributes for our speech. It is time to brainstorm and put words on paper.

The way I recommend is that I divide the speech into a set formatted structure.

Just like any speech, I divide the speech into three main parts.

1. Introduction

·         Acknowledgement

·         Hook statement

·         Transition

2. Body

·         Main Point/ Passion statement/ Struggle/ achievement/ Goal/ Issues of Society etc. (depending on your topic)

·         Supportive argument/ Outcome/ process of achievement/ Benefits/ suggestions etc.

·         Supportive argument/ your future goal based on main point/ plea for change etc.

3. Conclusion

·         Reaffirmation/ wrap up your speech around the main point.

·         Thanks and best wishes

As I mentioned at the start of this page when writing a graduation speech our number 1 problem will be what to talk about. What will be our central idea or theme of speech?

To find a suitable theme for the speech let’s brainstorm for some inspiration. We will have to introspect :

Let’s see, some of the Ideas I believe in are as follows.

What Do I Believe in Favorite Movies & Books What I am passionate about Future Ideas
Education for all
No objectification of Women
Individuals should have an upper limit on wealth
Food security for all. etc
Harry Potter
Independence day
The Great Gatsby
To kill a mockingbird
Maths
Personal growth
Empathy
Cause against child labor
Journalists free from economic interests
Fair distribution of wealth
A world without borders

These are just some ideas. You can add as many boxes at the bottom and list all the brainstormed ideas. Now we have a list of ideas that we can go through with our friends, family, and peers. A Great way for some thoughts on your ideas is to discuss them with your parents. Remember this is not just your big day, it is a very proud day for your parents as well.

The key is to choose the topic in which you are comfortable speaking, and you have enough to speak about it.

As I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter books, let’s see if we can find some inspiration from the story of Harry Potter. The tale of Harry Potter is an instant classic. There can be so many points to talk about. This is a story of friendship, sacrifice, courage, redemption, hope, and good vs evil. I always believe in the one quote from the books. That is “love is the greatest magic”.

This is a good topic. It is not controversial, it’s not political and love truly is one of the key attributes to living a happy life.

Ok, Now we have a quote from our favorite book. Let’s turn that into a moving speech for our audience. My introduction will be something like this:

“Good evening/morning, Distinguished guests, faculty members, staff, families, friends, and fellow graduates. Today we stand here in our fancy gowns and caps to celebrate one of the precious chapters of our lives. It is barely over, and it is already becoming nostalgic but that’s the talk of later times.

Today I am here to tell you a very peculiar thing I have come to learn in recent years. I know you won’t believe it when I tell you, that in the past few years, I have met some magicians and have seen some real magic. I am saying this in every non-fictional sense.  As for the past few years, We all have walked through the halls of this institute growing together, making memories but always under the protection of magic, rarely knowing about it. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I am talking about “love”. As another headmaster Albus Dumbledore, somewhere else in another universe puts it, that love is the greatest magic of all. As we are one foot into the next chapter of our lives, I want to talk about the most powerful magic and how it shaped us.

Alright, this is our introduction paragraph. As you can see it has three distinct parts colored differently. There is a clear acknowledgment/ introduction, followed by a very important Hook statement, and then followed by a transition line into the body of the speech.

Let’s work on the body of the graduation speech.

Ladies and gentlemen, As I look back, I cannot help but agree that often taken for granted and almost always overlooked, this simple yet most magical emotion was always there. It was there when our families supported us, our friends encouraged us, or even when our mentors disciplined us. All of these great magicians capable of loving us in our lows, have provided us with a strong foundation to build on.

And that is just not it, Love was also there in us for our passion, love shaped our activities and the subjects we chose which in turn sparked our curiosity and allows us to grow our talents.

To be truthful I have been thinking a lot in recent weeks, and I concluded that love is not just a feeling, I mean it has to be a forceful action. The willingness I have seen in my parents to sacrifice their comforts for me was not just a feeling, they did act on it. The steadfast support of my friends in every hour of need was more than just a boastful announcement, they actually stood with me. The promise of my mentors to go above and beyond to help me was not just a promise, they actually put extra effort to share their wisdom with me. How can it be just a feeling when all these wonderful people went beyond and actually acted and actually helped me to be here where I am?

As we look ahead to the future, we can be confident that love will continue to guide us and will always help us to go through new opportunities and challenges. And I am 100% sure that we not only need the support of love to succeed in real life, but we also need love to get to the best version of ourselves.

In all of our life up until now, we have been at the receiving end of this magical spell. Having said that it is also paramount that we learn to cast this spell now. Let’s be there for our family and friends as they were. Let’s just not sit back and hope that things will work out. Let’s take action to make sure that things do work out. Let’s promise to go out of our way to support and care for them, even when it’s difficult or inconvenient. Let’s listen to them when they need to be heard and offer a shoulder when they need it.

Let’s cultivate a sense of love for ourselves as we strive to navigate through life and let’s extend the love to the precious people around us as we attempt to build a world that is more just, compassionate and beautiful. This is my resolution in life.

In conclusion, today is a day to celebrate the power of love, and a day to express our gratitude to the beautiful magicians around us. We have accomplished a great deal, but we could not have done it alone. It is the love of those around us that have supported and sustained us through this journey. We are truly indebted to our teachers, this prestigious institute, our parents and family, and our friends. Thank you for your unconditional Love. As we move forward, let us hold onto the truth that love is the greatest magic of all. Let us be guided by the power of love, as we seek to make a positive impact on the world and to live lives that are full of purpose and meaning.

Congratulations to every one of you on this incredible accomplishment, and may the magic of love continue to light our way into the future. Thank you

It is finally finished.

P. S: I cannot show the whole work which I did to write this speech. Just so you know, a lot of editing and back-and-forth re-writing went into it just in case you are struggling to write it and want to give up. Don’t worry this is part of the process.

Writing a graduation speech may seem daunting at first, but following these simple steps will help ensure that yours is one that will be remembered long after the tassels have been turned! And remember: this is YOUR story—so don’t be afraid to let YOUR unique voice shine through!

Read Also: How to fast track your bachelor’s degree.

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