How to Write a Memorable Graduation Speech

How to Write a Memorable Graduation Speech

If you are fortunate sufficient to be requested to converse at a graduation ceremony, at any stage, you already know the stress of writing a memorable speech with broad attraction that matches inside the time constraints. But how to write a commencement speech that does not bore, drag, or flop? Here’s a secret: use your storytelling expertise to write a nice commencement speech.


How to Write a Memorable Graduation Speech

As a trainer, I’ve in all probability heard shut to a hundred graduation speeches—these 5 to twenty minute addresses lively classes, inspirational quotes and if we’re fortunate, humorous tales. But most of the time, they fall pieced collectively clichés and motivational quotes. Forgettable.

The secret to writing a memorable commencement speech? Storytelling. Today let us take a look at how to use storytelling to write a memorable commencement speech.

A Speech to Remember

Out of all these college commencement speeches I’ve heard, I can truthfully say I solely bear in mind one or two. One particularly all the time leaps to my thoughts.

Just a few years in the past, a highschool senior who had been chosen by his friends as a commencement speaker informed a story about enjoying a recreation with a childhood buddy—a recreation the place they pretended to be building employees. A recreation they referred to as “builders.”

He recounted their exploits within the sand field: shifting dust, constructing small stick buildings, and dealing collectively to make one thing new. We laughed at his vivid imagery, every remembering our personal toy vehicles and shovels and play. 

He shifted from that childhood recreation to the category reminiscences that they had constructed collectively as college students by the years, persevering with to develop the theme of constructing a life.

And then he revealed that his childhood buddy—his fellow builder—ought to have been sitting with their graduating class that day. He’d died in an accident a yr earlier than. The speaker closed with a problem to his fellow college students to bear in mind their peer and to be builders—individuals who create issues that outlast them.

The total stadium went wild as the scholar commencement speech ended. I could not cease the tears flowing down my cheeks. When I noticed the scholar speaker later, I thanked him for his speech, for sharing his love for his buddy, for his story that struck such a hopeful word. 

It jogged my memory that human expertise is finest associated not in quippy inspirational quotes strung collectively, however in tales. If you are requested to be a graduation speaker, listed here are a few storytelling ideas that can make it easier to write a nice commencement speech. 

5 Steps to Write a Memorable Graduation Speech

1. Consider the event and viewers

A speech for an elementary promotion ceremony has a a lot completely different focus and viewers than one for a post-graduate ceremony. Just like while you write a story, take time to take into consideration the target market. 

Who are they? What are they celebrating? How are you able to meet their expectations for the day and commemorate them in a particular means?

When my scholar gave his speech about his builder buddy, he knew he was talking to his friends, however he had an consciousness that their households and academics had been additionally current. 

2. Choose a story

Here’s the place most speeches go improper: they do not floor the remarks in a story. Sure, a lot of speeches depend on favourite quotes, however these are simply forgettable. Stories are how the human mind is sensible of the world; we’re hardwired to bear in mind tales.

Dig into your private experiences, college reminiscences, or different life expertise. Usually, you need a true story, a private story for this sort of speech.  

How do you select?

When I assist college students with speeches or any form of private narrative writing, I all the time ask them to make a checklist of moments the place they made a selection that modified their lives for higher or worse. 

If you may’t consider one, think about a time you watched first-hand as another person made a important selection and what it taught you. 

A narrative is dependent upon a purpose and a powerful selection (bear in mind dilemma?)—that is what creates the importance. But you may additionally need to select a story that can emotionally join with the viewers. 

What story are you able to inform utilizing vivid photos that left you modified or taught you one thing helpful that may resonate with this viewers? That’s the story to select.

3. Build a construction and inform the story

Once you already know the story you need to inform, use what you already know about premise to construction and inform the story first after which construct out the remainder of the speech round it. 

A premise outlines a character with a purpose who meets battle and has to act till they attain a disaster level and should make a powerful determination creating a decision. 

The size of the story will depend upon the time constraints, however you will not give you the option to delve deeply into backstory or give a prologue. You’re going to have to set the scene rapidly and get the story in movement. 

An instance: I as soon as gave a speech to a group of scholars (and their households) who had been being honored for his or her resilience and arduous work. Most had discovered themselves  with failing grades and low confidence at one level within the yr, however with their arduous work and the assistance of their households and academics, that they had turned it round. 

I informed the story of a time my daughter was in center college taking a difficult math class. We would sit on the kitchen desk whereas she insisted she could not do the work, it was too arduous, and so on. It went on for a couple weeks, and we had been each so annoyed. I spotted I had a selection: I wanted to remind her that this was her problem and that SHE had a couple of various routes (or decisions) to clear up it. 

She may drop the category. She may spend all yr crying on the desk, slogging by the work and cross it by some means. Or, she may do not forget that anytime one thing is new, it is arduous, and she or he may do her finest, realizing it might get simpler with time—similar to using her bike.

Once I had informed the story, I related it to their expertise. I congratulated them on studying so early that they may do excess of they first believed and that tough work and observe makes new duties simpler.

At the tip, I informed them I hoped they might bear in mind this second of recognition the subsequent time they thought one thing was arduous. 

Once you already know the story you need to inform your viewers, construct a easy intro to join it to their expertise. After the story, draw out the perception and join to the occasion (on this case, their commencement). 

4. Lean into theme

The scholar who gave the memorable builder speech I shared above leaned into a key theme: constructing one thing that lasts. It was the purpose of his story and he used it as an illustration throughout completely different ages to present how the childhood classes they realized had endurance.

You can select a frequent theme, however know that your story will make the appliance distinctive. Also, do not feel like you’ve got to state the theme time and again. If the story and perception are robust, stating the theme as soon as could be sufficient. 

5. Revise to get clear and concise

To revise a speech, I take a look at two issues: the time it takes to ship and the readability of the story. I all the time strive to err on the facet of talking for LESS time than I’m allotted. This offers area within the speech for viewers response. 

I usually write speeches out in brief chunks of textual content, and I am going by and group them:

  • intro
  • story
  • connection or perception
  • name to motion and shut

Then, take a look at each sentence and get brutal with the cuts. Where have I spent an excessive amount of time describing one thing? Where have I fallen into pointless particulars? Which sentences usually are not wanted? 

I take a look at verbs and sentence size too, ensuring that the sentences learn aloud in a pure and even musical means. Try to differ sentence size and select essentially the most exact, coherent language. 

Run by the speech a few occasions aloud, noting the place you’ve got to cease and reread to revise. 

A speech would not have to be good to meet the viewers the place they’re and present each respect for the second and pleasure within the celebration. 

Writing a commencement speech that evokes and stays with the viewers lengthy after the occasion would not have to be a daunting activity. Use these storytelling suggestions to write and ship a nice speech on that big day. 

Have you ever heard a commencement speech that stayed with you? What did the speaker say that was particularly memorable? Share your finest suggestions within the feedback. 


For at the moment’s observe, write a commencement speech. It could be for a actual commencement, or you could possibly additionally use it as a means to develop a character for a work in progress, since their voice and backstory will probably be completely different from your individual. 

Set the timer for fifteen minutes. Write the speech after which share a draft within the Pro Practice Workshop, providing suggestions to a few others writers. 

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