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What Are the Elements of a Great Commencement Speech?

What Are the Elements of a Great Commencement Speech? 720 479 I Need A Speaker

By Tricia Richards-Service

Commencement speeches are more than mere addresses; they’re transformative narratives intended to usher graduates into the next phase of their lives with confidence and inspiration.

What sets apart a truly memorable commencement speech? Let’s delve into these remarkable moments, drawing insights from examples that have resonated with audiences worldwide.

  1. Authenticity: Authenticity lies at the heart of a great commencement speech. Look to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s address at Wellesley College in 2015. Adichie shared candid reflections on her own journey as an immigrant and a woman of color, resonating deeply with graduates navigating similar challenges. Her sincerity and vulnerability inspired the audience to embrace their unique identities and pursue their dreams unapologetically.
  2. Relevance: A memorable commencement speech speaks directly to the graduating class, acknowledging their unique experiences and aspirations. Consider Tim Cook’s speech at Stanford University in 2019. Against the backdrop of global challenges such as climate change and inequality, Cook urged graduates to harness their talents for the greater good. His call to action resonated with a generation eager to make a positive impact on the world.
  3. Inspiration: Commencement speeches are meant to inspire, and few have done so more powerfully than Oprah Winfrey’s address at Colorado College in 2019. Drawing from her own journey from adversity to success, Winfrey delivered a stirring speech that encouraged graduates to embrace failure as a catalyst for growth. Her words of wisdom inspired a sense of resilience and determination in the audience.
  4. Humor: Humor can be a powerful tool for engaging an audience and lightening the mood. Look to Mindy Kaling’s speech at Dartmouth College in 2018 for a masterclass in comedic timing. Kaling infused her address with witty anecdotes and self-deprecating humor, keeping the audience entertained while imparting valuable life lessons about perseverance and self-confidence.
  5. Wisdom: At its core, a memorable commencement speech offers timeless truths and valuable insights. Barack Obama’s speech at Rutgers University in 2016 stands as a testament to this. Obama delivered a thought-provoking address that touched on themes of democracy, empathy, and civic engagement. His words resonated deeply with graduates, inspiring them to become active participants in shaping the future of their communities and the world.

In essence, a memorable commencement speech is a delicate blend of authenticity, relevance, inspiration, humor, and wisdom. Using these elements, speakers can create moments that transcend the stage, leaving an indelible imprint on the hearts and minds of graduates and their well-wishers for years to come.

Learn how to write your own commencement speech here.

 

 

 

 

Photo source: Canva

Hats off for inspirational graduation speeches

Hats off for inspirational graduation speeches 2560 1707 I Need A Speaker

It’s time to celebrate this year’s graduates. Whether they have successfully completed eighth grade or medical school, these graduates are likely reflecting on their past achievements and planning their future ones.

As we honor scholars at ceremonies and parties, it can be difficult to find the right words. I Need A Speaker’s team discovered NPR’s fantastic compilation of graduation speeches that will inspire and motivate all of us. Click here for examples of some of the best graduation speeches.

Now that you’ve seen and heard from great speakers, it’s time to write your own remarks for the occasion. Here are some tips to make the task easier:

  • Get your ideas on paper. Write out everything you’d like to include. You can edit later.
  • Decide if you’ll use a theme (discovery, journey, gratitude, encouragement, etc.).
  • Use an attention-grabbing introduction.
  • Consider using a relevant story.
  • Think about what makes this individual or class unique.
  • Be positive.
  • Keep your comments brief and impactful.
  • Remember to introduce yourself.
  • Thank the people who supported the graduate(s) and made the event memorable.
  • Take a moment to mention the people who could not be there.
  • Use appropriate humor.
  • Speak at a relatively slow pace, emphasizing key words. Pause when you want to add drama.
  • Talk about lessons learned and the endless possibilities that lie ahead.
  • Remember there is more to school than academics. Acknowledge the relationships formed in school, on teams, and through clubs that graduates will cherish for years.
  • Practice!

After you’ve written out your thoughts, string them together in a way that creates a natural flow. Add and subtract … then subtract some more.

Make it short. Make it powerful. Make it inspiring.

 

Congratulations to graduates of all ages!

 

Photo credit: Pexels

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