CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – June 4, 2021- 2
5: Don’t say anything you’ll regret in 20 years.
Matter of fact, let’s amend this to, “Don’t say anything you’ll regret 10 minutes after saying it.” Most kids who are selected to be graduation speakers are the kind who have always set a good example. That said, every year, there’s always a few who want to take a controversial stand, call out a teacher or administrator, or make an inappropriate joke. Hint: Don’t be that kid. Instead, write a speech you can show to your own son or daughter 20 years from now and say, “See, that’s how it’s done.”
6: Inspire your fellow students.
Commencement isn’t just about celebrating the fact that you finally earned your diploma. It’s also about looking forward to all the places life will take you after graduation. You want your fellow students to leave your speech feeling as though they’ve got the world by the tail and can do anything now that they’re graduates.
7: Don’t use famous quotes.
Famous quotes are great for yearbook entries, not graduation speeches. So, put the famous quotes book away. You are the graduation speaker. People want to know what you have to say. The crowd doesn’t want to hear what Nietzsche or President Kennedy or King Ferdinand has to say.
8: Don’t write “what’s expected.”
If you write a speech that’s expected, then what’s the point in anyone showing up? If it’s something we’re all expecting to hear, then the odds are we’ve already heard it and there’s no need to hear it again. Be original.
9: Be specific.
Details make things interesting. There’s nothing particularly original or interesting when you say something like, “You know during our freshman year, we were somewhat unsure of ourselves, lost in this big school, and apprehensive about the future.”
But the details that can make it far more personal and relatable.
Example: “You know, it’s amazing how much we’ve all changed in the last four years. On my first day here at school, I could barely reach my locker. I remember thinking most of the senior football players probably were at least 28-years-old. And sadly, I got lost trying to find Freshman English and had to ask for directions – twice. Today, I’m proud to report that I can reach my locker, the football players don’t look older than I do, and I can find any class on this campus. And if all that’s true, just imagine how different will we all be two, four, or ten years from now.”
10: Make your final point your most important point.
There’s a reason we’ve saved this for last. Obviously. But the contents of your speech should all along be leading up to the final point of the speech – which will be the most important part. This should be the line that people remember, and that people take away from your speech. You can end it with a quote (not someone else’s famous quote – we already discussed that), a memory, or words of wisdom to impart on your class, just as long as you end it with a punch. The punch can be a funny story. It can be a snappy re-cap, or a call to action. Such as Kennedy’s inauguration speech where he said, “My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”