How to Make a Killer Graduation Speech

Are you tired of sitting through tedious commencement speeches where the words are a blur until the speaker pronounces those two magic words, “in conclusion?”

Have you agreed to give a commencement speech at your alma mater and wonder how you will inspire the recent batch of sparkly-eyed graduates?

You just need to keep three things in mind. Ok, it’s not rocket science, but why do I see far too many speakers not following these surefire, fool-proof rules?

1) Tell a Story:
Resist the urge to talk about your glowing resume and instead, think of a story – it doesn’t have to be from your school days – where you learned a valuable lesson about yourself or life in general. Did it help you prioritize life over work? Did it help you see what you didn’t want to do? Did it give you a sense of work ethic you cherish to this day? Everyone has a story to tell.  Whatever you do, make it a personal one. If it didn’t happen to you, at least it moved you in some profound way.

2) Funny Goes a Long Way:
It can be something light and funny before jumping into the speech or throughout. Laughter relaxes the audience and keeps them listening. When in doubt, go with self-deprecating humor and try to infuse this into the story. Of course, don’t force it. The ‘funny’ has to come organically where it fits or it will backfire. For instance, how does the way you handled something back in the day reflect the person you are today?

3) Keep it Short:
Have some mercy on the hundreds if not thousands of graduates scorching under the sun who would surely appreciate a 15 to 20 minute speech, max. They have a whole new phase of life before them, after all. I made this tip shorter than the others to make a point.
In conclusion, the key to making a memorable speech is to discipline yourself to sticking to these rules while having fun.
Or do something completely out of left field that’s equally memorable. How do you inspire?

*Photo courtesy of Hollywood Reporter.

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