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How to Write an Epic Graduation Speech

We would like to take a guess. If you are reading this article, about a few weeks ago, your college professor probably called you down to his office, congratulated and then assigned you the hardest homework assignment of your college or high school career – graduation speech. Your first instinct, like any other student, was to consult Google and YouTube. After many hours of watching and reading speeches, you probably ended up scrolling through Instagram and Twitter of your friends, because as most of the students know that is what you do when you are trying to be productive. Does it sound familiar to you?

If you have accepted an invitation to make a graduation speech, you are definitely taking on a tough task. Because as all speeches go, the commencement speech is probably second only to the eulogy as a challenge for non-professional speakers. So, how to write a graduation speech so that everybody wants to listen? Professional writers from got through it, so we know how to make the audience laugh and cry while you will be giving a graduation speech.


Student delivering a graduation speech


How to Start a Graduation Speech?

Let’s be honest, the graduates are eager to get through the ceremony and start the parties. Family and friends of the graduates are often packed into an auditorium or even a gym where the seats and the climate may not be so pleasant. They do not want to hang around very long either. So, considering this, how to start a graduation speech so that they want to hear you even more?

Now, breaking news is coming! Your speech opening is crucial. Why? As soon as you walk up there, whether you are a professional speaker or an amateur, the audience is sizing you up. You have up to 10 seconds to proof that you are someone the audience needs to hear out.

You have probably heard the old advice “you must have an attention-getting opening”. Well, that is only half of the story. The worst advice is “to start with a joke”. If you start with a joke and it is not funny, you just set yourself up for disaster. If people have heard the joke before, they are going to question your credibility right away and think that you could not come up with a good opening and had to find one on the Internet. So, there is a real danger in just opening with a joke or a plain old attention-getting opening.

We recommend you using the old-fashioned sarcasm or irony, it will set up a funny tone to your graduation speech and catch the audience’s attention. What about “Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak, I am a 100% sure you will regret it”? Or “I know that most of you right now are hungover and have terrible headaches, but you can’t graduate till I finish this speech, so listen up!” Maybe something like that “Honestly, I have never understood how imagining the audience naked was supposed to make you less nervous. Especially with Mr. (your favorite professor) behind me”.

“The Meat” of Graduation Speech


The process of writing


You know better than we do the importance of the structuring, so we are going to talk about graduation speech outline. Let’s discuss the “the meat” of the funniest and the most inspirational speech of yours. What you want to do is to craft a message or a theme. What do YOU know through experience or education that the graduates do not? What lessons have YOU learned that will be instructive and valuable to them? What did the high school or college mean to you? Use personal stories to illustrate your points.

For example, if you wish to tell how you have come individually and as a class, add some specific details to make your story shine. “The world we live in is plagued with dangers: plastic pollution, Ebola, Brexit, the Jonas Brothers breakup. And despite all the odds, we still managed to graduate, so let’s give us a big round of applause”. Tell the story that brings everyone together “We danced to lyrics we did not understand in the song “Gangnam Style”, “We survived the end of the world in 2012”. “There was our first football game, our first boyfriend, our second boyfriend, and the third one”.

Now, break out the tissues because you are about to learn the essence of graduation speech: you have to provide a persuasive, moving and ultimately uplifting life-lesson to inspire students to go out and achieve greatness. Sorry, but right now, there is nothing we can think of as an example but the quote from “The Fault in Our Stars”: “It is not about being loved widely, it is about being loved deeply.” So, after graduation, you will have a lot of time to decide whether you want to achieve greatness and be recognized by the world or just a few.

A Few More Tips to Deliver an Epic Graduation Speech

  • Keep it short (10-12 minutes). Graduation audience really starts getting restless in about 10 minutes mark, and then they get downright resentful if you hit 15.
  • Do not mix your metaphors. If you are “setting sail on a new journey”, do not also talk about “how long the road is”. Boats do not go on roads except for land boats, and those are cars, not boats. Do you see how confusing this gets?
  • Avoid clichés. We are talking about “high school or college was the best years of our lives”. No, you are quarter of the way through your life, is not it a little early to call that?
  • Did we mention “keep it short?”
  • Be really careful trying to use humor, a very few speakers are good at it. So, avoid inserting jokes in your graduation speech just to try to get a laugh. Watch out for superlatives, they get old pretty fast if you keep using them over and over again. Take it easy on words like “the best, the most, the greatest”.
  • Know when it is the right time to quit. For this article, it is now.

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