Presenting a graduation speech is both exciting and a bit terrifying. You are both the first and last high school voice many in your audience will hear. You will be speaking to your fellow graduates, parents, teachers, and extended family members, so your speech must be understandable to everyone. You need to engage your listeners immediately and share a speech that is both enjoyable and informative. To be successful, you must remember that the key to creating a graduation speech that is both memorable and enjoyable is preparation. We will walk you through the process, discussing the different types of graduation speeches, how to pick a theme for your graduation speech, and how to write and deliver your graduation speech.
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Types of Graduation Speeches
You probably will not be the only speaker to take the podium. When it is your turn, you want your speech to grab your audience’s attention and keep it. Think about the last few years of your schooling, the general personality of your class members, and what makes your educational experience unique. Graduation speeches can be divided into several different categories:
- Serious Graduation Speeches
- Inspirational Graduation Speeches
- Funny Graduation Speeches
Serious Graduation Speeches
Begin by brainstorming about your experience in school, asking the question: What has my school experience taught me and my fellow students about life, facing problems, and growing up? Then consider choosing one of the following upon which to base your speech:
Students do not only learn subject matter in school. School teaches one how to relate to others, that hard work leads to success, and that you get the most out of any endeavor if you give it 100%. Some good speech ideas if you wish to talk about life lessons are:
- The Most Important Lesson I Learned in School
- Let’s Remain Lifelong Friends
- The Importance of Taking Risks
Facing and Overcoming Problems
Simply talking about the problems your graduating class has encountered leads to a depressing speech but recounting how those problems were overcome can be inspiring and uplifting. You may have lost a beloved teacher or fellow student, had an extreme weather experience that damaged the school, or had fundraisers for much needed supplies and equipment. Consider the following speech topics if you wish to talk about overcoming adversity.
- Never Give Up!
- Learn from Your Mistakes
- Remember This?
High school graduation frequently is the beginning of adulthood. Maturity involves being able to make good decisions, accepting responsibility, and being willing to be held accountable for our actions. Making comparisons about how you and your classmates behaved as freshmen and the changes you have made now that you are seniors makes for an interesting and fun graduation speech. Some speech ideas that deal with maturity are:
- Dream Big!
- Be Yourself
- Facing the Next Big Challenge
Inspirational Graduation Speeches
You may decide the best speech for your audience is one that will inspire them. You can move your audience to have an emotional response with one of the following:
- Reflections and Memoirs
Looking back on your high school years and the changes you and your classmates have been through is an excellent way to create a speech that perfectly ends your high school years.
- Expression of Gratitude
Thanking your parents, teachers, friends, and family members for support and assistance throughout your education careers can end with a standing ovation. Additionally, you may wish to have graduates present a flower to the person who helped them the most.
- Inspiring Quote
Beginning your speech with an inspirational quote from a famous person or even a Bible verse can set the tone for your speech and provide a coherent theme.
- Song Lyric
If you and your classmates have a popular song that most of you know and love, use some of the lyrics to create your theme. You might wish to quote the lyrics at the beginning of your speech and then close by playing a few verses for your audience
- Inspiring Story
Use a popular media story or a few about inspiring class members, maybe one or two that overcame an obstacle to be successful.
- Anecdotes and Stories about Your Class
Sharing some funny and serious stories about your class members sets the foundation for a fun speech. Just make sure the stories are uplifting and do not cause anyone embarrassment. The goal is to show how bonded your class has become.
- Student Accomplishments
If you have one or more students or a sports team that made an impact on the school, sharing their accomplishments can provide a truly inspirational speech. Emphasize how their accomplishments strengthened the entire class.
Funny Graduation Speeches
If you are known for your sense of humor, you may wish to try a humorous graduation speech. Humor is never boring, if you have the talent for delivering this type of speech. Consider using one of the following approaches:
- Pick Appropriate Jokes
Sprinkling a few jokes throughout your speech can keep your audience’s attention and provide a bit of humor. Consider some takes on why the chicken crossed the road or some silly knock-knock jokes.
- Use Funny Inspirational Quotes
A quick google search for funny inspirational quotes will provide fodder for your topic. You could reminisce about your class after quoting, “Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.” (Abraham Lincoln)
- Use Irony
Reference something surprising, such as a popular song, movie, or activity. For example, “Life Is Like a Monopoly Game.”
- Tell a Funny Story Specific to Your School
Make sure your story is audience appropriate and they will relate to it. Telling a story about yourself, perhaps about a time in school when you failed, can provide humor.
- Poke Fun at the “Traditional” Graduation Speech
Although it can be difficult to write, if done well, this speech is very funny. Use some of the clichés such as “dream big,” “never give up,” and “you are the future” as a springboard for your humorous speech.
Speak slowly and distinctly, so that your audience can here every word. If people are laughing, stop talking for minute. You want your audience to have an opportunity to respond to your humor.
Graduation Speech Themes
Your graduation speech theme will help you tie all your ideas together. Your speech should last at least five minutes, but not longer than ten to twelve. Keep this in mind as you brainstorm ideas to pick a theme for your speech. Below we have listed some common graduation speech themes that have worked well for others. Remember that no matter which theme you choose, you can make your speech unique with personalized content – content that your audience can relate to.
- Who Are You?
- Believe in Yourself
- Be an Original, Not a Carbon Copy
- Step Up and Out
- Never Give Up!
- Striving on to Perfection
- Learn from Other’s Mistakes
- Live in the Moment
- You Are What You Believe
- What I Learned in High School
- What Comes Next?
- Take a Leap of Faith
- Our Class United When
- Set Goals for Success
- Giving Back
- Follow Your Dreams
- High School Mistakes I Learned From
- Why I Don’t Want to Leave High School
- My Best High School Memories
- Overcoming Obstacles
- The Importance of School
- Never Stop Learning
8th Grade Graduation Speech
If you are in middle school and have been chosen to present an 8th grade graduation speech, keep your speech simple and short – not longer than five minutes – and follow the following format:
- Greet the audience.
- Introduce yourself.
- Reflect on your time in middle school highlighting a few special moments.
- Talk a bit about future expectations for your class.
- Thank your teachers, fellow students, and parents.
- Conclude your speech with a quote, Bible verse, or line from a song or poem.
High School Graduation Speech
Giving the high school commencement speech is truly an honor. If you are chosen to represent your classmates, choose a theme that reflects your personality and one you feel comfortable addressing because you know your topic well. Make sure you practice before the big occasion and memorize as much of your speech as possible. Have clear notes with you in case you forget something. Use engaging gestures, look at your audience, and speak in a slow, yet natural, pace.
Get your audiences attention with a quotation, anecdote, or a clever joke. Make sure your theme is clear and that all your content is cohesive and concise. Illustrate your theme with a story or example, reminiscing about the times you and your classmates enjoyed.
A high school graduation speech should last about ten minutes. Close your speech by thanking your audience; fellow students, parents, and teachers. Tie together the points you have presented during your speech and end with a clever statement your audience will remember.
How to Write a Graduation Speech?
Writing your graduation speech will be much easier if you have a plan. Our step-by-step guide on how to write a graduation speech will walk you through the entire process.
- Brainstorm Ideas
Begin by brainstorming ideas. Think about the future and what kind of challenges you and your fellow students may face after graduation. Consider your past school experiences, concentrating on those which are unique and interesting.
- Pick a Theme
Your theme may become obvious as you list your brainstorming ideas. If not, check out the list of themes we have suggested and pick one that fits your experiences and personality.
- Stick with Your Theme.
Do not allow yourself to include anything in your speech not related to your theme. Find a quote, song lyrics, or a popular news story related to your theme if you wish to include one.
- Build the Basic Structure of Your Speech
After identifying the theme of your speech, begin to organize your speech by creating an outline:
Introduce Topic (Theme)
Give Example, Testimonial, or Tell a Story or Joke
Thank Your Audience
Leave Them with a One Line Summation
Delivering Your Graduation Speech
Once you have completed your graduation speech, you are ready to prepare for delivering it. Find out when on the program you will be speaking so you will be ready. Knowing if you are first, last, or somewhere in the middle of the program can help you feel more comfortable about delivering your speech. Adhere to all the following suggestions to make sure your speech is the best it can be.
- Memorize Your Speech
Reading your speech can destroy the delivery, making you sound robotic and impersonal. You will probably want to have some notes but try to speak as much as possible from memory.
- Time Your Speech
You may be told how long you have for your speech. If not, try not to talk no more than about ten minutes; a longer speech may not keep your listeners’ attention.
- Speak Slowly
When one is nervous, they speak faster. Try to speak slowly and enunciate each word. Pause when necessary for an audience response to a joke or funny comment.
- Speak with Emotion
Vary your tone of voice and match your emotions with your content.
- Make Eye Contact
Look at your audience. If doing so makes you nervous, pick a spot on the wall at the back of the room and look at it as you speak. You can also pick out a few people in the audience you know and make eye contact with them.
Before you deliver your speech, practice, practice, practice! Deliver your speech to your family, the mirror, your dog – anyone that will listen. Ask for advice and take it. When you give your speech, if you make a mistake, repeat the sentence or word and keep going. Smile at your audience when appropriate. Your enthusiasm for your subject will be felt and enjoyed.
Finally, remember to have pictures or a video taken while you are giving your speech. You have earned the privilege of speaking for your entire class – a huge responsibility and one you will remember for years to come. Smile, have fun, and your audience will enjoy and remember your graduation speech.
Susan majored in English with a double minor in Humanities and Business at Arizona State University and earned a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Liberty University. She taught grades four through twelve in both public and private schools. Subjects included English, U.S. and world history and geography, math, earth and physical science, Bible, information technologies, and creative writing.
Susan has been freelance writing for over ten years, during which time she has written and edited books, newspaper articles, biographies, book reviews, guidelines, neighborhood descriptions for realtors, Power Point presentations, resumes, and numerous other projects.