Tips For Commencement Speeches

Five Tips for Commencement Speeches

Toastmasters International offers advice to graduation speakers

Toastmasters International, which has helped millions of men and women learn to speak with confidence and poise in front of audiences, offers five pointers for a great commencement speech:

  1. Keep it Brief. Limit the speech to a maximum of 20 minutes. Both the graduates and the audience will be restless, so brevity is key.
  2. Make it Fun. Use humor and keep the topics light-hearted. Commencement is a celebration for the graduates and their guests.
  3. Engage and Inspire. Connect with the audience of graduates and their guests by providing appropriate anecdotes and examples that they can relate to.
  4. Be Yourself. You’ll lose the audience immediately if they feel you’re not authentic. Don’t be afraid to tell relevant personal stories that will grab the audience’s attention.
  5. Practice, Practice, Practice. Prior to graduation day, rehearse the speech in front of an audience who you can rely on to provide valuable feedback.

“It’s important that commencement speeches don’t come off as manufactured,” says Jesse Mejia, a Toastmaster from Landover, Md., who was the keynote speaker at the 2013 University of Maryland College Park Latina/o Graduation Celebration Ceremony. “The audience of graduates and their family and friends don’t want to hear overused cliches. Speaking from the heart resonates best with the audience.”

Whether you’re a celebrity, a high school valedictorian speaking in front of your classmates, or a community leader presenting in front of a local school, keep these five tips in mind and you’ll put your stamp on a memorable day.


To your speaking success

Fran Watson

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