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Types of Speeches: The Commencement Speech

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If you decide to become a professional speaker or use speaking as an integral part of your marketing strategy, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the various types of speeches you might be asked to give. In this series of posts, I’ll give you the basics on a variety of types of presentations you can prepare. At the end of this post, I’ve listed previous articles in this series.


What is a commencement speech?
A commencement speech is usually given during a ceremony in which an academic degree or diploma is conferred. Often these ceremonies invite a “celebrity” guest to give the commencement speech or address. If you’re a respected professional of some note in your community, it it likely that you will be invited to present one of these types of speeches one day.

A commencement speech attempts to put the work those who are receiving their degrees or diplomas have done into the context of their future. This is, after all, the beginning of the rest of their lives.

Tips for good commencement speech
There are few things you need to keep in mind when writing your commencement speech:

It’s about them … not you
So many people give commencement speeches that are all about themselves and their own “greatness.” This is selfish. A commencement speech is about the graduates, what they’ve accomplished, and how they can apply those accomplishments to a better tomorrow. Be inspiring. Give them hope. Offer them something they can take to heart and move them into their new future.

Keep it brief
A commencement speech is not a lengthy oration. You want to keep it to 18 minutes or less. Stand up, inspire, sit down.

Be authentically yourself
This should really go without saying, but given the intimate nature of a commencement ceremony, being yourself becomes even more important. Be present. Be yourself. And let your audience see a glimpse of who you are and why you were chosen to inspire them.

Tell a story
To keep your audience’s attention, and to inspire them in a memorable way, tell a story. Give your speech a plot with a beginning, middle and conclusion. Show them your message with words.

Resources for developing an effective commencement speech

Did you miss these?
Here are the previous posts in this “Type of Speeches” series:


The next post in this series is The Eulogy.

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About the author

Carma Spence, The Own Your Awesome Mentor, is author of Public Speaking Super Powers. She is fiercely committed to guiding women to Owning their Awesome and turning it into a profitable business. She is masterful at helping her clients see what is possible for them and supporting them on the journey from where they are to where they want to be, releasing the Mind Goblins of self-doubt, self-sabotage and second-guessing that keep them stuck.

With 20+ years experience in marketing communications and public relations, natural intuitive skills and certification in using some of the most effective transformational coaching tools available, Carma’s mission and commitment is to unleash the inner power every woman entrepreneur possesses so they can boldly go out into the world, transforming the fabric of people’s lives in meaningful and positive ways.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Her website is CarmaSpence.com.