With graduation comes the inevitable event wherein every high school senior and their families and friends will have to sit around for several hours while a bunch of people stand before them, giving speeches that they've said in the mirror over and over until they want to die.
Graduation speeches are supposed to give seniors advice on what they should do with themselves after mucking about in the public school system, but how many people actually remember any advice given in a speech at their high school graduation five or 10 years after they've graduated?
The problem then becomes the problem of how to make a graduation speech memorable. This year, dozens of valedictorians from this area will have to give a speech to their classmates that is meant to inspire them. The first thing they should do, however, is get advice from someone they trust. Parents and grandparents, teachers and coaches always have a lot of advice to give if students would simply ask for it.
If you have to give a speech of any kind -- not just for graduation -- the best thing to do would be to get a good amount of general advice to start with. Teenagers know a lot more about life than they think they do, so interpreting advice they've been given is a good way to find advice to give to others, whether it comes from personal experience or just an idea about the way life works.
The next thing to do is to make a bullet-point list. Reading your speech like a script is fine, but you run the risk of losing your place or sounding like a third-grader giving a report in front of the class. If you are familiar with the information you want to relay to your audience, then just having a list will be much easier to manage than writing down the entire speech. You can simply summarize your points extemporaneously while you are giving the speech, but do be careful that you don't ramble too much.
Another good idea is to try to connect emotionally with your audience. Throw in a few spontaneous jokes, if you can, that are relevant to the main types of people you're addressing. If you're talking to teenagers, then you shouldn't have any problem finding references to current pop culture or other things your classmates are interested in. You need to find a way to make your subject matter important to the people you're presenting it to or else they won't even remember it five minutes after you've finished, let alone 10 years.
The last thing is to just relax. The best thing you can do when you get up to speak is to act like you're confident. Confidence may or may not come to you, but if you look and sound confident, then your audience is more likely to listen and remember what you're saying. Try to sound like you're talking to the people individually, rather than to a crowd, and your words will have more power.
You probably know a lot more about life than you feel like you do, so don't be afraid to give your opinions and show people what you know and feel. Good luck in all of your speech-giving endeavors.
Emily Shepherd is a senior at Bear River High School. Contact her at email@example.com.