Graduation is one of the most important events for students, families, and friends alike. Have you ever been to a graduation or graduation party and were in awe of a speech in honor of the graduate or graduating class? Have you ever heard a terrible, awkward graduation speech? A good graduation speech has empathy, charisma, excitement, and most importantly, pride. However, how it is delivered is also crucial! This article will break down your role in a graduation and how a great speech can make this memorable day all the more special!
For the Student Graduating:
Public speaking can be frightening, but it doesn’t have to be. Speaking in front of your classmates, friends, and family can show how much you’ve accomplished academically. First and foremost, people are attending your ceremony to celebrate you! They have watched you succeed from your earliest years of academics to the summation of your academic career. Today is about you! That may seem frightening to tackle in a speech, but you must shift your mindset to deliver a great speech. Instead of seeing your anxiety as detrimental, use that anxiety as energy to fuel confidence and inspiration. One way to do this is to structure your speech in the most basic form: beginning, middle, and end. While you may think giving it this structure will make your speech boring, it actually gives your audience a chance to see your academic abilities and gives them something easy to follow. Secondly, keeping the speech on the shorter side will keep your audience engaged and quell your nerves if you’re afraid of boring them. One final tip (and most crucial) is to practice your speech as many times as you can out loud.
For the Parent/Friend Giving a Speech:
Don’t you want to show the graduate how proud you are of them? A speech is the perfect way to convey your pride and excitement for the graduate’s future. One essential point to hit is that even as a friend or parent, you are an exceptional source of knowledge and comfort for the graduate. Although they learned immensely in their schooling, you and the graduate have taught each other so much, whether it be through long talks, experiences shared, or a common hobby, etc. Pull in some of your favorite memories of the graduate, what specifics from their academic career you are proud the graduate achieved, and why they are special to you. If you feel nervous giving a speech, imagine how the graduate feels! They are ending a significant chapter of their lives and starting anew. A comforting and confident speech can settle their nerves and allow them to relish in their achievements! Remember: as amazing as your speech can be, it is about them. The idea that the speech is more for the graduate, and that all eyes are truly on the graduate should relieve some nerves.
For the Observer of a Graduation Speech:
When you’re watching a graduation speech, take note of a few feelings. Notice if you are engaged. Are you daydreaming, checking your phone, or making small talk in the audience? If so, focus back in on the speech and notice what the speaker is doing. How long is the speech? Is it pertinent? Is the speaker confident on stage? Make a mental (or literal) note of what is pulling you towards the speech. If you’re fully engaged in a speech, the speaker is confident, poised, and relating to the audience. By observing your feelings as an audience member in relation to a speaker and their speech, this will help you in your own public speaking. Finally, a nice comment to the graduate or their parents goes a long way. Even a simple but heartfelt “congrats, I am proud of you!” and a hug is great. If you have known the graduate or their family for a long time, you can give an example of a memory you have with them or how you’ve seen them grow. An example being “It’s amazing to have seen you grow from a high school freshman to your graduation! You are going to do great things!”. You can list off certain academic or personal achievements from their past years, or their prosperous futures (the college or masters school they’re going to, a new job or job offer, etc.).
Whether you’re just watching a graduation speech or giving one, they can be an unforgettable summation of a remarkable achievement. Public speaking connects people, especially on joyous occasions. By utilizing these tips, public speaking can be exciting, not fear-inducing!
For some of us, confidence doesn’t always come easy. And, even if you do consider yourself a confident individual, you might not feel confident 100% of the time. That’s normal. In fact, being confident or not probably has a lot to do with how you grew up. It might have to do with the number of siblings you have. Or maybe it has to do with the relationship you have with your parents. I can’t say I know the real answer, but I can say there’s a way you can harness a more confident self. And it’s not as scary as you think. Here are some of my best tips for living with more confidence.
Remember your worth.
Keep a journal on your nightstand. Use it to check in on yourself. Do the following first thing in the morning or before you fall asleep. In fact, do this with me right now. Grab a pen and paper and…
1. List 3–5 things you like about yourself. You can boast (remember, it’s yourjournal). For example, maybe you like your hair, maybe you’re an excellent cook, or you’re brilliant with numbers. Or maybe you like your handwriting. It could be anything, big or small.
2. Write about your top 3 accomplishments and how you achieved them. For example, maybe you just reached a new goal. How did you get there and what helped you along the way?
3. List your skills (all of them, even if you think they’re basic ones). Are you a good writer? Listener? Do you have good organization skills? Write it down.
4. Write down what others like about you and what you bring to the table. Think about the positive things your family and friends say about you.
This might seem impractical, but it works. Trust me, it works. Doing this will help you reflect on your best qualities and make you feel good about yourself.
Dress to impress.
Make sure your clothes make you feel good about yourself. Finding an outfit can be stressful sometimes (we’ve all been there) but it’s important you’re looking your best so that you’re feeling your best. Stand tall and keep your chin up. When you believe you’re confident you actually become more confident.
Of course, there are going to be highs and lows throughout this process. You might feel good about yourself one day, and not so good another day. Always remember that everyone goes through this; you’re not alone. It helps if you remind yourself of your best qualities before you walk into a room, because as soon as self-doubt creeps in, it starts to show in your communication and your behavior. And vice versa! Keep your journal handy or a small list of favorite things about yourself in your wallet or phone. That way, if you’re feeling unsure of yourself, you can easily boost your confidence.
Believe it and you will see it.
When they say, “fake it ’til you make it!”, it’s not just a bunch of nonsense. It actually works. Believe you’re confident until you actually become it. Whenever you’re not feeling your most confident (before a meeting, a presentation, etc.) repeat this mantra 10 times with deep breaths: “I am fantastic, and I am confident”. The best part? You don’t have anything to lose. In fact, you have everything to gain. Confidence attracts others; people want to surround themselves with confident individuals. So even if you know you’re not a confident person, believe that you are. No one will know the difference.
Get out of your comfort zone.
I know it can be intimidating to throw yourself into uncomfortable situations, but it’s important to get out of your comfort zone. Once you do, you’ll be able to do so more often, and things will get easier. Growth happens outside of your comfort zone. We hear it all the time. Think about working out — if you don’t push yourself, you’ll never get better. Apply this to everything you do in life. Everyone has insecurities and anxieties, so remember that too. Even the most confident person might not actually be so confident.
Sometimes you need an extra push or someone to help you along the way. That’s what I’m trying to do for you here — and I promise, once you start believing in yourself, you will be capable of even more. You just have to take that first step!
As a busy person, I know how stressful it can be to stand up in front of an audience. Not only is it intimidating, but between social life and work commitments, it can be difficult to manage your time. Maybe you don’t have the time you need to make your presentation perfect and you’re nervous about what the audience might think. However, through my years, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to help tackle presentation anxiety, and I’m going to share them with you.
Tip 1: Relax, it’s really not that big of a deal.
This is probably my most important tip. Just remember, when you’re going up there, you and your audience is probably in the exact same boat as you. I say this because often times, your audience will consist of your peers. Chances are, everyone feels just as anxious about presenting as you do. They won’t notice if you stumble on a few words. Even if the audience is not your peer group, focus on giving them excellent information that is of value to your audience.
Tip 2: Breathe & Speak Slowly
The key is to talk slowly because that conveys your message clearly. It also keeps you from stumbling all over your words. Remember to breathe in between sentences as it gives you the necessary oxygen to keep stress levels low.
Tip 3: Body Language & Eye Contact
Always incorporate body language. Speak as you would talk with a friend, use your hand gestures — it makes the talk more natural and conversational. Find one or two friendly faces to make eye contact with. If you are too nervous to make direct eye contact, just glace over the audience as if you are actually looking at them in different areas of the room.
Number 4: Visual Aids
Incorporate visual aids into your presentation. Use a PowerPoint or Prezi. Not only does it draw the listener’s attention away from you and to the board, but it can also help you out too. Write short bullets or add pictures in case you suddenly forget what you were trying to say. This way, you can save time trying to memorize your entire presentation. Also, find relevant videos to your presentation topic; this will give you time to breathe and make the presentation interesting!
Number 5: Keep it Short & Sweet
Don’t spend time trying to “wow” your audience with big words or overly complex concepts. Speak about what you know and keep things simple. It will help you get to the point and allow you to clearly express your thoughts. My advice is to write down all of your ideas first, pick 3 most important points, and organize them in a way that makes sense. Not only will you feel better about your presentation, but your audience will leave with a better understanding of your topic (which is the goal here, right?). Finish by summarizing what you talked about and what you think the audience’s take away should be.
Number 6: Relate To Your Audience
Include tidbits or stories from your own life and experiences. It’ll help keep the audience’s attention and being relatable or funny can help take the pressure off. Remember, you and your audience probably have more things in common than you think.
So, these are my biggest tips for acing your next presentation. It might not seem like a lot, but I promise if you combine them all you’ll start feeling much more confident about presenting. It takes practice, and although you might feel nervous now, you won’t feel nervous forever!