How to rock a commencement speech

From Conan O’Brien to Steve Jobs, many luminaries have gotten time at a campus lectern. Try one of their approaches to make your address memorable and meaningful.

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As April showers make way for May flowers, graduates prepare to turn their tassels and toss their hats in the air, but what happens first? The commencement speeches, of course.

For the graduate, leader, or educator preparing for a commencement speech, I bring you a special “how to” guide for how to be motivating, emotional, relevant, and humble.

1. Create a connection to the audience and the moment

If you connect, you earn the right to give them something to consider.

Remember that your primary audience is the graduates. Talk about the college/educational experience. Focus less on what you did way back when, and relate more to their experience. Reference the school, the president of the university, the surroundings, the students, the accents, the late-night eats, the school motto, etc.

Conan O’Brien told the 2011 graduates at Dartmouth that he prepared for his speech with the same intensity they would have used to prepare for their term papers, “So late last night, I began: I drank two cans of Red Bull, played ‘Call of Duty,’ and opened my browser.”

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