Speaking of Commencement Speakers …

It’s time to start planning.  High school, trade school, college or university, commencement is a big deal and a big day for graduates, their families, faculty, administrators and alumni.  Whether you’re inviting a commencement speaker to your 2018 ceremony or whether you’re invited to be the commencement speaker, it’s time to consider your approach.  Here are a few fundamentals of graduation speech success.


A meaningful commencement message is more than just a few words of generic advice from a person of note.  A rich address will account for the personality of the graduating class – its unique qualities and make-up.  High school principals, headmasters, guidance counselors, college advisors and university deans have a solid sense of this.  Some classes are especially service-oriented.  Some are notably global in their outlook.  Some have clear scientific, humanitarian or patriotic inclinations, exceptional artistic talent or demonstrated leadership acumen.  Graduating classes have varying compositions – demographics that may be defining.  And graduates have different plans for their near futures such as public, military or community service, travel, endeavors in the arts or entertainment, employment in industry, business start-ups, entrepreneurship, further education, marriage and/or seminary and so on.

If you’re reading this because you are on the committee responsible for selecting the 2018 commencement speaker, offer insights into the Class of 2018 in your initial letter of invitation to your speaker.  Give her or him a head start in the due diligence a skilled orator will conduct.  And if your choice of commencement speaker is new to this type of address, it’s all the more reason to offer some subtle guidance on how to get started.  If you are reading this because you are invited to deliver a commencement speech, use the above to guide your initial due diligence.  Principals, headmasters, grade advisors and deans will welcome your inquiries and enjoy acquainting you with the Class of 2018 and sharing the characteristics that make it special.  They know well that connecting with the graduates will go a long way in making you and your message memorable.


Lisa Bernard has prepared and represented people from all walks of life to speak publicly at meetings, on panels and as keynoters for over twenty-five years. She herself has addressed audiences as large as 2000 and designed and delivered over 500 workshops, seminars and college courses on oral communication.  She is President of Lisa Bernard’s SecuritySpeak, LLC, a consulting firm that makes available experts on national, global and cyber-security for distinguished lectures worldwide.  You can reach her at (203) 293-4741 or LisaBernard@SecuritySpeak.net and follow her firm at www.Facebook.com/PodiumTime.