A very well-organised webpage where you can listen to speeches.
Here you can listen to speeches by e.g. Georges Bush, Bernadette Devlin, Richard Nixon, Malcolm X, Marilyn Monroe, Jim Morrison, Benito Mussolini, and many many more. Go to: http://www.historychannel.com/speeches/
A selection of famous speeches. Go to: https://www.learnoutloud.com/content/blog/archives/2018/01/greatest_speeches_audio_video.php
Here is a website with women’s speeches from around the world. Go to: http://gos.sbc.edu/
A Glossary of Rhetorical Terms with Examples. Go to: http://www.uky.edu/AS/Classics/rhetoric.html
As valedictorian, your speech needs to be representative of your class as a whole. As such, it should reflect on your place in history, accomplishments, memories and, of course, expectations for the future. But be yourself, too. The speech should sound like you, not like a book.
- Remember how a valedictory speech differs from an informative or debating speech: it’s less formal but more intimate in style.
- Plan to speak for about 5 minutes unless instructed otherwise. Excited graduates, toddlers, babies etc in the audience may not be able to sit still for a longer speech, especially with other speakers on the agenda.
- Write down general ideas to cover. For example, “This year was marked by great success and great loss (e.g. won awards/beloved English teacher on maternity leave)”.
- List all points, largest to smallest. For example, the tsunami, Professor Smith’s Nobel prize, swim team to Olympics, most grad school entrants ever, personal triumphs, funny story about Principal Svensson and the Christmas luncheon.
- Size down your list to between three and five main points, followed by each topic’s subpoints.
- Sharpen your notes down to a succinct outline.
- Drop in your introductory line (“To the class of 20XX, Principle Svensson, family and friends”), followed by an opening to hook your audience. Consider a quote, humor, a line of poetry or a timely song: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” “No one likes you when you’re 23.”
- Take into account your experiences of school, comradery, and the world and times when closing. For example, “We started as children and sit here now as adults. The world saw war, the school saw conflict, but we came together as a class, as neighbors, ultimately as friends.”
- Draft the complete speech, including anecdotes, imagery, and touches of humor and personality. Make it personal but relevant to the audience and the occasion.
- Rewrite, polish and edit as needed. Read it to a friend for editing purposes, and practice aloud until the speech flows and sounds natural. Mark when you need to take a pause, when to look up, how to use body language etc.
Tips & Warnings
- Some people prefer reading from a complete speech, others like just notes or index cards.
- Consider recording or taping your speech so that you can watch yourself. You might also try practicing hand motions, phrasing and times to look up at your audience.
- People will remember you, so even if you intend your speech to be controversial, keep it respectable.
- You may end up on your parents’ videotape, so be proud of your content, language and ideas.
- Take a look at valedictorian speeches on youtube for more inspiration.
How to Deliver a Speech
- Approach the podium confidently and put your notes in a place where you can see them easily.
- Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Look at the audience, pause and begin speaking. If there is no microphone, project from your diaphragm, not your throat.
- Set the tone in your introduction with appropriate facial expressions and voice, and a specific mood (such as folksy or hard-hitting).
- Make eye contact with people in different parts of the audience, including the back row.
- Pause briefly after you state key points to allow the audience time to absorb the information. Also, use natural and relaxed hand gestures and facial expressions to emphasize certain points.
- Pronounce your words clearly and vary your rate, pitch and volume to keep the delivery lively.
- Refresh your memory by periodically glancing at your notes, but avoid reading from your notes directly unless you are reading a long quotation.
- Close your speech by thanking the audience and then confidently exiting the stage.
Tips & Warnings
- Practice! Videotape yourself to discover distracting habits such as swaying back and forth, saying ‘uh’ and ‘um’ too often, or making nervous gestures.
- If you stumble on a word, it’s a sign you should slow down.
- While preparing your speech, make your notes easy to read by writing them in large, neat letters.
- If you need to test a microphone, using your voice is the best method. Aggressive blowing or tapping can damage the delicate internal parts.