How to write an acceptance speech for a graduation ceremony

Muhammad Usman Babar
6 min readJul 30, 2020

A graduation ceremony is an important event and many people take this opportunity to thank all those who supported them during their training or school career. Writing a graduation speech, however, can be a daunting task. Whether you’re planning to give a thank you speech at a dinner toast or in front of a large gathering, there are a few tips you need to follow to make it happen.

Gather ideas

Make a list of all the people you want to thank

This is the very first step to take if you don’t want to forget someone important later. If the speech is to a large audience, feel free to be vague about who you are thanking. For example, you can say “ Thank you to all my teachers “ instead of naming names. You can also say “ I want to thank all my friends “ rather than naming them all. You’ll save time and reduce the risk of forgetting someone.

  • If you must speak in front of family members and close friends, name the people you thank.
  • Write the names of all the people or groups of people that come to mind on a list. You can then arrange all this.

Write down why you want to thank these different people

Unless you have a very limited amount of time, you should indicate in your speech why you want to thank those you quote. Write down sentences or words that express why you are grateful to these family members, teachers, friends, coaches, and others.

  • Be honest about why you are thinking this or that other person.
  • The reasons you give can be very simple. You can say for example “ My history teacher has always managed to make me laugh “ or “ My mother woke me up every morning “. These are good reasons to thank someone
  • The more your gratitude comes from the heart, the better. Take the time to think about how you are feeling.

Write down any other thoughts on this topic

Write freely about graduation and your recognition. You can write down any thoughts about receiving your degree or thanking your loved ones. This way you could come up with interesting ideas or think of things that you wouldn’t be able to find otherwise.

  • Remember, there is no wrong way to put your ideas together. Just write.
  • Keep writing freely until you find no other idea after at least 30 minutes.
  • Now that you have gathered some ideas for your speech, you can start writing it.

Write the acceptance speech

Write the introduction to your speech

The introductory part of the speech should be interesting and hold the audience’s attention. Here are some strategies you can apply: Start with a rhetorical question, anecdote, or a quote. Any strategy will do as long as it allows you to speak up about the graduation party and say thank you. Try to make this part of your text between two and five sentences long (or two paragraphs for a speech that lasts more than five minutes). You can use the following examples. [1]

  • “ What are you grateful for?” By using this sentence you are asking a rhetorical question since the audience will not be able to answer it.
  • As Willie Nelson once said, “ My whole life changed when I began to appreciate my good fortune .” This is the kind of phrase you can use if you want to start with a quote.
  • “ It was my first day in high school and I was standing at the entrance to my first classroom, scared to go inside. At the end of the year, I walked through that same door being very grateful. An example of a case where you start with an anecdote.

Write the actual content of the speech

This is where you give full thanks to your teachers, family members, friends, and others. Look at the notes you took and write 1 to 2 paragraphs where you indicate, in full sentences, the people to whom you express your appreciation and the reason why you do so. You can make between 2 and 3 paragraphs if the speech is to be longer than 5 minutes. Do not speak to a single person for more than 2 or 3 sentences, unless you want to express your appreciation to them especially.

  • For example, you can say, “ I would like to thank my family and friends for always inspiring me when I was losing hope. “
  • You could also say “ I especially want to thank Professor Z for helping me choose my major.
  • The main part of your speech should immediately follow the introduction.
  • Avoid offending or insulting people you are talking to. Don’t criticize other people or bring up issues during your speech.

Write the conclusion of your speech

Write between 1 and 2 sentences (you can go to a paragraph if the speech is to be longer than 5 minutes) to summarize everything you just said. Don’t forget to talk about your theme and tie it all together in those two sentences. The conclusion follows the body of the essay and can be very straightforward. For example, you can just say “ Thank you again “.

  • You can also say “ Once again I want to say how lucky I am to have such a great family and such wonderful friends. Thank you. “
  • You can end by thanking a specific person, for example by saying “ The last person I want to thank is my grandmother. She has always been there for me. Good night.

Correct the speech before you practice reading it aloud

Correct any grammatical errors, adjust any places that seem too long, or any wording you are not sure you want to put. If you have time, you can ask a teacher, family member, or friend to read your speech and give you their feedback. As soon as you are satisfied with what you have written, you can begin to practice reading the speech.

Practice delivering the speech

Print a copy of your speech

You can have it with you while you speak, but remember that you need to glance at your notes occasionally. Print the speech in a large format to make sure you can see every word. You may need to reprint a final version of the speech after you edit or improve it.

Read the speech aloud to yourself

Start a stopwatch as soon as you start reading the speech and see how long it takes you to read the entire speech. You may be assigned a specific time to give this speech, between 3 to 5 minutes for example. However, if you are giving the speech in an informal setting, you will need to set the deadline yourself. Stop the stopwatch as soon as you finish reading the speech.

Correct the speech according to the time you want to speak

Cut out parts of your speech, make sentences shorter, and be more concise if what you’ve been planning is too long. As soon as you finish adjusting an idea or phrase, re-read your speech to see if it’s short enough. Continue in this fashion until you manage to read the speech within the allotted time.

Practice reading the speech often

Read your text aloud several times until D-Day. Keep timing yourself to make sure you don’t go over the limit. As you get comfortable with your text, you will be able to say it faster.

Use confident body language as you speak

This includes making eye contact, smiling often, and not jiggling. Breathe when you speak and avoid saying “ Uh “ or “ Hmm “ too often. Practicing in front of a friend, a mirror, or recording yourself is a good way to see if you are adopting body language that reflects nervousness.

Give your graduation and acceptance speech

Remember to make eye contact, smile, and breathe as you speak. Check your notes if you get stuck at any point, and enjoy thanking the people who matter to you.

The Bottom Line:

  • Take advantage of the moment, it doesn’t happen very often.
  • Remember to maintain eye contact and smile during your speech.
  • Practice giving the speech often to calm your nerves.
  • Remember that even though this is a special time for you and you want to thank everyone, you might hamper the audience and even annoy them if your speech gets too long. Respect the time limit set.

Originally published at on July 30, 2020.