How To Deliver A Memorable Valedictorian Speech

January 3, 2023

5 min read

Giving a valedictorian speech can be a daunting task, but it is also a great opportunity to inspire and motivate your fellow classmates as you celebrate the end of your academic journey together.

In this blog, we will go over some tips and tricks on how to write and deliver a valedictorian speech that will leave a lasting impression on your audience. We’ll also go over how you can use Yoodli’s free AI speech coach to practice your valedictorian speech.

Content is king when writing a compelling speech

How Do You Make Your Valedictorian Speech Compelling?

When it comes to delivering a compelling speech, there’s one key factor that trumps all others:

Content is king.

It’s easy to get stuck in your head when trying to write a speech. However, the speech is not about you. It’s about delivering the right message based on something your audience cares about.

Keep the following three questions in mind as you start writing your speech:

Who is my audience?

Your audience is your fellow classmates who have gone through similar trials and tribulations in order to graduate. You will probably see a number of your friends and classmates in the audience. They know and understand what you all have been through in order to get to this stage. Write in a way that connects with them. Connecting with your audience early on in your speech will get them on your side and help the message resonate even more.

What does my audience care about?

Graduation is the culmination of countless hours of hard work that you and your classmates have gone through to receive that coveted degree. Your audience is likely thinking about what the future holds for them. As the valedictorian and the leader of the graduating class, this is a great time for you to share a message of motivation, hope and inspiration.

One of the best ways to connect with your audience and share a message is through storytelling. In Elon Musk’s Commencement Address, he states the importance of working hard and shares a story of how he coded at night and slept at the office in order to launch his company. You can read the full transcript of his speech, along with Yoodli’s evaluation of the entire speech – from word choice and delivery – here.

What is my message?

This is where you can really show the audience who you are and what you stand for. What are some powerful lessons that you learned as a student? Did you go through a particularly challenging situation that tested your mettle and overcame it? This is a time for you to really dig deep and share with the audience something that they can hold on to long after your speech is over.

Tips To Deliver Your Graduation Speech

You may have written the best graduation speech in the world, but delivery is what makes you truly memorable. When we think of some of history’s greatest orators, some of the names that come to mind are: Barack Obama, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.

These speakers shared a few common traits in their speeches that the Yoodli AI coach can help you with:

Pay attention to the words you use

You want to avoid filler words like “um”, “uh”, “like”, etc. These words indicate a lack of confidence and can derail your speech quickly if they’re not used deliberately. Instead, keep your speech concise and pause when necessary to replace those filler words.

Be mindful of using inclusive language rather than non-inclusive language like “guys”. Your audience is made up of a variety of students from different genders and backgrounds, so using inclusive language will help connect you with the audience more.

Be mindful of your vocal delivery

Varying your pitch, pace and volume is a critical factor in delivering memorable speeches. For example, when telling a story, incorporate pauses to build up anticipation and evoke emotion from your audience.

Vocal delivery also indicates how much enthusiasm and excitement you have. If you’re monotonic and dull, your audience will believe that you don’t even want to be there. They will likely tune you out and you’ll lose your audience’s attention very quickly.

Deliver strong non-verbal communication

Believe it or not, humans convey over 90% of their messages through non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication includes factors such as: facial expressions, posture, eye contact, tone of voice.

Some ways to deliver strong body language are to make eye contact with your audience. Don’t look down or away from your audience or spend too much time focused on one section of your audience. Instead, spend a few moments making eye contact with different sections of your audience.

Stand tall and don’t hunch over. Take up space when you’re speaking. Use hand gestures deliberately to convey different parts of your message and keep the audience engaged throughout.

Examples Of Powerful Valedictorian Speeches

Harvard Graduation Speech

Harvard Graduation speech by Donovan Livingston

When analyzing this speech using Yoodli’s AI tool, we can see how this speech fares from a word choice perspective and a delivery perspective.

Word choice

The speech uses 7 filler words throughout the entire speech, or about 1% of the time. The speaker doesn’t use any non-inclusive words and his top keywords are: good, see, time, dream and education – all great words for a graduation speech.


The speaker’s pace is relaxed at an average of 168 words per minute with variations throughout the speech for emphasis, particularly at the beginning as noted in the chart.

The speaker does a great job of smiling throughout the speech. He deliberately uses pauses to build anticipation and create more emphasis as illustrated in the delivery chart below.

Yoodli AI Speech Coach Delivery Analytics
Yoodli AI Speech Coach Delivery Analytics

West Hall High School Valedictorian Speech

West Hall High School Valedictorian Speech

Here’s another speech that we can analyze using Yoodli’s AI speech coach to understand how the valedictorian speech from West Hall High School fared from a word choice and delivery perspective:

Word choice

The speaker does a good job of not repeating too many words. He only uses filler words 1% of the time, and his top keywords include: year, school and high – all appropriate for a valedictorian speech.


The speaker speaks at a relaxed pace of 163 words per minute, incorporates pauses, and smiles throughout. However, his eye contact could have been better, as he only made eye contact 22% of the time with the audience, which indicates a lack of confidence.

Practice Your Valedictorian Speech With Yoodli

Remember, even seasoned orators need a little help and practice to deliver a memorable speech. Yoodli’s free AI speech coach can help you practice by analyzing your word choice and delivery so that you deliver a memorable valedictorian speech that resonates with your classmates.


Start practicing with Yoodli.

Getting better at speaking is getting easier. Record or upload a speech and let our AI Speech Coach analyze your speaking and give you feedback.

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