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This chapter is about Special Occasion speeches. At some point in your life, you will FOR SURE have to speak at something – someone’s wedding, birthday, graduation or whatever. It’s also likely that you’ll have to make one or more presentations in your professional life. Many careers call for this – and if yours does, you want to be prepared!
So, how do you make a great special occasion speech? First, think about the occasion – why are you the one speaking at it? What is your relationship to the event or the person that’s being honored? How do you best honor that with your words?
I highly encourage you to take this assignment and run with it – if you want to talk about someone important to you, give it your full effort and really dig into why they are important in your life. On the other hand, you certainly don’t HAVE to do something personal. It can be completely made up – I’ve had students be the coach of a superbowl team before a game, or a disgraced CEO giving a resignation speech. I have seen fake presidents give State of the Union speeches, and Oscar acceptances and all sorts of things. I’ve also seen made up speeches that are personal – I had a student give a speech to his (future) son, and another guy give a loving speech to his motorcycle. I’ve had very serious speeches – I had a woman come out (as gay), another woman write a letter to her rapist (not kidding, it was intense) and many others about people who’ve passed away. One woman whose father had passed when she was young gave his eulogy (she later told me it gave her peace and closure to do the speech) – so these speeches can get pretty intense. Whatever you decide to do, this is the speech where I want to see YOU in it. It is fairly easy to deliver, but hard to write. Take your time with this, but give it the attention it deserves.
By the way, try to avoid cliches, especially this – DO NOT SAY “(Name) has always been there for me.” This may be a personal pet peeve, but I don’t like saying something so flippant, that doesn’t show any thought whatsoever. If you are asked to speak at someone’s event, I assume that person is important enough in your life to give it your all, your best effort, and “he’s always been there for me” just doesn’t cut it.
Many years ago, I spoke at my father’s birthday party. Truly, my father WAS always there for me – we spoke every single day, no matter where we were, and we were more like best friends than father / daughter. He was my hero (he passed away a few years ago). Anyway, I could have said, “My dad has always been there for me.” Instead, I said this:
“It was snowing – on the day I was born, March 17th, 1967. My parents were in the hospital with me, and my mother sent my father to get the baby stuff they needed to take me home. As my father left, my mother said, “…and whatever you do, don’t forget her hat.” So, naturally, my father went home, got the stuff, went back to the hospital, and sure enough, forgot my little hat. This meant that when they took me home, it snowed on my tiny, bald head. (pause) That was the last time my father let me down.”
Those words say the same thing, but don’t you think the 2nd one is better? So I think you get the idea. This speech is the biggest part of your grade, and will likely be the thing that helps you most (long term) in this class. Make it great!