1. Education

Top 10 Themes for Speeches

Great Ideas for Graduation Speeches

By

The key ingredient to an effective speech is to have a unifying theme throughout. Following are a list of ten themes that you can use as you write interesting speeches that will not only keep the audience's attention but also be memorable and inspiring.

1. The Importance of Setting Goals

Graduate speaking on microphone
Inti St. Clair/ Photodisc/ Getty Images
Setting goals are the key to future success. Ideas for framing this speech could include inspirational stories of individuals who set and achieved high goals for themselves. For example, you could relate the story of Jim Carrey writing a $10 million check to himself "for acting services rendered" before he became a well-known movie star. He dated the check five years in advance and when five years had passed he had surpassed that amount of earnings by $10 million per movie.

2. Taking Responsibility for Your Actions

Always blaming others for personal mistakes will lead nowhere. Only those individuals willing to accept responsibility for their failures will truly have the ability to learn and grow from these mistakes. Making a habit of accepting responsibility leads to a strong work ethic and a drive to succeed. Then when success happens, the rewards are well deserved.

3. Using Mistakes to Build a Bright Future

Talking about the mistakes of famous people can be quite enlightening and quite fun. Thomas Edison's attitudes towards mistakes is legendary. As he said, "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." Mistakes are little lessons that are sent to us. We have a choice:
  • We can allow them to discourage us.
  • We can ignore them completely.
  • Or we can learn from them.
Obviously, only learning from our mistakes holds the possibility of future success.

4. Finding Inspiration in the World Around You

Some people feel that nothing truly great can happen to them, that they can never achieve great things. However, this is simply not true. It is my belief that all individuals were put on this earth to achieve great things, if they can only let go of their fears and find inspiration in things that others take for granted. A speech with this theme could look for places to find inspiration and include great stories of everyday people doing amazing things.

5. Never Giving Up on a Dream

Winston Churchill once gave a speech at Harrow School after the Blitz occurred during World War II in which he said, "[N]ever give in, never give in, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." Those who achieve in life are those who don't stop trying. Giving in to discouragement is the downfall of so many. This theme should focus on inspiring others to following Churchill's advice and never waver.

6. Creating a Personal Code to Live By

Socrates stated it best: "The unexamined life is not worth living." Everyone should spend time truly thinking about who they are and their own standards. What do they find acceptable? What will they never accept from themselves. Instead of just allowing events to form who we are, we must take the reins and create the lives we want. Only by creating and following a code that focuses on what is good and true, can we truly achieve this.

7. The Golden Rule (Do Unto Others...)

It's amazing that something we are taught as small children can be a guiding principle that will successfully take us through life. It works in all situations. In fact, if we could get everyone in the world to follow this rule, there would be no more wars. Sadly, this is just a pipe dream. However, a speech following this theme can help bring home the importance of empathy in our daily decisions.

8. Never Forgetting Your Roots

The past shapes us. The audience of any speech will include individuals who had both wonderful and terrible childhood memories. However, it is undeniable that their experiences at home and at school impacts who they are and how they deal with situations. Some will be wanting to celebrate their past and honor it. Others will need to deal with their past and rise above it. In either case, remembering where we came from, building on the positives, and discarding the negatives is key for future success and happiness.

9. Focussing on the Important Things in Life

Many people allow the stresses of the world to alter their priorities. Some people are workaholics and put work above their family and their personal health. Others so desire to please those around them that they allow themselves to be abused and neglected. As part of this speech, the speaker should highlight the priorities that they aspire to, emphasizing what is truly important and why losing focus on these things can lead to failure.

10. Setting High Expectations

No one can be truly successful in life just trying to be mediocre. In order to succeed, we have to expect more of ourselves. We have to decide what we think we can achieve and then take it one step further. We have to make a plan and work the plan as we move closer to our goals. And through all of this, we must keep our eyes on our ultimate goal. As Mother Teresa said, "Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal."

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.