Online Public Speaking

Training & Practice


Henry Goddard Valedictorian Speech

This refreshing valedictorian speech by student Henry Goddard is a great example to consider. It combines many aspects of successful public speaking including demanding a response from your audience.  Copy and paste this link to check it out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEWCTNjUmE4

Synopsis: This refreshing valedictorian speech by student Henry Goddard is a great example to consider. It combines many aspects of successful public speaking including demanding a response from your audience. 

Sharing a unique perspective with the audience: Henry does something that all speakers can consider if called to present in a situation that has been spoken about many times before and creating subject matter is a challenge. Valedictorian speeches can be hard to make unique considering they are given so often, yet Henry speaks about people specifically associated with his graduating class and the school. By making it specific to the audience he is able to engage them much more successfully than he might have if he had made his speech very abstract and less specific. This was a very smart choice on his part and it serves him well. 

Henry also uses other unique perspectives with the audience. In one sequence he conjures up images of his classmates as adults in future professions based on who they are at the time of the speech. He combines this with the realistic yet often overlooked fact that many students don’t actually leave the school or the community once they graduate, as is often romanticized during such speeches, but rather go away and return to take their place in their communities as adults. This unique perspective also serves his presentation well.

Presentation skills:  Henry does very well in several key areas. He uses his nervous energy well, moving about in an appropriate manner which helps to engage the audience. He also uses strong vocal energy, some of which he may be deriving from a burst of adrenaline that he is experiencing.

Henry also does something quite remarkable for a young presenter. Early on his audience is unexpectedly uncooperative in responding when he acknowledges the loss of a fellow student at minute mark 1:35. Shortly afterward at around the 3:05 minute mark he acknowledges the teaching staff and the audience is again silent. However, this time when the audience doesn’t respond he asks for a response, and he gets it. This was a brilliant move usually reserved for seasoned speakers. He could have let the audience’s early unwillingness to engage cause him to feel nervous or to lower his expectations of his presentation, but he decides to pull the audience in and then stays in a pleasantly controlling mode for the remainder of the presentation.

Using humor: Henry uses humor abundantly. It’s noteworthy that much of the humor he used might not be successful with audience members who aren’t familiar with the school, but in this instance because the audience is largely made up of people associated with the school his attempts at humor are successful. This shows that knowing your audience can be very powerful.

Was the presentation a success? Absolutely. Henry gets a standing ovation from his classmates and even some staff members in the background, one of whom looks on disapprovingly for the majority of the presentation. Perhaps she was worried he might say something inappropriate and the conclusion of his presentation without that type of event makes her especially pleased. Again, Henry seems to have benefitted from knowing his audience, and from knowing the right boundaries of humor and appropriateness.