University of Hawai'i Maui Community College Speech Department

Commemorative Speaking

Click here for specific information and objectives
concerning the Commemorative Speech.

The main intent of commemorative speaking is either to commemorate or pay tribute to a person,  group, place/institution, idea, monument, or event.   Your function as a speaker is to highlight the reasons for the occasion, express the sentiments held by everyone involved in the celebration, commemoration, and tribute, and arouse your audience with an inspiring speech.  Use the principles of ceremonial/special occasion and commemorative speaking outlined here to help you write, organize, and deliver your commemorative speech.

1.  Create a ceremonial speech that is short and eloquent. 
Except for those times when you are the primary speaker, keep your ceremonial speech short; from one to five minutes long. Because of this brevity, choose ideas and words that will have a dramatic effect and practice your delivery so that you can convey the appropriate meaning and feeling of your speech. Also, use a climactic oganizational pattern and intonation, particularly when concluding the speech.

2.  Adapt your speech to the occasion and the person, place, or event you are
Base the content, language, and delivery of your speech upon the nature of the occasion, the personality of the honoree or the character of the event commemorated, and your audience's sentiments towards the celebrated person or event. For instance, if you are presenting a prestigious award at a formal awards ceremony or commemorating a solemn occasion, use a formal style of language and a serious tone of voice. However, if you are giving an anniversary speech to close friends at a small dinner or a testimonial on behalf of a gregarious friend, use informal language and a more sentimental or whimsical tone.

3.  Consider the emotional needs of your audience and attempt to fulfill these
     needs with your speech. 
Determine whether your speech should create a festive mood, convey respect for the honoree's accomplishments, allow your audience to grieve, or humor your audience and use appeals and a style of language and speaking that will fulfill these needs.

4.  Focus more on conveying your emotions, respect, and sincerity than providing
     a great deal of information about the honoree.
Insofar as the majority of your audience will already be familiar with the honoree, your main intent is not to inform or persuade but to inspire and celebrate. However, you will still want to reacquaint your audience with the achievements of the celebrated so that you can strengthen their respect and admiration for the person, place, or event being celebrated. To achieve both the purposes of informing and inspiring your audience, try to be creative with your explanations and descriptions rather than simply informative.

5.  Unify your audience around emotions and sentiments you commonly share for
     the commemorated. 
For instance, narrate a personal experience involving the honoree, quote an expression she always uses, or describe one of her everyday activities that depicts a value or characteristic of the honoree with which everyone can empathize. Likewise, try to describe the enthusiasm, disappointment, and camaraderie felt by people who have worked together on behalf of a cause, organization, or event so that they and others can re-experience these feelings through your speech.

6.  Make specific references to the particular characteristics and contributions
     of the honoree. 
Do not generally state that the honoree has a good character and many achievements; rather, cite specific examples of the honoree's virtues and accomplishments so that your audience recognizes her unique qualities and contributions. Moreover, to bring greater insight into the honoree, describe a relatively unknown achievement or offer an original interpretation of one of her attributes.

7.  Balance your adulation of the honoree's professional accomplishments with
     praise for her personal achievements. 
Although your speech should concentrate on the honoree's professional work, you should also mention those activities related to honoree's personal life that she, herself deems important. For instance, describe her family life, community activities, or work with non-profit organizations.

8.  Do not understate or exaggerate your emotions or praise for the honoree. 
Avoid falling back upon overused cliches or trite statements to reflect your sentiments. Rather, try to express your feelings in a more innovative way. Never, however, attempt to give a speech if you will be unable to control your emotions. This only creates an awkward situation for both you and the audience and diverts attention away from the commemorated. Lastly, do not exaggerate your praise for the honoree to the point of embarrassing her or making your audience feel uncomfortable.

Letteri, R. (1997). A handbook of public speaking. (2nd. ed.).  New York: Cummings Hathaway Publishers.

Your Commemorative Speech will be evaluated using the following criteria:

______ Subject Introduced clearly and gained attention
______ Inspired audience/Captured mood
______ Main ideas flowed well/easy to follow
______ Conclusion smooth and Memorable

______ Language Clear (concrete language)
______ Language Vivid (Imagery, rhythm)
______ Language accurate/correct

______ Maintaining good eye contact
______ Facial expressiveness/effective use of gestures
______ Volume, vocal variety and emphasis
______ Effective rate, and use of pause
______ Spoke with sincerity and enthusiasm


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Page Designer: Ron St. John
Copyright 2002 - Ka Leo Kumu
Last Revised: January 16, 2002