Seniors, the dreaded moment is upon you. Once upon a time, you sat in those uncomfortable chairs, grateful for the relief they provided you from your high heels that you’d been walking around and standing in all day. Your ears were ringing from endless songs, chants, and conversations, your eyes were heavy and red from lack of sleep and crying, and you were ready to just drop dead in the middle of Greek Row and let the tide of sorority girls marching back and forth from house to house sweep you away. Then you had to sit through speech after speech of girls standing up on the podium, blubbering incoherently about inside jokes between sisters and preaching to the PNMs in the audience about how they’d trade anything to be in your cute but painful shoes right now (you learned later on to switch to something more sensible, but still stylish). Then you waited in the wings for the next two years, watching those speeches, thinking, “That’ll never be me.”
Well, congratulations. Now it’s your turn. You’re the top dogs in the house, and it’s time to make the speech that kicks off your farewell tour of the sorority, your college or university, and the best four years of your life. This speech is, basically, the starting gun for your victory lap, and you have to nail the shit out of it. You have to make a speech that will go down in history, from generation to generation…or at least until the end of the “Greek generation” of people who remember you. Someone very near and dear to my heart asked me to help her construct her Pref Night speech recently, and while most of your speeches are already done and written, here are a few last-minute tips to make sure you absolutely crush it.
Do NOT Be The Girl Who Starts Bawling Halfway Through The First Paragraph
Look, I get it. Senior year is a very emotional time for everyone, but mostly for you. Your world is, essentially, coming to an end. The place you’ve called home for the last three years will no longer be your home ever again, unless you become a townie, a graduate student, or you’re just one of those people who never leaves, in which case, good luck to you but do yourself a favor and stay out of the undergrads’ way. They’ll be happy you’re there for about a month, but then you’re just old and embarrassing. Get a life.
Where was I? Oh yeah. Don’t start crying. Most actors, politicians, or successful public speakers will tell you that the minute you become consumed with any emotion, be that anger, sorrow, or whatever, you lose your credibility and connection to the audience. Feel free to let a tear or two roll down your cheek, but if you get so emotional you start crying, you’ve lost it. If you feel the tears coming, stop. Take a deep breath and regain your composure. If this girl can keep it together after losing her entire family, you can certainly hold back the tears for a two-minute recruitment speech.
Be Funny But Sincere
Humor is important in this kind of speech, especially if you want to absolutely crush it, but you have to know when to reel it in. There’s a way to be funny without being cruel or insulting–trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way multiple times. You might be the funniest girl in your pledge class, even the funniest girl in the entire sorority. Your sole ambition in life might be to become the next Chelsea Handler, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, or even the legendary Joan Rivers, but there’s a time and a place for everything.
There’s definitely a place to talk about your vagina or make fun of someone for being a “mega-super-ultra slut” or even call someone the c-word, but this is not it. Pref Night isn’t the right venue for it. You can tell a funny story about your sister blacking out, throwing up, and then showing the Deltas her hoo-hah, but you shouldn’t go into detail about what you saw, know what I mean? In fact, hoo-hah is a good word to use to describe your lady bits in a speech, if need be. Actually, just avoid vagina talk altogether. Save it for Bid Day.
Resist The Urge to Only Tell Inside Jokes
When I was working on the Pref Night speech I mentioned earlier, the person I was working with showed me a speech that was considered to be one of the best her sorority had ever seen in recent history. So I read it, and frankly, it was about 25 percent good and 75 percent incoherent garbage. Why? Because it was mostly inside jokes and stories with terminology that nobody would understand except for the girls in her pledge class and maybe her family. I’m sure it gave the sisterhood a good laugh, but the PNMs in the audience were probably left scratching their heads.
Inside jokes are going to be inevitable, and it’s hard to say just what you should do with them if they were an integral part of your college experience. You can’t explain them because, well, “you had to be there,” and you’ll waste precious time doing just that. You can’t avoid them because they’re important to you, and you won’t want to miss out on such special experiences. I think the best strategy here is just make the quick reference and move on. Don’t dwell on it, just be like, “Blah, blah, blah, and oh, my God, who could forget Brette’s cream cheese bathrobe? Blah, blah, blah.” Most people won’t understand that, but Brette sure will, and she’ll laugh her cream cheese ass off.
Acknowledge The People Who Made It All Special
A good portion of your Pref Night speech is a love fest, and at some points, it can almost feel like an Oscar speech. You include tons of thank yous and I love yous to a lot of your bitches. It’s going to be impossible to remember everyone, but try your best, really, because there’s no shittier feeling than being the one person everyone forgot. Trust me. Everyone forgets to thank their publicists at the Oscars, and they’re usually the people who accompany the actors and actresses to the awards show and make sure your projects get proper exposure. So if you forget them, you’re losing out on that lead guest slot on “Live With Kelly and Michael.” Whoops!
Don’t just thank your sisters, either. Thank your house mom, because she has one of the most thankless job in existence. It’s easy to overlook her, and you KNOW you need to apologize after throwing up in the cleaning supply closet sophomore year. Your sisters refused to give you up, but now’s the time to apologize. Thank your chef for making those delicious, gut-busting curly fries every week and making sure there are snacks in the kitchen for when you get the late-night munchies, or for staying late during finals week to make sure you guys had study fuel. Thank your pledge sisters, your big, your little, your little little, your little little little, whatever. Just do it up.
Bring It On Home
I think the one thing that a lot of people forget about when giving this speech is that it’s not just for you and your friends–it’s for the PNMs who are looking up to you and asking themselves if this is who they want to be at the beginning of the end of their college experience. What you are saying should really resonate with them and have an impact on them, even if they don’t join your house. Hell, your speech could show them that yours isn’t really the sorority for them, which is a very good thing. You don’t want someone joining your sorority who doesn’t want to be there or won’t have an amazing time.
That’s what it’s all about, finding the people you’ll want to be friends with for the rest of your life. It’s not about the fraternities you mix with or what letters you wear on your chest or what bars and clubs you frequent. It’s about finding the people who really will become your sisters, your second family. The girls who will be the bridesmaids at your wedding and who your kids will refer to as “Aunt Amanda” or “Aunt Deb” or “Aunt Brianna.” As cheesy as that sounds, this rag-tag group of fierce bitches will hopefully be your best friends for life. Don’t you want that for the future generation as well?
I guess the point of all of this is that even with all the preconceived notions about which sorority is the “top house” or who has the nicest chapter house or who parties with the hottest frat guys or who has the best tailgates, your job with this speech is to tell girls about your sorority and make sure it’s the right one for them by sharing anecdotes about your experience. Frankly, probably 75 percent of their minds are made up about where they want to go for one reason or another. Maybe more. I’m not saying that’s a good or bad thing, it’s just a fact.
But if your speech touches one person and inspires her to join your sorority, you’ve done the single most important thing that a person in the Greek system can do: replace yourself.
Best of luck, ladies.