Start by writing everything you would like to say. You can edit later. Make it conversational, as if you are speaking to someone over a cup of coffee. Is your Eulogy an overview of the person’s life? Or is it memories and stories? Or is it a hybrid of the two types?
Some questions to ask yourself:
- What did I learn from my Brother?
- What values did my Mom have that are in me and being carried forward to my children?
- Is there a funny moment that captures a personality trait?
- Whenever I hear the phrase _____, it will remind me of my Dad.
- What did my Friend do better than anybody else?
Add some humor as you are writing. If it makes you chuckle or smile, it is sure to make others do the same.
Practice, Practice, Practice
After you have written everything down, exactly like you are going to say it. Practice reading it out loud. As you do that, you may edit, add or delete things. You will also get the cries out. Practice reading it again, maybe in front of a mirror this time. Practice again in front of your kids or pets.
Bullet points on note cards don’t work well for Funeral Speeches. You’ll ramble, forget things and get off topic. No matter how many times you’ve talked in front of a group at work, this is different.
Speak in a louder voice than you normally would. Speak a little bit slower and enunciate clearly. Use the microphone, even if you think you have a loud voice. There are those in the back of the room or some that may be hard of hearing that won’t be able to hear you. If the service is being livestreamed or recorded, it’s especially important to use the microphone. After you’ve spent all that time writing and practicing you want your words to be heard.
Keep it brief. If your speech is too long, choose 2 or 3 highlights and cut the rest. You’ll have the opportunity to share those stories and memories at the Reception where it’s more casual and relaxed. Some of the most memorable speeches were delivered in 2 minutes or less. The Gettysburg Address by President Abraham Lincoln, Farewell to Baseball Address by Lou Gehrig and the Inspirational Speech by Steve Jobs just to name a few.
If the Officiant does not introduce you, begin with your name and relationship to the deceased. Begin and end with Gratitude. Thank you for this opportunity to speak about my Friend Justin, who was like a Brother to me. OR thank you to my sister’s co-workers for being here today. She spoke of you often and you were her 2nd family. I know you miss her too.
At the end of your Eulogy, thank the departed. Thank you, Ben, for teaching me how to fish and the best places to catch trout. Emily, I know I speak for everyone here and we want to thank you for teaching us all how to make the perfect Margarita!
When you get choked up or overcome with emotion, stop and take some deep breaths. This resets your nervous system. No need to apologize, you are human and speaking from your heart.
If you are not comfortable at the podium by yourself, consider having 1 or 2 others speak with you. Each of you have practiced and rehearsed so it becomes more like a casual conversation than a Funeral Speech. This works really well if you are worried about getting nervous or too emotional.
You’ll know you’ve given a dynamite Eulogy if someone asks you for a copy of it. Another reason to have it in writing.
For additional insights visit my Blog Post here about Speakers at a Celebration of Life.
- Anita Larson is a Ceremony Leader and Officiant who blogs about her experiences with Celebrations of Life. Providing uncommon ideas and encouraging her readers to “Think Outside the Coffin®” when planning a Fabulous Farewell.