The Hardest Speech To Give

by drjim on January 12, 2016

A eulogy is both difficult and important

A eulogy is both difficult and important
Image Credit: manhhai

It’s All About The Beginning

When you sit down to create an eulogy, it can be a real challenge to try to figure out where to start. The person who passed on, hopefully, lived a full life. You only have a short period of time in which to say some words about them that may bring some comfort to their family and friends. Where should you start?

I would argue that you might be missing the point here. It’s not so much about where you should start, but rather what you should start with. At a funeral, you’ve sorta got the double whammy of speaking: your audience does not know who you are and they didn’t come here to hear you speak. Great, now what is a speaker supposed to do? What you are going to have to do is to find a way to cut through all of the thoughts that may be running through the minds of the people in the audience and get them to pay attention to you.

Clearly this is a time that calls for you to craft a very strong opening for your eulogy. You are going to want to say something that will cut through the clutter and grab your audience’s attention and hold on to it. As a speaker you have an advantage here. You know what your audience is expecting you to say. Something along the lines of “So-and-so was a good person and we’re all going to miss them.” Don’t do this. Instead grab your audience’s attention by telling them what you would do with or to the person if they were still here…

Eulogies Are Personal

One of the big problems with eulogies is that nobody really wants to do them. What this means is that when someone gets asked to deliver an eulogy, generally they wait until the last minute and then they end up just throwing something together. The problem with this approach is that it often looks like they just threw something together!

What you are going to want to do is to take a different approach. Instead of waiting until the last minute to create your speech, make sure that you get working on it right of the bat when you are asked to give it. What you are going to need to understand is that your speech can’t be all about you. Instead, you’ve got some homework to do. You are going to need to get in touch with other people who knew the deceased and get their stories about what made this person special.

In the end, what you are going to want to do is to make your eulogy very personal. Yes, your audience knew this person, but they didn’t know them like you knew them. This speech is your last chance to tell the world what a great person you knew. Don’t waste your time telling them things that they already know – he or she had a family, they went to school somewhere, they had a job, they joined clubs, etc. Instead, tell them about times that you two spent together and memories that you have about things that you did. Your goal should be to allow them to picture the deceased doing great things one last time.

What All Of This Means For You

When we are asked to give a eulogy it is because someone has died. They really won’t care what we say – they are dead. However, our audience is grieving and the words that we share with them will either comfort them or upset them. This is one of the benefits of public speaking. We’d like to do the former, not the latter.

In order to deliver an eulogy that accomplishes your goal of showing respect for the dead person, you need to make sure that your eulogy starts with a bang – you’ll want to capture the audience’s attention and never let go. While you give your eulogy you’ll want to take the time to make it personal. Share stories and insights that the audience may not know about the deceased.

No, giving an eulogy is not an easy thing to do. However, it is an important part of the overall grieving process both for you and for the audience. Understanding what it takes to create and deliver a great eulogy is well worth the effort. No the dead person is not going to hear your speech, but everyone else will. Do a good job and give the recently dead the sendoff that they so richly deserve!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: How long do you think that an eulogy should be?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we are asked to give a eulogy for someone who has recently died, for most of us our heart sinks. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of death and so being placed in a position where I have to give a speech to an emotionally upset audience is not something that I seek out. However, it turns out that in terms of the importance of public speaking, eulogies are important to those who the deceased have left behind. A good eulogy can be a critical part of the healing process. That is, if you do the eulogy correctly.

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