Mastering The Eulogy

A eulogy is a gift both to yourself, and to others
A eulogy is a gift both to yourself, and to others
Image Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

Man, if there is one type of speech that I don’t look forward to, it’s a eulogy. I mean, what an incredibly sad time – someone has just died. Since I’m going to be at the funeral you know that I knew them and so I’m going to be very sad. Now you want me to stand up in front of everyone else who is sad and try to give a speech? That sure seems like it might be asking just a bit too much. However, those other sad people need some comfort in their time of loss. Perhaps my speech can provide them with just part of what they need. Dang it, I guess that I need to do this.

Plan Out Your Eulogy

When you are asked to deliver a difficult speech like a eulogy, the one thing that you really don’t want to do is to try to wing it. You are going to have to take the time to make sure that you fully understand the environment in which you’ll be speaking. This is going to include such things a the manner in which person died, how the audience felt about him or her, and what they think of you. All of these things will play a role in how you shape your speech.

One of the key aspects of your speech will have to do with how you choose to organize it. This is going to require that you make a series of decisions. The first of these will be to determine the purpose of your eulogy – why are you giving it? In order to achieve your purpose, you are going to have to very carefully choose the tone of your eulogy. The tone can range from being light to being solemn or anywhere in between.

There are a number of different ways to organize a eulogy. One of the best ways is to pick one period of the person’s life where a lot was accomplished. Use this period to find a focus for your eulogy and tell stories about how important this time was to them. You’ll need to keep in mind that what is going to make your eulogy effective is for you to be perceived by your audience as being sincere. What will contribute to this is when you pace your eulogy correctly and make it just long enough to clearly communicate your main points.

It’s All About Content, Not Delivery

The good news for you is that one of the things that makes a eulogy so different from the other speeches that you are called on to give is that what is going to matter the most is going to be the content of your speech, not so much how you deliver it. Your audience expects you to be upset by the death and so they will be very understanding if you have any difficulties standing up before them and speaking.

The purpose of your eulogy is going to be to provide an evocative remembrance of the person who has passed on – you want to bring them back to life for the short time that you are giving your speech. What you are going to want to talk about is what characteristics of the person will be most missed by the audience. Was it their kindness? Was it their sense of humor? What you are not going to want to do is to list out a chronology of their life – everyone present already knows that.

The good news with this kind of difficult speech is that the audience is not there to judge you. Rather, you are there to help them with the healing process. You are going to want to keep your eulogy short and to the point. You want to make your points, but you do not want to come across as being trite. What you are going to have to do while delivering this speech is simply be yourself. This is what your audience both wants and expects from you.

What All Of This Means For You

There are a lot of speeches that are tough to give. However, a eulogy just might be one of the hardest. The reason is that you are feeling sad and your audience is feeling sad. All of the traditional ways that we use to get our audience to rally behind us just won’t work in this unique environment.

You don’t just stand up and come up with a good eulogy on the spot. Instead, you need to take time and plan out what you want to say. You need to decide what the purpose of your speech is going to be. Next you need to pick a tone. When you deliver the speech you’ll need to be sincere – this is how you’ll connect with your audience. Don’t list out the deceased life, instead pick out specific events and provide color as you relate them to your audience. Don’t worry about how you give your speech. The audience won’t be judging you, they just want to hear your great content.

Let’s face it, the person who has died will never hear your speech. However, everyone who was a part of their life will probably be at the funeral and they will hear what you have to say. During your eulogy you have a chance to once again bring the deceased back to life even if it is only for a short time. Take your time and craft a good speech so that you can allow your words to help with the healing process.

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

Question For You: How long do you think a well done 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 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

So there I was last week working with one of my speaking clients. He had just gotten done giving a speech and he had hurried back to me to get some feedback on how he had done. I told him quite truthfully that he had done a very good job. But. It was that “but” that caught his attention. There had been something that was just a little bit off that had caught my attention during his speech. I racked my brain trying to determine what it was. All of sudden I had it, he had spoken like a robot!

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