The Last Speech

Your eulogy will be remembered long after the person is gone
Your eulogy will be remembered long after the person is gone
Image Credit: Kim Scarborough

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.

An Eulogy Is All About Stories

So what are you really being asked to do when you are asked to deliver a eulogy? The person who has died is now gone. The audience is generally made up of people who both knew the deceased and miss him or her. They would like you to bring them back to be with them, even if it is just for the span of your speech. What this means is that you can’t just tell them about how the person was, you need to make them show up.

In order to do this, you are going to have to tap into the power of stories. It’s by telling stories that we can get our audience to picture the person who has passed on and allow them to interact with them one last time. The stories that we tell should be familiar to our audience – but of course that’s what the deceased would do or that is how they would react in that situation.

Yes, You Can Use Humor In An Eulogy

Humor is a challenging topic for most speakers and when we are dealing with a eulogy it can be an even bigger issue. A lot of us ask ourselves if it is really appropriate to use humor in a eulogy. I mean, this is a sad time – someone who was loved by the members of the audience has passed on and they are in the middle of their grieving process. It sure does not seem like the time to go for a laugh.

What we tend to forget is that a eulogy is a really a celebration of a life. That life was filled with many different things and humor and funny things that happened to them was a part of it. No, you don’t want to make fun of or ridicule the dead, but it is certainly appropriate to bring up funny things that happened to them or that they caused to happen. This will break the mood and will help with everyone’s healing process.

Honesty Counts In An Eulogy

All too often we feel that we have to build up the person that we are talking about. Interestingly enough, this is not the right thing to do. Instead, we need to talk about them honestly – tell it like it was. What you need to keep in mind is that the people who make up your audience are the people who knew the deceased better than anyone else and so there will be no fooling them.

You goal should not be turn them into a saint. Everyone will see though this. Instead, what you need to do is to talk honestly about them, warts and all, and let everyone present know what this person meant to you. They were a part of your life and they had an impact on you. Tell the audience how this changed you and your honesty will be what connects you with them.

Always Do A Good Job Wrapping Things Up

Hopefully it goes without saying that how you end a eulogy is what really matters. You are going to want to end on a strong note. This would probably be a good time to acknowledge that the person is gone. However, the fact that they lived changed the world as we know it. Explain to the audience why it matters that this person lived and why it was a good thing that they were lucky enough to have had them in their lives.

What All Of This Means For You

Giving a speech is a difficult thing to do. Giving a speech to a group of people who are still reeling from the loss of a loved one can be even tougher. The words that we say during the eulogy that we give can go a long way in helping everyone to get over the loss that they have experienced and this is a big part of the benefits of public speaking. We need to get this eulogy thing right.

When we’re creating our eulogy, we need to remember that in order to make the deceased person become part of our speech, we need to tell stories about them. It’s ok to work some humor into your eulogy because that will serve to break the tension that so often accompanies a funeral. Always be honest in your eulogy. You need to remember that you’re talking to the people who know how this person was in real life. Finally, provide your audience with a very clear and strong ending.

No, delivering a good eulogy is never an easy thing to do. However, even more than in the other speeches that we normally give, we can do some real good with this speech. Take the time to create a eulogy that will stand the test of time. Both the departed and those of us who are still with you will appreciate all of your efforts.

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

Question For You: How long do you think that you should make your eulogy?

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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

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.