- A eulogy is a brief but heartfelt speech given at a memorial service, funeral or celebration of life.
- Being asked to deliver a eulogy is a great honor, usually reserved for a close friend, or family member.
- It is important that the person giving the speech knew the deceased well.
- Eulogies are best given as factual, honest and respectful accounts of the deceased.
- Humor is often incorporated to keep things light, as long as it is relevant and tasteful.
Deciding on the direction
As a eulogist it is your responsibility to bring the memory of the deceased back into the minds of those in attendance through painting a picture through stories. First consider your audience and the situation surrounding the death. This step is very important in deciding whether the eulogy will be delivered in a serious or lighthearted tone. Adding humor can help convey the deceased personality when used appropriately.
Research and brainstorm
By gathering information and stories from co-workers, friends and family members as well as recalling some of your own, you will begin to see stories and themes begin to form. It is best to avoid listing personal qualities, rather find a few qualities that stand out and support them with a story. If you choose to incorporate humor, again make sure that it is positive. Humor, when used correctly, can lighten the mood for everyone, as well as show one of our greatest personality traits.
As you begin to collect your stories and thoughts you may find that jotting them down on note cards or as bullet points on your computer to be very helpful. Consider the order that the events or stories may have happened. Avoid jumping back and forth in time and place, it may be confusing. Having a beginning, middle and end will be easier for people to follow.
When you begin to draft the eulogy, use language that you would use when speaking rather than how you would write a paper. Avoid rambling or speaking down to those in attendance, and avoid using all the large words you know, today is not the day to show people how smart you are.
Review & revise
Writing is usually a few step process. Your first draft is usually not going to be your last. Remember, writing is 90% rewriting. This is the time to cut out any items that are confusing and maybe not appropriate for the setting.
Practice reading the eulogy aloud several times. Words tend to sound differently when they are being spoken than they do in your mind. Having someone to read to is also a good idea. It helps to have another person who can give feedback on the appropriateness and effectiveness. If you have added humor this is the best time to see how well it is perceived by others. You may have to revise more at this point.
Before you speak, calm yourself. Take a few large breaths. Relax in knowing that no matter how it goes, you are doing something many are not strong enough to do at this time, and that your efforts are appreciated.
A eulogy is a difficult speech to deliver. Have a copy printed for yourself whether you plan to memorize it or read it. This way if you do loose your train of thought you can easily find your way back. Try to remember to breathe, speak slowly, use pauses and make eye contact, and most of all remember to connect with your audience and share in the moment with them.
- Wear loose, comfortable and breathable clothing.
- Have a glass of water at the podium.
- Remember it is ok to show emotion.
- Have a back-up person in case on the day you are too emotional and not available to read it.