By Heather Noble
One of the most common questions I am asked about Public Speaking is ‘Do you have any tips on how I can hold things together when delivering a eulogy at a funeral?’
Being asked to speak at a funeral is not only a great honour but is often the very last thing we are able to do for a loved one and it is that which makes us so very desperate to say and do the right thing and that leads to a fear of not being able to keep our emotions in check.
Fear of breaking down in tears in a genuine concern for so many as they feel that in doing so they have somehow ‘messed up’. I’d like to share with 5 key things to remember when taking to the lectern at a funeral which will not only help you to ‘do things right’ but will leave you feeling emotionally rewarded and connected with the person you have lost.
- Check in advance with the vicar, priest or civil celebrant as to how long you have available to speak. Perhaps share with them what you plan to say, if only to avoid any duplication with what they plan to cover in their tribute. They aren’t going to ask you to change your reading but more likely will amend theirs accordingly.
- Allow yourself time to write, reflect and become familiar with what you are planning to say. If you are reading a poem or piece of prose written by another person, give yourself time to practice reading it aloud. Things sound very different when we read them inside our head so taking time to notice the pauses, variations in pace and punctuation are all very important.
- Focus on the person in question and what they meant to you. This way your sincerity and appreciation of them will shine through. Of course you can make reference to what they meant to others but the essence of what you say should be a reflection of how they made you feel. What they leave you with in terms of knowledge and memories and the spiritual part of them that you will carry with you in the future.
- This is one of the very few occasions where I would recommend you read your words verbatim from notes but do make sure you are familiar with the text. Print it out in large font instead of using a book and certainly not hand writing. Allowing yourself time to pause, breathe and give eye contact to the congregation will also need to be factored into the reading. Keep the pace slow (the slower the better) and keep your back straight and chin raised to help with the projection of your voice.
- And finally, remember, it is absolutely acceptable to get emotional when delivering a eulogy for someone who has touched your life. Don’t try to stifle the emotion because it is this that will make the reading beautiful and sincere.
Following these few key rules will, I promise, help you to keep your emotions and nerves sufficiently in check to deliver a fitting tribute to a special person.
Feel free to share your comments, experiences and thoughts for the benefit of other readers.
Bye for now.