To help you write – and deliver – a great eulogy, here is an outline of the six steps which have been shown again and again to work well. These eulogy help steps were developed during my years of writing, delivering and advising on over 100 eulogies in my role as a professional Funeral Presider (fulfilling the role traditionally taken by the priest).
Step 1 – A Moment for Yourself
At a time of sadness and loss, things often seem harder than they would at other times. And as well as the emotional side, there are also many practical things to deal with. And yet, writing a eulogy is far simpler than many people at first think.
To make this easier, before you start writing, it will help you to remember something important. Which is that when you deliver the eulogy you will have an extremely sympathetic audience, a group of people who want you to do really well and are 100% behind you. They will appreciate that by giving this speech you are helping them to remember the person who’s gone, and many of them will thank you afterwards, that’s for sure.
Another really useful thing to do is to set aside some time for yourself, without distractions, and spend a while connecting with your memories of that special person.
Step 2 – What Kind of Eulogy?
There are two kinds of eulogy – the short biography, and the personal view. You simply need to choose one kind.
In a nutshell, the short biography is where you talk about someone’s life as a whole. One benefit of this approach is that it acknowledges the many different aspects of someone’s life, and it can also be very personal, especially when you include true stories and memories. There is only room for one such eulogy at a funeral.
The personal view is more a series of snapshots of the person’s character. It can be purely your own experiences, or can include other people’s memories too. This can be very immediate and personal, especially if you decide to write it as if you are talking to the person who has gone. There could be a one or more such eulogies at a funeral.
Step 3 – Collect Your Building Blocks
What if you could imagine floating up in a balloon, and looking down on someone’s life as a series of photographs and video clips laid out below you? Your next step is simply to collect those photos and clips, those ‘building blocks’ of your eulogy speech. You can do this purely from your own memory, or by talking to others as well.
Step 4 – Bring Them Together
Every eulogy has an opening, a middle and a closing.
For the opening you can thank people for coming, perhaps say how the person who has died would have felt about them all being there, etc. For the closing, say how much the person will be missed, if appropriate thank people who were involved in looking after them, and maybe invite people back to any gathering that is happening. For the middle, you simply put your building blocks in sequence, usually in the order they happened in real life, and link them together.
Step 5 – Rehearse and Refine
This is a very helpful step. You can read the eulogy through in your mind, or say it out loud. As you do so you will hear where you want to make improvements.
And once you have made changes and refined the eulogy a couple of times, it’s absolutely crucial that you rehearse the delivery of the eulogy. This will make a huge difference to you, because a great speech, poorly delivered, is NOT a great speech.
The very best, most effective way of rehearsing is called ‘mental rehearsal’, which involves running through the speech in your mind’s eye, as if it were the real thing, happening now, and having it go very well. This is the approach used by athletes when they run a race, or play a game inside their minds before the actual event.
Step 6 – Delivering the Eulogy
This is actually the shortest of the six steps, because it will only last a few minutes. And when you have followed the other five steps, this one is relatively straightforward. Helpful tips include having tissues with you, taking a small bottle of water up with you, and taking two copies of the eulogy just in case.
And afterwards, please enjoy knowing that you have honoured the departed, and made a difference to everyone who heard your speech – you have helped their healing process, and your own too.
You can get more information and writing eulogy help on each of these steps, plus example eulogies, poems, quotations and public speaking tips, in my short, to-the-point guide How to Write and Deliver a Great Eulogy in 6 Simple Steps. It comes with a 100% money-back satisfaction guarantee. Click here to learn more about the Eulogy Writing Guide.
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Updated: June 20, 2013