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7 Tips On Preparing and Giving a Eulogy

The word “eulogy” literally means, “good words.” Often the eulogy is left to a minister or celebrant who did not ever know the deceased. True eulogies come from the heart of the people that were in relationship with the deceased. It may not be easy to present a eulogy for someone you loved, but it can be rewarding for you to give it, and for those who hear the heart in your words.

Here are some helpful tips for preparing a eulogy:

1. Decide on the tone. How serious or lighthearted do you want the eulogy to be? A good eulogy need not be uniformly somber, just appropriate: honest and sensitive. Some eulogy-writers take a serious approach, others are able to bring some humor in their eulogy. Used cautiously, humor can help convey the personality of the deceased and illustrate some of his/her endearing qualities. The best advice is to use personal anecdotes and memories you have of the deceased.

2. Consider the audience. Write the eulogy with the deceased's family and loved ones in mind. Dwell on the positive, but be honest. If the person was difficult or inordinately negative, avoid talking about that or allude to it gently, as in "He had his demons, which were a constant battle." Sometimes an anecdote that incorporates a particular behavior or attribute of the deceased will resonate with it, and sometimes find some unexpected humor in it.

3. Be Specific. Avoid reciting a list of qualities. Instead, mention a quality and then illustrate it with a story. It is the stories that bring the person--and that quality--to life. The idea that a eulogy is just a recital of facts about the deceased is outmoded. By using stories, you may not be able to say everything, but illustrating one or two qualities in a way that people relate to is far more powerful than saying everything.

4. Be concise and well-organized. Outline the eulogy before you start writing. Brainstorm all the possible areas (personality traits, interests, biographical info) to talk about and write them down. When you're ready to write, cover each area in a logical order. Give the eulogy a beginning, middle, and end. The advantages of doing this are: a) you avoid rambling and taking more time than necessary, b) you are able to keep it interesting and to the point c) you feel more confident than if you're just winging it.

5. Rehearse. Read the draft of your eulogy aloud. If you have time and the inclination, read it to someone as practice. Words sound differently when read aloud than on paper. If you have inserted humor, get feedback from someone about its appropriateness and effectiveness. Remember, writing is 90% rewriting, so expect to revise your work several times before it shines.

6. Relax. Before you speak, calm yourself by realizing everyone in attendance is there to support you. It may help to have a glass of water with you on the podium to help you maintain your composure. Just know that everyone will appreciate your efforts and admire you for having written and given a eulogy. You can't fail.

7. Use a conversational tone. Talk or read your eulogy to the audience as if you are talking to friends. Make eye contact. Pause. Go slowly if you want. Connect with your audience and share the moment with them; after all, you're not an entertainer, you're one of them. If you mention someone that is in the audience, acknowledge their presence.

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