With years of background in public speaking and being a presentation coach, I have ample experience writing concise speeches that convey all the sentiments efficiently. Of course, writing is always a moving experience. Emotional certitude lies at the core of most good writing, whether you are creating a business presentation, outlining a new chapter in your novel or drafting a funeral speech that celebrates the life of a departed loved one.
The following article discusses a step-by-step process of how you can write a funeral speech, from choosing the tone to the final goodbye. This will help you comprehend the eulogy’s theme, its significance and how you will portray your work to the family and friends of the departed loved one.
What Exactly is a Funeral Speech? Also known as eulogies, they showcase the person’s achievements and character. Although funeral speeches are delivered in the context of one’s demise and burial, their tone doesn’t necessarily have to be solemn. It’s an essential feature in the funeral service, often the main event.
While one part of you may be honoured when requested to give a eulogy, another may be anxious or overwhelmed with how to perform the task in this heart-wrenching time. The concern first takes form when you think of what you’ll write. There is so much we would want to say, but trying to squeeze a whole life into a few-minute speech may seem almost disrespectful. Following are seven steps to writing a good funeral speech.
How to Write a Funeral speech- The 8 Essential Steps
Step 1: Design A Rough Form As with any piece of writing, a funeral speech generally has a characteristic form to it. The audience has common beliefs and expectations about specific aspects of the piece, such as its length and format.
A suitable eulogy length should be between 700 to 1000 words, which translates to a six to eight-minute speech of no more than ten minutes. Eventually, it’s all up to you, but this is a good tip to ensure the audience stays engaged. You can also ask for advice from the person conducting or managing the funeral service.
Try making a rough list of components you wish to include. It is very similar to making a mind map when you are working on a report. Apart from introducing yourself, write down any visions that come to mind about the departed one, whatever they ensue to be. After brainstorming for a while, take a step back and look at what you can work with. Skim for defining things that can paint an image in the audience’s mind and pick out the stories that symbolise the deceased’s personality.
In this step, you don’t want to edit anything out. A little view may lead to a great one, so just open up, give yourself free rein, and let all your thoughts flow onto your paper.
Step 2: Determine What Tone And Theme You Want To Start With Depending on the individual, some eulogies are mirthful, some are joyous and celebratory, while others are pensive yet reassuring. Ask yourself, do you want your speech to be earnest, spiritual, or even a little amusing?
To help you choose, regard your audience and the individual who has passed. For example, the funeral speech for a young child may be very dissimilar to that of a more senior individual who has perished away under entirely different events.
For someone who met with an untimely death, it would be more appropriate for the tone to be serious, while it can be humorous for one who lived a long and joyful life.
Use your regular idiomatic phrasing and tone, and evade fancy or foreign language. Do not feel forced to turn your tribute into a poem. However, you can definitely include something the deceased loved saying or something that resonates with the audience. What is integral is voicing your thoughts. Whatever your theme for the funeral speech, think of it as a bold statement you have set out to prove in the body of your tribute.
Step 3: Work On The Opening And Introduce Yourself The next step is when you start with the actual writing. Some people in the audience will have highly personal knowledge of the departed one, while others may be more distant acquaintances.
Unless another individual is introducing you, be sure to include who you are and what your relationship is with the deceased at the very start of your speech. Take care to keep your introductions brief.
Next, thank the funeral guests for coming to the service. Though not necessary, you may even make a particular mention about anybody who journeyed from far away. Closely related to step 2, start out your commendation with a statement of your theme after introducing yourself. A well-liked quote or reading, preferably something that the departed one favoured, that represents your theme, or a story that does the same would be an ideal choice.
Step 4: Provide a Biographical Outline Give the audience a brief but biographical summary of the departed’s life. You can include their date and place of birth, family members and friends that the deceased was incredibly close to, and any particular recollections of their upbringing, educational qualifications, marriage, meaningful family events, and other exciting facts.
Though you must make sure you do not go overboard with the details. Here’s an example of how you can bring all these little fragments in one short paragraph, under 100 words.
“Alice was born in Queenstown, New Zealand, on March 27, 1992. She was the oldest of three children. Her younger sisters, Janice and Hannah, travelled all the way from New Zealand to be with us here today. Their parents, Mike and Sara, moved to New Zealand in 1989 when Mike expanded his pharmaceutical company. Alice was happily married to Greyson for 12 years. They were exhilarated to welcome twin boys Sam and Reeve five years ago. Alice’s death has left a tremendous gap in all of their lives, and they all miss her very much.”
Step 5: Include A Few Of The Most Unforgettable Memories This is the stage where you can get into a little more detail than in the biographical sketch. Take a look at your previous rough draft and trace out all your favoured recollections of your passed loved one.
We, as humans, love the idea of storytelling as it brings our vision to life, and for a few moments, we can be somewhere else, imagining what the life of our loved one who has departed was all about. All we want is for someone to have it make sense to us. A few good stories can aid in bringing colour and energy to your funeral speech.
These tales and memories will account for the majority of your speech. You can write about the qualities that best describe your loved one, how they met their better half, any fun they may have had, their ambitions, comradeship, and triumphs in life. Add in exclusive nicknames that help build a heart-warming atmosphere.
It is alright if you do not have any appropriate stories of your own. You can collect any stories about the deceased one from their family and mates. Anyone who built unforgettable memories with your loved one would, without a doubt, love it if you expressed their stories in the eulogy.
Step 6: Organise Your Material The next step involves putting everything together and setting the proper order of your writing. This is perhaps the most challenging part of writing a quality funeral speech for many people. To keep it dear to the heart yet straightforward, you can put the stories you’ve penned down in chronological order, making it easier for your audience to follow. If you have a lot of good stories and memories you want to include but are not sure what to do, the best way to cap it down is to select a common theme. (Note how we keep going back to the “theme”).
For example, your chosen theme focuses more on the deceased individual’s kindness. You can now pick one story of kindness that is humorous, one that may be sympathetic or even something that holds melancholy, and one that is either popular by everyone or entirely unknown.
Remember, punctuation marks such as periods and commas signal the reader to pause and to take a breath. And trust me, breathing is paramount, mainly when there is a chance you might be crying or fighting back the tears while delivering the speech.
Step 7: Add In Some Gratitude You are now nearing the end of your speech. It will be the most suitable time to show your appreciation and gratitude for everyone who came to the funeral, which is always a lovely gesture.
Without going into long preludes, thank everyone who has contributed and offered support throughout the days leading up to the funeral. You can also express your gratitude for the church, funeral home, hospice centre, etc. Welcome and include all who have taken care of your family and loved ones during this difficult time.
Think twice before writing about anything that may be improper, especially for a diverse audience, or might be overly sensitive to debate on publicly. Run your final draft by someone you trust to be sure you have mentioned everyone to avoid causing unnecessary problems.
Step 8: The Final Goodbye And Closing Your Speech The final goodbye will signal the end of your funeral speech. It may be the most moving point of your eulogy, so it will help you prepare by practising speaking it out loud.
You can mention one or few lessons that the departed loved one taught you and how they and their teachings influenced your life. Here is a short example;
“Alice taught me to work hard, be considerate to others, and never take life too seriously. Her spirit, quirky wit, selflessness and empathy for others will forever continue to uplift those who had the honour of knowing her.”
Close your speech with a final goodbye to the deceased. You can do that by passing your comments to the audience or directly to the departed one. Candidly delivering your message will make for a remarkable speech. It would be best to end it with a simple “Thank you.”
Keep everything short- a funeral speech should be 1000 words at most. It should be touching and concisely summarise the individual’s life. Less is always more.
The funeral speech is not an affair to ‘get even’ or disclose family secrets. Be authentic while focusing on the positives. Highlight the departed one’s strengths and achievements, not their faults.
Don’t just rely on a few notes unless you have ample experience with public speaking. Note out every word you want to express. It’s best to find good funeral speech outlines that give you a basic premise of what to include.
The order of your speech could be; Introduction, Body (Stories, memories, poems), the reiteration of the theme to the body (how the theme relates to the departed), and Final goodbye.
Practising is crucial. You’ll absolutely be tempted to skim the speech. Rehearse speaking in a slow, transparent voice, and pronounce your words correctly. Take long and deep breaths before starting. You can do this!
Whatever you do, there’s one thing you must never forget. Given the privilege to write a funeral speech is an honour and a gift twice over. It conveys your value in the life of the departed loved one and the lives of family and friends.
Being asked to write and speak shows faith and regard. You are entrusted to encapsulate someone’s whole life befittingly and deliver the unique nature of the individual everyone adored publicly.
When delivering your speech, ensure you have a copy of your funeral speech written out in large letters or typed in a bigger font so that you can read it easily. Remember, it is alright to allow yourself to cry.
I sincerely hope these steps are of usefulness to you. All the best.
Mark Westbrook – Public Speaking Coach