Giving a eulogy - last minute tips

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Post by 88Chris05 on Thu 12 Mar 2015, 10:00 am

Ayup everyone,

Just a small thing to ask. Unfortunately, I lost my dad last month and tomorrow is his funeral. I'll be giving a speech I've put together on behalf of me and my sister about him, our memories of him, what he's meant to us and how we'll honour his memory going forward. All told it'll be about 8 minutes in length, I think.

I'm really pleased with with the wording etc, and my sister has had a read and said it's beautiful, captures our old man perfectly etc, so that's one thing. But was just wondering if anyone had any experience of talking at funerals before and could pass on any tips? I think I'll be ok, but at the same time I do have a tendency to talk too fast and rush what I'm saying when I'm nervous or upset.

Anyone have any bits of advice on this re: how to keep cool, how to make sure I'm keeping my speech as relaxed as I can and free-flowing? Appreciate everyone's different to it's hard to give precise advise on this kind of thing, but just a few pointers from different experiences would be good if you have any please....If only just to reassure me that I'll get through it without making a monumental balls up!

Thanks everyone.
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Post by kingraf on Thu 12 Mar 2015, 10:11 am

Apologies for your loss Chris. Had to read a eulogy for my grandfather who passed four years ago (also had to read the Wreaths... which I will add went infinitely worse than eulogy). Suppose the key for me was I added a bit of humour. Nothing crude obviously, but it really helped me get through without collapsing into a heap. Otherwise I suppose be honest. As much with your emotions as with your words.

Best of luck mate
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Post by 88Chris05 on Thu 12 Mar 2015, 10:22 am

Cheers, raf.

Yep, there's definitely some of my dad's humour thrown in there, kind of spaced out. Makes sense what you said, I didn't think about it that way. I guess if I split it in to sections in my head, so can mentally build up to the parts which will (hopefully) draw a smile or laugh from me and everyone else, it might help keep the focus and make it a bit less daunting.

Thanks again.
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Post by Scottrf on Thu 12 Mar 2015, 10:31 am

Condolences mate.

I don't think anyone will worry if you have to pause to collect yourself. Don't stress yourself trying to be perfect.

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Post by Derbymanc on Thu 12 Mar 2015, 10:33 am

Sorry for your loss Chris, Practice it a bit to maybe get some of the raw emotion out but as Scott says, you won't be ruining anything by having to take a moment to compose yourself.

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Thu 12 Mar 2015, 10:39 am

88Chris05 wrote:Ayup everyone,

Just a small thing to ask. Unfortunately, I lost my dad last month and tomorrow is his funeral. I'll be giving a speech I've put together on behalf of me and my sister about him, our memories of him, what he's meant to us and how we'll honour his memory going forward. All told it'll be about 8 minutes in length, I think.

I'm really pleased with with the wording etc, and my sister has had a read and said it's beautiful, captures our old man perfectly etc, so that's one thing. But was just wondering if anyone had any experience of talking at funerals before and could pass on any tips? I think I'll be ok, but at the same time I do have a tendency to talk too fast and rush what I'm saying when I'm nervous or upset.

Anyone have any bits of advice on this re: how to keep cool, how to make sure I'm keeping my speech as relaxed as I can and free-flowing? Appreciate everyone's different to it's hard to give precise advise on this kind of thing, but just a few pointers from different experiences would be good if you have any please....If only just to reassure me that I'll get through it without making a monumental balls up!

Thanks everyone.

Sorry for your loss Chris..............

Remember that most of the gatherers are sympathetic and admire you for having the bollox to be doing it in the first place.........Think about your father and remember that your love for him is more important than any thoughts of potential embarrassment.....Once you've got past the opening few lines you'll just settle in and it'll feel like second nature..Really it will !!....

Don't think about the speech..... My advice is to not practice it too much...........

Get up there think about your dad and it'll flow Mate..........You'll soon forget anyone is watching...

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Post by 88Chris05 on Thu 12 Mar 2015, 11:20 am

Cheers Scott and Derby. For whatever reason, while I'm worried about stumbling with my words, rushing etc, I feel as if I'm not going to get over-emotional....Not sure why and I guess that could change on the day. But I think I'll be ok in that respect. I don't feel pressured to be perfect, just want to do a good job for my sister seeing as it's her thoughts I'm representing as well.

Truss, my original idea was to not script it at all (it's still not 'scripted' per se as some of it will be just off the cuff, but you get my just) and just get up there and speak whatever was in my head / heart at the time, but thought it best to at least have some bits drafted to take up with me in case.

Hopefully it'll come as easily as you think it will.

Cheers very much again, everyone.
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Post by Pal Joey on Thu 12 Mar 2015, 11:47 am

So sorry to hear about your loss, Chris.

In 2011 I wrote a eulogy for my father. It was basically chronological in structure. I had gathered some slides of him as a kid, young man, middle age man, etc... and they projected them on some biggish screens around the hall. I had a couple of his favourite songs as well. This was a very emotional and thoughtful touch as friends mentioned afterwards. It brought quite a few people to tears... I didn't realise it would have such a powerful affect!

I broke it into clear paragraphs; colour coded - as my brother spoke with me in tandem. A few paras each. One is pretty much in an emotional state when writing a eulogy so I honed the draft version a few times after having it reviewed by my family members.

You may want to say something which you feel must be said.. but for simplicity and to get a strong, concise message across... you may want to save some things to be said to people face-to-face immediately after when you are having morning tea or whatever. In other words - not so much "less is more" in a modern Art sense; but by saying less and leaving the listener to "fill in the gaps in their own minds" you can perhaps mention a well known fact about your father (without going into any extravagant detail) and the folks will know exactly what you mean... having known him in their own particular way.

Although I practiced reading it aloud a few times, on the day things went pretty well... except for one sad bit where, try as I might, might voice just "choked off". Made worse I think when I saw a family friend in the audience streaming with tears. It just hit me there and then. It was like someone had pressed the mute switch on me and my voice just wouldn't work.

Luckily for me, however, my brother chimed in almost seamlessly and picked up the thread. I was near the end of one of my sections anyway. I was then OK for the rest of my delivery.

If you can; practice speaking from your diaphragm (guts) and not through your voice box only. I think what happened with me is that the voice tends to slightly go up when talking in an emotional state. So like an opera singer does... start low (and slow) with your voice. Then if you get a little emotional you will have some room to spare in your diaphragm if it starts to go up towards your throat area.

Practice the pause between points (count to 3-5 in your head), have a glass of water and take a small sip (even if you don't have to... just to control the delivery) and pick a point 3/4 of the way down the room (to focus your eyes on) and start middle, then turn whole head a bit to left or a bit to right on occasion (at end of a particular point is perfect) just in case you don't do what I did and get a bit of stage shock from a grieving audience member.

Remember: stand tall, shoulders back... don't lean on the lectern too much... just lightly use it as a "balance".
Use your free hands only a little. Don't wave them around too much if possible.

You know how you see those funeral/eulogy scenes hundreds of times in movies? Well, I felt as though I had given a less formal talk than that.
People said afterwards it was the best "eulogy" they had ever heard. Very natural, some interesting facts, a joke or two, respectful, loving and basically covering the main aspects of his life.

A good thing to do at the end is to tie it all together with a general sounding but very personal remark acknowledging what a wonderful father and person he was - and how others also respected his "fine wisdom", "interesting conversation", "care for others", "sense of humour", etc. Pick about 3 small descriptive phrases and just say them one after the other. No need to elaborate since you are winding it up and most likely have said similar points (with a little more detail) before your "closing summary".

My cousin also had a word to say towards the end. So the speech sort of led to her introduction. It was quite a good device to use. Gave us a small breather, changed the tone a little (for the audience) by letting my cousin recount a funny little anecdote. Then at the end of her contribution... she sort of lead back to the set up for the closing paragraph of my eulogy.

Then remember to thank everyone for coming today and offer them to '"please join us for some coffee or tea and cake in such and such a room/place..."

Wishing you and your family all the best, mate.
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Post by 88Chris05 on Thu 12 Mar 2015, 12:35 pm

Thanks for taking the time to write such an in-depth answer, Loaded Dog. Appreciate it.

Sounds as if your piece had a fairly similar feel to the one I'll hopefully be creating tomorrow. I've heard those 'technical' tips about speaking before but completely forgotten them until I saw them in your post, so thanks a lot, will keep them in mind.
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Post by Pal Joey on Thu 12 Mar 2015, 12:44 pm

My pleasure, Chris.

Yes, those technical tips should come in handy.

Once you get over the first hurdle (opening lines) you should ease into the main part at your own pace.

If you get some emotional thought in your mind during the delivery... just picture your father's calmness, wisdom, etc and realise how these same qualities are also within you. (it's tough to do but it can be used in a positive way)

It should have a strengthening affect and empower you more as you get towards the end of your speech. Ironically, there is a sort of adrenaline experience when we are faced with such a situation... and that is a natural thing.
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Post by trottb on Thu 12 Mar 2015, 1:42 pm

Sorry to hear of your loss Chris. Like others have said, things lie this don't have to be perfect. I pretty much agree with everything LD has written above and, as simple as it sounds, if you do find yourself getting flustered try taking a few deep breaths.

I hope that it all goes as well as these things can go.

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Post by Dolphin Ziggler on Thu 12 Mar 2015, 2:34 pm

My condolences pal.

I delivered a eulogy at my Grandma's funeral and I think it made the day a bit easier because I had that as a slight focus. I am one to speak to fast and I don't do well talking in front of groups, but just remember that the people there are all in your corner on this, theres no judgement, so don't worry too much about your delivery. They will understand the emotion and the heart more than the words. No one will mind if you have to pause and no one expects a flawless delivery.

I'd say let your emotions do as they please, this is the right place for it and it isn't really about the people you're talking to anyway. Best of luck and I hope everything goes as well as they can at a funeral

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Thu 12 Mar 2015, 4:39 pm

To calm the nerves...You could start by giving your lowdown on the Mayweather - Manny fight Mate !! thumbsup

Remember it's just two minutes of your life mate..........

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Post by ONETWOFOREVER on Sat 14 Mar 2015, 2:17 pm

Speak from the heart

Brave thing to open up completely in front of people. I know I could'nt do it.

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Post by 88Chris05 on Sun 15 Mar 2015, 11:10 am

Just to let everyone know, it went well and I managed to hold it all together a bit better than I expected. Think the old man got a good sending off and it's nice to know I contributed a little to that. Words of advice from everyone came in handy so just wanted to say thanks very much to everyone again. Appreciate it.
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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Sun 15 Mar 2015, 12:15 pm

Well done Mate..

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Post by Dolphin Ziggler on Sun 15 Mar 2015, 3:52 pm

Glad to hear OK

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Post by Pal Joey on Sun 15 Mar 2015, 9:33 pm

So glad it went well for you, Chris.
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