Speaking at a Funeral: Public Speaking Tips
One of the most memorable parts of a funeral or memorial service are the stories people tell about the deceased. Whether part of a formal eulogy, or an individual standing up to share a favorite memory, these are the things we carry in our hearts long after the service. The way the deceased touched people’s lives, how they made an impact in the world, what they meant on an emotional level…all of these things capture life in a way photos and basic prayers cannot.
Unfortunately, standing in front of a room of people and articulating your feelings is not always easy—especially if you have any sort of public speaking fears. If you want to speak at a funeral but are not sure you can get the words out, here are a few tips for making the most out of your moment in the spotlight.
- Practice First: While it is possible to stand up and share your story on the fly, you might not feel comfortable winging it in front of an audience. Practice what you want to say out loud (in front of a mirror, with a recording device, or in front of a friend). You will feel more confident after rehearsing a few times.
- Make it Personal: Most people in attendance at a funeral already know the facts: the deceased’s name, birthdate, hobbies, etc. They do not want a list of accolades or reminders of all he or she accomplished. What they want is a personal connection, a chance to feel how your life was changed for the better because of the deceased. Make the story as personal as you are comfortable with, and do not be afraid to show emotion.
- Crying is Okay: You might break down in the middle. You might start crying in front of hundreds of people. You might not even be able to finish. All of these are perfectly okay. No one is expecting perfection—just honesty.
- Write it Down: You should feel free to prepare your speech or thoughts ahead of time. If you are more comfortable with the written word than the spoken one, offer to write the obituary or tell your story on paper. You can then read it aloud or even ask someone else to do the honors for you.
- Avoid the Front of the Room: Most eulogies take place at the podium or front of the church, but there is no rule that says you have to get up front and give a formal speech. Many times, there will be a microphone passed around or a chance for people to stand where they are and share. If this is the case, you can avoid the all-eyes-on-you fear.
- Think Smaller: You do not have to give a speech in front of a crowd for your words to matter. If you cannot handle the thought of speaking in front of everyone, tell your story to a family member later. A intimate one-on-one conversation can often be just as healing in the end.