top of page
  • testerandjones

Delivering a eulogy

Glossophobia - or a fear of public speaking - is a very common phobia and one that is believed to affect up to 75% of the population. Many of us will try to avoid public speaking situations at all costs or, thrown into a situation where it can’t be avoided, may experience fear or, at the very least, a surge of adrenaline.

While we might find ourselves facing up to the challenge of speaking at a wedding or perhaps in a work-related situation, at some point we could find that we are given an opportunity to – or feel we should – speak at a funeral.

It’s no surprise then that being asked to speak at a funeral, or making the decision to give a eulogy, can seem like a huge responsibility. However, in many ways, it is also an honour.

While the majority of our funerals are led by a minister or celebrant, over the years we have seen more family members taking part in a service by reading a poem or delivering a eulogy. Even if somebody is usually not used to public speaking, they often feel that it’s something they should do. Somebody we spoke to recently wrote and read the eulogy at their brother’s funeral and said it was their last chance to do ‘something for him’.

There is no obligation to speak at a funeral and, if it’s a close family member, then whoever is conducting the service for you – whether that’s a church minister or a celebrant - will be more than happy to sit with you in the days leading up to funeral and learn about that special person. They will then craft some words for you, based on your memories, which they can deliver. Alternatively, you could write some words and the celebrant or a friend/family member could read them out – making clear they are your words.

Some of our families nominate a ‘stand in’ who is ready in the wings. So, if you simply feel you can’t speak on the day, they are ready to read your words for you or even take over part-way, if you feel overwhelmed. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel you can’t speak on the day when you fully intended too. Everyone will understand.

The word eulogy comes from two Classical Greek words: eu, meaning ‘well’ or ‘true’ and logia, ‘words’ or ‘text’. According to Andrew Motion, former poet laureate, who wrote a eulogy for The Queen Mother, among others, a eulogy ‘might move us to tears, but it will start to heal us too’.

There is no correct tone for a eulogy – it very much depends on the person you are speaking about. If that person was quite serious or formal, then the eulogy should reflect that. If they were the life and soul of a party – then something lighter may suit the situation better.

Here are some tips:

· If you are the only person speaking – then make the talk an overview, so it feels as inclusive as possible. Chat with friends and family members to collect some of their memories. You’ll probably discover things you didn’t know before. One family member put a little request on Facebook recently, tagging their relative, and had some lovely memories sent through from old school friends and work colleagues.

· If there are a few people speaking, then you could include more of your own memories.

· Don’t turn it into a long list of life events from birth onwards. Pick out some key moments or one particular story.

· If it feels appropriate, be honest. If your loved one shouted at opposing football teams on the TV, then don’t feel you have to gloss over that.

· However experienced you are at public speaking, guests are not expecting an Oscar winning speech and they will understand if you falter or forget something.

· Speak slowly and, even if you think you don’t think you’ll need your notes, keep a copy of them in your hand.

· Practice your speech out loud before the service as many times as you can. You’ll start to notice how it flows and if you need to smooth out any rough edges.

· Make sure you know when you’re delivering your eulogy during the service, so you’re not taken by surprise. The celebrant will normally introduce you and welcome you to the front. It’s also good to find a seat near the front and at the end of a row, so you’re not having to push past people when it’s your turn to speak.

· Also, ask if you’re going to have a microphone. If you’re speaking from a lectern in a chapel or a large space, you probably will. If you’re in a village hall or somebody’s home, you might not.

· There might be an opportunity to practice in the venue beforehand. If it’s in a church, the minister should be fine with you popping in and familiarising yourself with the venue.

· Give people something special to go away with – it might bring a smile to everyone’s face or a tear to the eye, but make it memorable.

17 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page