Because funerals and memorial services are usually highly emotional events, most people get nervous about delivering a eulogy; but they shouldn’t. There is really no need to worry about delivering a eulogy honouring someone you’ve known well. Just speak from your heart and keep your remarks short is all you have to do.
The basic rules for any successful speaking engagement are quite simple: you have to know your subject well; you have to care about your subject; and, you have to want to talk about your subject. When giving a eulogy about someone you knew well, cared about, and the memories of whom you want to share, you clearly meet all the criteria and will do just fine. The other side of this coin, though, is that if you don’t meet all three of the criteria you should diplomatically turn down the request.
But just because the odds are overwhelmingly in favour of your being successful doesn’t mean that there aren’t some steps you can take to bolster your confidence and even further ensure your success.
If you speak from your heart you will in all probability do just fine speaking “off the cuff.” However, it’s still a good idea to write out your comments, if not in full then at least in point form. Doing this will:
As in any other speaking situation, you should rehearse your remarks. It’s not always practical in these circumstances to rehearse out loud at a lectern, but you should at least review your notes a few times. If you are particularly nervous, shy, or worried about how you will do, go over your remarks in your mind every chance you get until you are comfortable with them.
Even if you write out your speech in full when preparing the eulogy, you should reduce it to point form before standing up to deliver your remarks. If you read from a prepared text your voice will not adequately convey the depth of your feelings, and it’s your emotion that the audience can most identify with. Also, if you read your speech you’re going to be looking down too much rather than looking at the audience. If you’re not looking at the audience they’re going to wonder whether you’ve earned the right to be delivering the eulogy.
It’s not unusual, especially for a family member or particularly close friend, to remember something while standing at the lectern that he or she would like to say. When this happens it’s perfectly in order to ad lib; actually, it would be a mistake not to mention something that occurs to you at this moment – it’s obviously meaningful.